Tag Archives: Sustainable Development

Two years in, how are we doing on the #SDGs?

Nearly two years after adopting the Sustainable Development Goals amidst much fanfare, governments returned to the United Nations in July for a 'high level political forum' to review their implementation efforts and assess progress.  Forty-three countries, including ten from Asia-Pacific, presented 'Voluntary National Reviews' (VNRs), which more than 2500 civil society advocates critiqued their work.

The civil society coalition, Action for Sustainable Development, has noted five key trends:
    • The commitment to 'Leave No One Behind' - a centrepiece of the SDGs - received little emphasis from the countries presenting voluntary reports.
    • Civil society rights are being violated in a majority of UN member states, limiting the capacity of citizens and community organisations to assist with the implementation of the goals;
    • The relationship between the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Agreement needs to be further incorporated into the reporting framework of the High Level Political Forum;
    • The United Nations needs to do more to compare national progress reports between member states and related independent assessments from civil society;
    • Civil society should have, but often lacks, a formal role in goal implementation and monitoring.
You can read the full statement, as well as find links to government VNRs and civil society shadow reports on the SDG progress, on the Action4SD website.
 
(Parts of the article above originally appeared in correspondence from the secretariat of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty to its constituents and supporters.)

Sustainable Cities and the Sustainable Development Goals

by Elyssa Ludher, Senior Assistant Director, Centre of Liveable Cities

“Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century. Our success or failure in building sustainable cities will be a major factor in the success of the post-2015 UN development agenda.” ~ John Wilmoth, Director of the UN’s population division.

In 2010, for the first time in recorded history, urban dwellers outnumbered rural dwellers. By 2030, the United Nations estimates that 60% of the world’s population will live in cities.

It is thus propitious that Sustainable Cities are an important focus of the post-2015 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. A sustainable world cannot be achieved without changing the trajectory of our cities to a more sustainable path. Across the globe, cities are leading the way in sustainability. New York, Copenhagen, Suzhou and Surabaya are just some examples of cities that have adopted more ambitious sustainability goals compared to their national governments. At city level, local governments can focus, channel resources, execute, scale up and achieve results.

Global urban growth will not be proportional; it is expected to double in emerging economies, mainly in existing and new cities in Africa, Latin America and Asia. These rapidly expanding cities face acute pressures on infrastructure and services. Few are equipped with the necessary mandate, resources and capabilities to plan, implement and manage its own development. An SDG focused on cities could thus influence national governments to devolve much needed authority and resources to the local level so they are adequately equipped to address these challenges.

The cities of tomorrow also need to consider a model that will maximise efficiency in terms of delivering infrastructure and services, such as public transport, schools, hospitals, sewage and recreational facilities. Planning a city based on a high density model could achieve the scale required to achieve a high quality of life and sustainable environment for its residents. There are few cities that have managed to achieve high density and high liveability. Singapore is one such city, according to numerous liveability surveys.

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Figure 1: the Density- Liveability matrix

Singapore started out as a fledgling city in the 1960s, plagued by challenges commonly experienced in the emerging cities of today, such as high unemployment, slums, road congestion, lack of sanitation and pollution. Singapore has, however managed to transform into a modern and turbhriving global city in just 50 years.

Other high density cities too have successfully transformed themselves to achieve high liveability coupled with high density. New York, Surabaya, Medellín and Hong Kong, for example, while distinct in history, political structure, geography, character and urban challenges, have commonalities in their urban transformation experiences. The Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) Singapore has captured and distilled some of these commonalities, published in Liveable and Sustainable Cities: A Framework. A simple illustration of the CLC Liveability Framework is shown in Figure 2.

