By Priyanka Giri (NSoJ BA '23), Udbhavi Balakrishna (NSoJ BA '22) and Prathik Desai (faculty, NSoJ).
“The great end of men's entering into society being the enjoyment of their properties in peace and safety, and the great instrument and means of that being the laws established in that society,...”. These words of John Locke remind us that the supreme power in any society rests in legislators. These legislators, albeit belonging to different nations, are still sworn in with a common end of working towards creating a just, equitable, prosperous and peaceful world. The Member States of the United Nations in 2015 adopted 17 interlinked global goals - Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) - designed to be a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all".
The Parliamentarians for Global Goals (PfGG), a round table discussion, was virtually and jointly hosted by 2030beyond and NSoJ, on February 19th, 2021. 2030beyond is a non-profit organization supporting parliaments worldwide to share ideas and practices for implementing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Timothy Franklyn, the founder of NSoJ and Obama Scholar, 2020, introduced and welcomed the speakers, who included parliamentarians and delegates from Ireland, Kenya, France, Argentina, Germany, Denmark, and India.
The mission of such a discussion is to strengthen democracy by raising the level of public discourse. News organisations need to relook at their objectives to ensure their activities lead to constructive policymaking and the shaping of public opinion. With the increasing role played by media and politicians in shaping public opinion, it has become of paramount importance that they do not contribute to the spiral of negativity wherein profit and power replace the social objectives they ought to achieve. They need to collaborate and reconnect with their constituents. Such discussion can inspire countries to have purposeful conversations and convert thought into action to benefit and inspire each other.
The platform created by this discussion will allow for peer review to occur to compare results from various countries and to see what can work best for one’s own country. Parliamentarians can make use of networks created here to be inspired and meet other equally engaged pioneers to implement these goals.
To ensure the SDGs are not sidelined, legislators of various nations ought to integrate their governance activities with these SDGs. For instance, evaluating the progress of education and the implementation of education policies in a country to ensure that quality education is attained, as mentioned in SDG 4.
Civil and State Partnership
Parliamentarians, being the representatives in a democracy, have to lead the pursuit of achieving SDGs in their respective countries. However, it should not be misconstrued as their lone battle. The role of civil society in the implementation of SDGs cannot be undermined. The significance of the partnership between civil and state players in achieving the SDGs is to be emphasized. Academicians are to be brought in for their ideas on sustainability to ensure there is a convergence of diverse schools of thought. Individuals representing the government, civil society and private organizations can also be incentivized for their efforts towards achieving the SDGs. Such incentives promote more civil-state collaborations and make democracy more participatory.
There is a pressing need to increase awareness among citizens about SDGs as well as to design strategies to implement them in various countries. Bringing the citizens aboard the journey towards achieving the SDGs alone will ensure a grass-root level involvement. The motivation to be a contributor in this journey stems from the decisions of people in society on the kind of communities they wish to build and live in. Further, these grassroots-level decisions can be escalated to those in power to scale them in larger landscapes. SDGs can become an antidote to the divisive hierarchical systems and can be inculcated into existing frameworks of governance to solve problems found in different nations.
It is important to understand that SDGs are not against productivity, rather, they are about creating growth in an inclusive manner, not limited by any existing inequalities, to transition into a more just world. The real, major challenge that exists across nations is to make growth sustainable and to be able to implement these goals at multiple levels within a nation. Politicians can pitch in by packaging these SDGs as tasks citizens can contribute towards and mobilise entire communities.
Media and Politicians
The nexus between the media and politicians has always been a problematic one. On one hand, politicians have been increasingly investing in media houses to control how information about them reaches the public. On the other hand, many quarters of the media have been misusing their freedom and power by sensationalizing the information they disseminate.
To ensure the information reaches all the media consumers - who largely are media illiterate - the media needs to play their role sensibly. They may begin by asking constructive questions and setting the stage for meaningful discourses. To set such a benchmark, journalists may have to repackage the information they provide and the stories they tell in order to engage more people. They will have to relook at the way they hold debates, question their practice of sensationalizing for incentives and play the role of a conductor in a discourse. Then alone will nations have better media, a more engaged public and transparent politicians.
Bringing these conversations into the mainstream news will get people to consider these goals as the way to think about life and the planet and move forward together. Parliamentarians need to consider SDGs as frameworks with which sustainability is given serious thought to make governance more holistic. Such frameworks will facilitate best practices to create a completely sustainable future.