Australian SDGs Summit: Message from the Co-Chairs

The Australian SDGs Summit 2018 took place on 13 March in Melbourne and was co-hosted by the Australian Council for International Development, the Australian Council of Social Service, the Global Compact Network Australia, SDSN Australia/Pacific and the United Nations Association of Australia.


Sam Mostyn and John Thwaites
Australian SDGs Summit Co-Chairs


Why are we here?

We support the Sustainable Development Goals because they present a vision for a better future for Australia and the world.

The SDGs work for Australia because they address the core challenges that we face such as booming population growth in our major cities, uncertain future jobs, climate change, environmental degradation, inequality, and the decline of trust in government and business.

The SDGs are an acknowledgment that we all live in an interconnected world with shared goals. The SDGs provide an opportunity for Australia to improve health and wellbeing within our own country, while also promoting a sustainable path to prosperity within our region and beyond. Through the regional promotion of peace, prosperity and environmental sustainability, Australia is also securing its own environmental and economic future.


We want to take stock of where we are

In September 2016, ACFID, ACOSS, GCNA and SDSN Australia/Pacific held the inaugural Australian SDGs Summit. That Summit created a great energy and clear suggestions for what will help Australia advance in the implementation of the SDGs. The Summit identified that the SDGs could be used to build a vision for Australia’s future and a plan on how to get us there.

Now is the time to ask how Australia is performing on the SDGs. What has changed since the last Summit and are we on track? We need to ensure that we are monitoring our performance on the SDGs and implementing plans and policies to make it more likely that we will achieve the SDG targets. This year’s Summit will help identify the tools, case studies and other resources needed for Australian organisations to contribute to achieving the goals.

It is also an opportune time to take stock as Australia will be undertaking its Voluntary National Review of the SDGs this year – reporting to the United Nations on our progress in implementing the goals.


Achieving the SDGs will require going “beyond business as usual”

The SDGs recognise that the challenges facing the world today are complex, and require new solutions. What we have done in the past will not be enough; all sectors need to go beyond business as usual if we are to achieve the SDGs.

The SDGs are an opportunity to address old challenges in new ways.

There has been significant action on the SDGs by all sectors since the last Summit, including exciting and innovative examples of “beyond business as usual”. This Summit will be an opportunity to hear from some of these leaders.


SDG action to date has not been sufficient if we are to achieve the SDGs by 2030

Despite our generally strong economic and social performance, Australia is performing poorly on many of the environmental goals and targets. Our biodiversity is declining and precious species are threatened with extinction. Australia is not taking the action needed if the world is to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and our greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be even higher in 2030 than in 2000. We need a transformation in our industries, cities and agriculture in order to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation if we are to meet the 2030 SDG targets.

Australia has enjoyed an extraordinarily long period of uninterrupted economic growth and is one of the healthiest and best educated nations in the world. Yet inequality remains pervasive and we are not achieving the goal of improving income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a faster rate than the national average.

We should not be imposing the burden of our failure to act on the next generation with high levels of debt, low housing affordability and a degraded environment. And if we are to do our fair share as a wealthy nation contributing to achievement of the SDGs in the developing countries in our region, we will need to turn around the major decline in Australia’s overseas development aid of the past 5 years.


We will be much stronger if we work together

Achieving the SDGs will require contributions from everyone.

The organisations behind the Summit bring together academia, business, government and civil society. Our five organisations have been leading SDG action in our sectors, but recognise the importance of cross-sector collaboration and coordination and the need to engage with others outside our sectors. We want to connect across sectors, learn from each other, and find ways of working together.

The Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved by government alone. We hope that the Summit will provide ways to coordinate action on the SDGs within government with the actions in business and the broader community. We should be incorporating the SDGs in national planning processes, policies and strategies and ensuring that general community is given a say in them.


We want to build on the momentum created by the VNR and Senate Inquiry

Australia will report to the United Nations in July this year on our implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals: a process known as the Voluntary National Review. This will be an opportunity to coordinate activities on the SDGs across government departments and to highlight case studies demonstrating action by Australian businesses, universities and civil society.

The Australian Senate is conducting an Inquiry into the SDGs which will consider the potential opportunities and benefits for Australia in domestic implementation of the SDGs and appropriate governance and monitoring measures. The Senate Inquiry will also consider which of the SDGs Australia is best suited to achieving through its overseas aid program.

The Voluntary National Review and the Senate Inquiry are important opportunities to highlight the importance of the SDGs for Australia and to set in place collaborative plans and strategies that are most likely to lead to successful implementation of the SDGs between now and 2030.

Welcome to the Summit!