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Our Shared Responsibility: Delivering on the UN's sustainable development goals in the UK

The Sustainable Development Goals offer the opportunity to transform our planet. In this pamphlet, Jessica Toale looks at what more needs to be done in the UK to make the goals the foundation for a better future.


  • Our Shared Responsibility
  • By Jessica Toale
  • Published 3 May 2017

The Sustainable Development Goals are an ambitious and potentially transformative framework, agreed by all of the countries in the world. They cover everything from combating poverty to addressing climate change and from creating more liveable cities to achieving gender equality. But more than one year on from their introduction, in the UK public awareness is low and government action to implement them has been slow.

The government which is elected this June will need, as a matter of urgency, to signal high-level political support to ensure the goals are achieved here in the UK. This pamphlet sets out recommendations for government, the private sector, civil society and campaigners. The key recommendations for the next government include:

1. Provide leadership from the prime minister’s office and Cabinet Office with support from the Department for International Development to ensure that the SDGs gain traction across government.

2. Establish a cross-departmental committee or taskforce for the SDGs and appoint a focal point in each department to ensure clear lines of responsibility and accountability.

3. Establish a national action plan which identifies priority areas for the UK, maps existing policies and frameworks that can be used as a basis for our compliance with the SDGs, set out a national accountability strategy, put in place a process for review which includes involvement from civil society, private sector and other organisations.

4. Actively encourage the participation of civil society in the formulation of the national action plan and in ongoing monitoring and reporting processes, as in the ONS’s indicators work.

5. Establish a cross-departmental parliamentary scrutiny mechanism with some weight, or an independent mechanism like the Independent Commission for Aid Impact.

6. Update relevant legislation to take account of the SDGs and international obligations, particularly the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006.

7. Reflect the SDGs explicitly and prominently across the 17 single departmental plans.

8. Offer to submit a national voluntary review to the UN’s High-Level Political Forum in July 2018.

9. Establish a youth forum to identify priorities for action within the SDGs, how to address these and how to monitor progress.

10. The devolved administrations should also establish their own strategies and mechanisms for implementing the goals and these should be integrated into the UK national action plan.

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Jessica Toale

Jessica Toale is co-founder of the Labour Foreign Policy Group and former political advisor to two shadow secretaries of state for international development.


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