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Figure 2: The Centre for Liveable Cities Liveability Framework

The Framework can be summarised in three simple messages:

  1. Have clear vision and goals: Cities must have vision and goals to guide development aspirations. In Singapore, this was to achieve high quality of life for all residents, a competitive economy so that all are able to live a life of dignity, and a sustainable environment for future generations.
  2. Plan Comprehensively: Cities must plan comprehensively to achieve these goals; this requires foresight, pragmatism, and innovation. Agencies must work together not only to plan, but to implement. Plans must also have enough flexibility to adapt to changes which arise in time.
  3. Inculcate Sound Urban Governance: Cities must have governance structures that embody integrity to carry out these plans. Governance implies more than government; it requires the participation of the private and civil sectors as well, working together to advance collectively. Community engagement is vital for ensuring

If cities are able to integrate the three messages above, their path to sustainability will be infinitely smoother. Once sustainability, inclusiveness and fairness are entrenched in cities, this will naturally lead to the transformation of entire nations and regions, bringing us one large step closer to a sustainable world.

Learn more:

Elyssa Ludher is a Senior Assistant Director at the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), involved in research in urban governance, integrated planning, mobility and food security. She also manages the collaboration with UN Habitat on Capability Development. Prior to working at CLC, Ms Ludher worked in the rural development sector at the Cambodian Organisation for Research, Development and Education (CORDE).

Ms Ludher started her career in urban planning in Brisbane, Australia, first working with Brisbane City Council, and thereafter on major infrastructure projects in Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) Consulting. She was recently published in Liveable and Sustainable Cities: a Framework, and has also published articles on urban governance and community inclusion. Outside of her professional commitments, Ms Ludher volunteers in youth mentoring, in particular through the Junior Youth Empowerment Programme.

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Set up in 2008 by the Ministry of National Development and the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) has as its mission “to distil, create and share knowledge on liveable and sustainable cities”. CLC’s work spans three main areas – Research, Capability Development and Promotion. Through these activities, CLC hopes to provide urban leaders and practitioners with the knowledge and support needed to make our cities better.

ONE (SG) to France: Set the right example with a Robin Hood Tax

By Thulasi Mahadevan

ONE (SINGAPORE) has joined an international campaign to send a clear message to France:  allocate a portion of new tax revenues from a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT) to finance development and fight climate change.

France is about to become the first European country to adopt the so-called “Robin Hood Tax” on financial transactions.  But contrary to promises that French President Nicolas Sarkozy made when he hosted the G20 last year, France is now talking about using proceeds from the tax solely for domestic use.

“A small tax on financial transactions, if implemented globally, could raise billions of dollars to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals and assist communities affected by climate change,” says ONE (SINGAPORE) co-founder Michael Switow.  “France is taking an important first step by adopting a Robin Hood Tax, but it must follow through by using a portion of the money to finance development and fight climate change.”

French President Sarkozy and German Chancellor Merkel had been commended by many anti-poverty campaigners for their commitments to push forward with a European FTT, a very small tax on financial transactions which if implemented globally could raise up to US$600 billion a year, funds that could be used to eradicate poverty, fight climate change and reduce budget deficits.

However in a television interview on 29 January, Sarkozy said that the unilateral FTT would be used for the national “deficit” and did not mention development or climate financing. Under pressure from French civil society, Sarkozy later said that a French FTT would still go to fund development and fight climate change, but no concrete steps have been taken by his government yet in this regard.

Proper implementation of a Robin Hood Tax in France will “set a precedent for future taxes on the financial sector, both across Europe and internationally . . . to tackle the challenges of poverty at home and abroad and address the impact of climate change,” wrote ONE (SINGAPORE) President Vernetta Lopez in a letter to France’s Ambassador to Singapore.  Other civil society organisations like Oxfam GB and ONE.org also sent letters to French embassies.  The ONE.org petition was signed by more than 60,000 people.

Last year, 1000 economists – including several Nobel Prize winners – called on the G20 to adopt a FTT.  More recently, faith-based leaders have added their voices to the call.

“The FTT comes at no extra cost for the average tax payer, who is shouldering the cost of responses to global crises,” notes a representative from CIDSE, the Catholic International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity.  “The financial sector has hugely profited from globalisation.  Through the FTT it could contribute to tackling global challenges, share the financial burden of global crises and contribute to assuring a safe and healthy future for people and the planet.”

