Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 5 in the UK Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Why should the UK engage with SDG?

1.The UK Government was at the heart of developing the Sustainable Development Goals and led globally on the inclusion of a standalone goal addressing gender equality. Existing policies and legislation show the Government’s commitment to gender equality but a clear plan is needed now. Domestic engagement with the SDGs is therefore critical to the UK’s standing at the UN, and to its position as a world leader on gender equality. The Government needs to act to ensure the effective implementation of SDG 5 in the UK as a matter of priority. (Paragraph 21)

2.Domestic engagement with the SDGs, and SDG 5 in particular, can do more than protect the UK’s international standing. The Goals present the Government with an opportunity to further its work on achieving gender equality and improving the lives of the most marginalised and disadvantaged people and to leave no-one behind. (Paragraph 22)

Government leadership

3.We welcome the Government’s refresh of Single Departmental Plans to incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This demonstrates a clear commitment to the goals and their domestic implementation. However, the UK is lagging behind many of its OECD counterparts in terms of outlining a clear plan for the achievement of the SDGs. This stands in stark contrast to the UK’s leadership role in formulating the SDGs, and in championing the inclusion of a standalone gender goal. It is regrettable that the UK has already missed opportunities to submit data to the UN and to participate in the High Level Political Forum in 2017. The Government must take the opportunity that the refreshed Single Departmental Plans provide, and use this to raise awareness of the SDGs, and SDG 5 in particular, across the UK. (Paragraph 51)

4.Leadership on the SDGs should come from the top of Government. The Government should domestically publicise its commitment to the achievement of the SDGs in the UK. It should immediately commit to reporting to the UN’s High Level Political Forum in 2018. (Paragraph 52)

5.We support the International Development Committee’s recommendation that responsibility for the SDGs should sit within the Cabinet Office and not the Department for International Development. The Government should take greater leadership by bringing together the elements of Single Departmental Plans that support the SDGs in a co-ordinated National Implementation Plan, to be led by the Cabinet Office. (Paragraph 53)

6.We urge the Government to publish its report examining the domestic implementation of the SDGs, as promised to the International Development Committee in September 2016, without further delay. (Paragraph 54)

Specific actions to achieve SDG

7.The review of the Department for Education’s Single Departmental Plan to incorporate the SDG targets is welcome and presents an opportunity for the Government to act on SDG 5. The review of all Single Departmental Plans will also allow departments to embed the principle of ‘leaving no-one behind’ in all their work. This is consistent with Government policy and the Prime Minister’s strategic focus on tackling inequality. This priority must be clearly reflected within the Single Departmental Plans. (Paragraph 87)

8.Whilst action by individual departments is helpful, it is important to remember that achievement of SDG 5 requires cross-departmental working. Successful implementation of work towards the SDGs requires a cross-departmental equality strategy. We reiterate the recommendation made in our report on Ensuring strong equalities legislation after the EU exit that the Government adopt such a strategy. (Paragraph 88)

9.We recommend that the Government Equalities Office ensure that the key SDG principle of ‘leave no-one behind’ is fully embedded in its revised Single Departmental Plan. That revision should be carried out in consultation with organisations with expertise in this area. (Paragraph 89)

10.The Minister for Women and Equalities should take personal responsibility for ensuring action to achieve SDG 5 across government, with the full support of the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Cabinet Secretary to ensure cross-departmental action. (Paragraph 90)

11.The Department for International Development should ensure that the following SDG targets are included within a named department’s Single Departmental Plan: valuing of unpaid caring and promotion of shared responsibility for it within the household and the family; and ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels political and public life. The SDG 5 target to ensure “universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in the Beijing Platform for Action” must be included within the Department for Health’s plan. (Paragraph 91)

12.When all the refreshed Single Departmental Plans are published, the Government should make it clear how all the SDG 5 indicators have been incorporated. If choices are made not to incorporate some of the indicators, it must be clear which are not included and what the rationale for their exclusion is. (Paragraph 92)

13.We note concerns that have been expressed to us about compliance of devolved administrations with SDG 5. We would welcome further discussion with the Government Equalities Office and representatives of devolved administrations and assemblies on how harmonisation of women’s rights across the UK can be achieved. (Paragraph 93)

Building a partnership to achieve SDG 5

14.We welcome the Government’s recognition that partnership working is central to the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs. It is promising to hear that the Government Equalities Office has been listening to businesses about the most effective ways to engage with them on SDG 5. (Paragraph 129)

15.However, more needs to be done to engage with civil society in a structured way on this important issue. The Government has models for civil society engagement in the work of the Department for International Development and in Scotland. This expertise should be used to help the GEO and the Cabinet Office to work more effectively with civil society in the UK on achievement of SDG 5. (Paragraph 130)

16.We have outlined a range of suggestions that the Government could implement to improve engagement with civil society and business on the SDGs. The most important in relation to SDG 5 is developing an effective mechanism for civil society organisations to work in partnership with government, sharing their knowledge and expertise and delivering services in local areas. This partnership working must be properly resourced in order to be effective. (Paragraph 131)

17.Our main recommendation is that the Government Equalities Office should immediately launch a consultation on developing the most effective mechanism to facilitate ongoing partnership between government and civil society to implement SDG 5. A plan, outlining how this mechanism will work and how it will be funded, should be published by September 2017. Alongside this, a timetable should be published setting out when this partnership mechanism will be established and demonstrating that it will have met regularly prior to the 2018 High Level Political Forum. (Paragraph 132)

18.We also recommend that the Department for International Development, or the Cabinet Office, should ensure that the relevant government departments investigate the possibility of incentives to increase business engagement with SDG 5 goals. This should specifically examine the possibility of embedding SDG 5 targets within public procurement criteria, as already undertaken by DFID. (Paragraph 133)

Gathering data and monitoring progress

19.Accurate and detailed data gathering is essential to the successful implementation and monitoring of the SDGs. The Government needs to ensure it collects data that can be disaggregated by different characteristics if it is to achieve the objective of leaving no-one behind. We have heard that there are some specific barriers to gathering data relevant to SDG 5. These gaps must be addressed urgently as the data used to set the UK’s national indicators will dictate which issues are examined and prioritised. (Paragraph 171)

20.Although gender equality and partnership working are central tenets of the SDGs, no women’s organisations were involved in the Office for National Statistics’ survey of views on national indicators. This shows a lack of engagement with the principles of the SDGs. (Paragraph 172)

21.There are significant opportunities for specialist organisations, which have extensive expertise and links to many of the most marginalised and disadvantaged women and girls, to inform the development and monitoring of the UK’s SDG indicators. However, in order to play this role these organisations will need additional funding and support. (Paragraph 173)

22.We recommend that the Government publish its plans for a robust framework for the independent verification and monitoring of the UK’s progress on the targets within SDG 5. This should be made public by September 2017. Given that national indicators will be included within Single Departmental Plans, the Government should also demonstrate how it ensured that the process for selecting national indicators was transparent and involved the participation of civil society when it publishes the revised SDPs. (Paragraph 174)

23.We also recommend that the ONS immediately convene a working group to explore what role organisations working with women and girls can play in developing national indicators and contributing data to them. This could be modelled along the lines of the Gender Statistics Users Group. (Paragraph 175)

24.The Government should make a clear commitment to collecting data against the SDG targets in a manner that allows for comprehensive disaggregation. (Paragraph 176)

25.The Government should ensure that funding is provided to expert organisations to enable them to participate fully in the data collection and monitoring functions necessary for the achievement of SDG 5. This must be additional to any Government funding for their day-to-day activities. (Paragraph 177)

10 March 2017