By Sophie Arnold
The UN Association of Australia is electronically bringing together governments, businesses, universities, start-ups, students, and community organizations to interact with UN leaders around the partnerships needed to achieve the SDGs – and ultimately form new partnerships to advance progress. In advance of the UN & Australia Sustainable Partnerships Forum, stakeholders across Australia have conducted innovative projects to hear from young people and engage cities and towns.
The incredible global impact of the pandemic has made everyone aware of the urgency of action to meet people’s basic needs, protect the planet from the effects of climate change, and prevent future pandemics. These urgent needs lead us straight to the 2030 Agenda, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called our collective roadmap to becoming more resilient to global challenges.
Discussions at the UN & Australia Sustainable Partnerships Forum will be underpinned by research released in 2020 on Australia’s progress against the SDGs. The Transforming Australia report showed that, while the country is performing well in health and education, it is failing to reduce emissions, waste, and environmental degradation, or to address cost of living pressures and economic inequality.
The report also found increasing use of the Goals by state and local governments, civil society, and businesses to track performance. Moreover, the pandemic has offered a springboard for all sectors to work together to bring about social, economic, and environmental improvements.
In 2020, the University of Melbourne’s Connected Cities Lab launched the SDGs Cities Challenge – a collaborative project to help implement key urban SDG targets and indicators. The participating cities from Australia and Asia selected an existing or new project to align with a target of SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and shared challenges faced in achieving this target. The cities then worked collaboratively to develop solutions with support from experts from academia, business, civil society, and local government, using webinars and workbooks.
During the Sustainable Partnerships Forum, the leaders of the SDGs Cities Challenge, Dr. Cathy Oke and Dr. Alexei Trundle, will lead a discussion on partnerships among urban stakeholders for local-level SDG implementation.
Partnering with young people will be another focus of the Forum. Australia’s 2021 Youth Representative to the UN, Lucy Stronach, is currently driving the largest face-to-face consultation of young people in Australia, which places particular emphasis on the SDGs. Prior to taking the results of this consultation to national leaders and policy makers and presenting to the UN later this year, Lucy will bring the views of these young people to the Forum. The session will be designed to provide corporate, government, and community delegates with guidance on partnering with young people to ensure their voices are not just being heard but are also guiding outcomes.
The discussion will also feature Tim Lo Surdo, appointed last year as one of 17 UN Young Leaders for the SDGs and an advisor to the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.
The virtual UN & Australia Sustainable Partnerships Forum will take place from 20-21 April 2021. Special time zone tickets are available to people outside Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST). These will give ticket holders password-protected access to recordings of the Forum’s plenary sessions for three months.
The author of this guest article, Sophie Arnold, is Executive Manager at the UN Association of Australia, Victorian Division.