In the United States, meanwhile, the largest nurses union has pledged to march for a US version of the tax on Wall Street institutions ahead of the the G-8 and NATO summits. It’s unclear whether the Obama administration’s decision to move the G-8 Summit from Chicago to “Camp David,” a more remote location, will affect the planned demonstrations.

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ADDITIONAL ARTICLES &  RESOURCES

Robin Hood travels to South Africa

ONE (SINGAPORE) has joined hands with more than sixty youth groups and civil society organisations to call on South African president Jacob Zuma to push negotiators at the COP17 climate talks in Durban to adopt a Financial Transactions Tax to fund the fight against climate change.

The so-called Robin Hood Tax could raise up to US$650 billion a year by imposing a fee of just 1/20th of one percent on financial transactions.
16 Dec 2011

Costumed Robin Hoods display a giant bull’s eye in the demonstration area outside the conference hall at the COP17 climate talks. Delegates are encouraged to hit the target – with Robin Hood Tax stickers awarded to those who hit the mark. A team of robins explain more about this innovative financing mechanism.

“We’re asking the COP17 leaders to stand up for the needs of world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” says Alex Kent from the Robin Hood Tax campaign. “Under the “Polluter Pays” principle, we’re asking them to back the Robin Hood Tax as one way to fill the Green Climate Fund, fight climate change and fight poverty. The world cannot wait. There is no Planet B.”

Over the past two weeks, ONE (SINGAPORE) has been consistently updating our members on the latest happenings at COP17 in Durban, South Africa. Countries negotiated, delegates debated, activist and various non-profit groups stood their ground representing the majority of the world and in one voice fought for climate justice.

Unfortunately, the Robin Hood Tax was not endorsed at COP17, but momentum is building for the tax’s adoption as more countries pledge to join a “coalition of the willing”.

“The number of climate calamaties in the past few months alone is mind-boggling. Huge areas of Central America and Thailand under water. Severe drought in Somalia. Crops ruined. So many lives lost,” says ONE (SINGAPORE) co-founder Michael Switow. “The people suffering the most from man-made climate change are not responsible for causing it. We need financing now to fight climate change and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The Robin Hood Tax is a simple, fair way to do this.”

In addition to ONE (SINGAPORE), other organisations that endorsed this open letter include CIDSE (Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité), Earth in Brackets, ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation), Stamp Out Poverty and the UK Youth Climate Coalition.

The full text of the letter is below.

An appeal to South African President Jacob Zuma

Dear President Zuma,

We write to thank you for joining the emerging coalition of the willing on the Financial Transaction Tax (popularly known as the Robin Hood Tax) at the G20 Summit in Cannes. We urge you to continue to show leadership in support of the Robin Hood Tax as one of the mechanisms for fighting climate change and poverty at COP17.

We will not accept rich countries’ excuse that the financial crisis prevents them from fulfilling their promise to deliver $100bn annually to fight climate change. Raising the money to support developing countries in their efforts to climate-proof their economies and communities is a matter of economic and climate justice.

We urge you to help turn the economic and climate crises into a global opportunity. The Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) is a practical, effective and equitable way to ensure that the world’s richest help pay for the problems they created.

The FTT is a tiny tax (around 0.05%) levied on all financial market transactions. We pay a transaction tax every time we buy food and clothes; it’s only fair that the banking sector also pay a transaction tax. The 99% bailed out the financial sector three years ago, yet the gap between the rich and the poor is growing. It is now time for the financial sector to pay their fair share. The taxes will dis-incentivize high frequency trading and risky speculation, thus contributing to economic stability while potentially raising hundreds of billions of dollars every year from rich countries for fighting climate change (by filling the Green Climate Fund) and fighting poverty.

Emissions are growing, temperatures are rising, and the impacts of climate change present a clear and imminent threat to the millions of people it will force into poverty, hunger and life threatening circumstances, on the African continent and around the globe. We look to your leadership, President Zuma, to stand up for the needs of world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Ensure rich countries pay their climate debt – back the FTT in Durban this week.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES