At the High-level Political Forum this year, Australia will be one of many countries to present its first Voluntary National Review (VNR), a report which looks at the country’s progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development encourages signatory states to conduct regular progress reviews, at least twice over the 15 year lifetime of the Agenda. A VNR reports on the actions and measures a country has taken to advance the SDGs, identifying the successes and challenges in an effort to steer the nation towards accelerated action.
The Report on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals was released to the public on June 15, at the Banksia Ignite event. Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop took to the podium to announce the launch, and affirm Australia’s commitment to the SDGs, reflecting on how they embody the common Australian values of “fairness, justice, and equality of opportunity”. The report demonstrates that many institutions, organisations, and business in Australia are already embedding the SDG framework into their strategies and core activities.
In preparation for the review, the government coordinated a range of participatory processes with key stakeholders to seek input and collect case studies. SDSN Youth, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), led the national youth consultation to gather input from Australian youth-led organizations, student associations, and prominent young leaders. The youth sector statement following the consultation emphasised that young people need to be seen as more than simply “tokens” in the sustainability movement. Our capabilities extend beyond advocacy and awareness raising. Australian youth and youth-led organisations are making significant contributions in many other avenues, including education, community mobilisation, social entrepreneurship, technology and innovation. More examples of their work can be found in the statement.
The VNR recognizes the crucial role that youth play in the delivery of the goals, citing examples from AIESEC in Australia’s “Youth for Global Goals” program and the Australasian Medical Students’ Association’s gender equality project focusing on SDG 5. Programs such as these demonstrate the commitment and initiative taken by young people to actively contribute to SDG implementation. The report touches on these efforts, but there is much more happening.
Australia’s first Voluntary National Review is an important step to consolidate and comprehensively recognise the national effort made towards the agenda, but there is still a long way to go for us to realise the goals. With less than 5000 days to go until we need to meet our targets, we need to urgently pick up the pace. Furthermore, we need to be rigorous in acknowledging the gaps and failures, holding ourselves and others accountable.
The youth sector already plays a significant role in the national, regional and global implementation of the SDGs, but can play a much larger role if there is greater investment in their efforts and skills.
Read the official report on Australia’s Voluntary National Review here.
Michelle Huang is the Youth Network Coordinator/Program Coordinator for SDSN Australia, New Zealand & Pacific, based at the Monash Sustainable Development Institute. She holds a Masters of International Development Practice at Monash, and also has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in International Studies and Politics.