The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as ‘Global Goals’ are 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by Year 2030. The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the UN General Assembly as the future global development framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which ended in 2015. The 17 SDGs are:
- No Poverty;
- Zero Hunger
- Good Health and Well-being
- Quality Education
- Gender Equality
- Clean Water and Sanitation
- Affordable and Clean Energy
- Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
- Reducing Inequality
- Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Responsible Consumption and Production
- Climate Action
- Life Below Water
- Life On Land
- Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
- Partnerships for the Goals.
How has Nigeria fared in the key compliance indices of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs for short) especially in areas such as gender equality (Agenda No. 5); environment and climate action (13); and peace, justice and strong institutions (16)?
Some progress has been made, said the panel that sat to discuss these issues at the 2021 annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association’s Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, but Nigeria still a way to go to avoid falling off the stated timelines as 2030 looms. According to NEWSWIRE Law & Event Magazine’s correspondent at the SPIDEL Conference, the session, which was chaired by the Hon. Justice Uche Agomuoh of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, began with a presentation by the lead speaker, Aliyu Lolo, who is the legal adviser in the office of the special adviser to the President on SDGs.
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He traced the history and trajectory of the SDG (and its predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs) from the end of World War II, and the resolve by the international community to prevent another such major catastrophe by affirming the worth and dignity of the human persons. This, he said, necessitated the creation of institutions and instruments for the actualization of short-term goals with fixed time-frames. These institutions placed a disproportionate emphasis on vulnerable groups such as women and the girl-child, persons living with disability, etc. as well as affirmed the fundamental human an people’s rights of indigenous groups an nations, and the moral imperative of protecting and conserving the natural environment for succeeding generations. The office of the SA to the President on SDGs, he said, in adherence to the various international protocols to which Nigeria is a signatory, has put in place mechanisms to ensure that Nigeria doesn’t fall short of the well-defined SDG timelines.
NEWSWIRE Law and Events Magazine’s correspondence in Ibadan reports that Dr. Alexandra Harrington, the Canadian-born founder and executive director of the Centre For Global Governance and Emerging Law, who contributed virtually, in her submission identified areas in governance today, as well as the strengthening of governance structures, that have seen a dramatic improvement – such as a greater recognition of the rights of women and children, as well as those of minority ethnic and religious groups in many countries. However, the scourge of trafficking in women and children, she said, as well as the constriction of civil space in many nations, still present difficulties that the international community must approach in a concerted manner.
Speaking on the imperative of justice and strong institutions in the quest for peace in any entity, Mr. Lawal Perdro, SAN, the Senior Partner in the law firm of Lawal Pedro & Co, blamed the lack of strong and effective institutions for the rising state of insecurity in Nigeria today. The widespread agitations for self-determination on the part of many ethnic nationalities, he said, was simply because the principle of federal character was observed only in the breach – a situation which has left many Nigerians feeling left out of the scheme of things at the national level. A return to the rule of law, and a deliberate effort to strengthen institutions, will restore the vibrancy of our communities and the stability of our polity – and thereby meet Agenda 16 of the SDGs.
Also speaking on the nexus between peace, justice and strong institutions, Mr. Oluwaseun Abimbola, SAN, the current chairman of the NBA’s Section on Legal Practice (SLP), weighed in on the clamour for judicial autonomy currently sweeping across the country. He wondered if financial autonomy – which is really at the heart of this whole autonomy conversation – would automatically translate into the desired autonomy. Not necessarily, was his conclusion, adding that the formulae for the disbursement of such funds had yet to enter the conversation. He also emphasized the need for courage among Judges as a necessary component of judicial autonomy, saying that many a polity around the world had been transformed by the pronouncement of a courageous jurist.
Mrs. Halima Bawa-Bwari, a director in the federal ministry of the environment in Abuja, who spoke (virtually) on the state of climate action and environmental protection in Nigeria, described climate change as more of a developmental challenge than a purely environmental one. Climate change is a threat to food security; it weakens infrastructural; and it affects security, as we are currently seeing in Nigeria, where deforestation has driven certain segments of the population further south and led to confrontations with local farmers and communities. This understanding, she says, informs the government’s policy and actions in this regard. Though not among the world’s greatest emitters of greenhouse gases, she said, Nigeria has nevertheless worked assiduously to meet international climate and environmental treaties – including the 2015 Paris Accord – through adaptation and mitigation, among other measures. This is an effort, Bawa Bwari said, that is set to continue, especially in areas of immediate impact such as flooding, desertification, oil spillage, environmental pollution, etc.
Each time individuals, groups and communities have to choose between their personal health and the health of their environment, said Oluwaseyi Ebenezer, another panelist, they’d choose their personal health; the trick in ensuring adherence to environmental standards is to persuade them on the nexus between environmental and physical health. Mrs. Ebenezer is the founder of Triple-G Eco Revival Solutions Limited. This approach, she said, is imperative in a country like Nigeria, which routinely scores extremely poorly on global environmental indices like that of the OECD (). Such an innovative approach to creating awareness, especially at the grassroots, will help to combat widespread ignorance about the dangers of practices such as open defecation, for example, and reduce the vulnerability of people especially in rural or low-income urban areas, to diseases such as cholera, etc.
Gender equality ranks high on the SDG list. On whether Nigeria is meeting the UN timeline in this regard, both Mrs. Hafsat Abiola Costello, President of Women in Africa Initiative, an international NGO (who spoke virtually) and Ms. Derin Fagbure, the Lead Partner in the law firm of In Black and White LP, responded in the negative, listing such crimes as trafficking in women, workplace discrimination, domestic violence, etc. as challenges militating against the progress and self-actualization of women and girl-children, and recommended a number of reforms aimed at addressing disparities – actions which, they affirmed, lay squarely within the public-interest mandate of SPIDEL.