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Wednesday, 10 May 2017 00:00

Sustainable Development Goals and Animal Issues: Preparing for the UN’s High Level Political Forum

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The Sustainable Development Goals and Animals

Animal Protection Organizations (APOs) across the world were once again disappointed when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed by UN member countries back in September 2015. These included no specific mention of Animal Welfare (AW), and no recognition of animal sentience. Instead, animals were lumped in with “natural resources”, and treated as if they were no more than inanimate objects to be divvied up for human use and profit. We were not alone in our disappointment, as other NGOs also pointed to the anthropocentric nature of the goals, and the fact that they overlook the central importance of nature and animals to our world and our humanity.

Advocate for animals at the UN High Level Political ForumHowever, we in World Animal Net (WAN) have decided not to accept this situation lying down, but to advocate with our animal protection colleagues and other allies until our collective voices are heard. We are calling on animal protection organizations across the world to help us in this task. We are not powerful enough on our own to make the difference – but “Together We Can”!

Political Opportunity Arises!

Now that the SDGs have been developed, each year there will be a High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), which is the UN’s central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs. This not only provides for the participation of UN member states and specialized agencies, but also provides further opportunities for civil society input. Each year the HLPF will take a set of SDGs to review. This provides an opportunity and focus for ongoing APO advocacy.

NGO Official Position Paper: Supportive Extracts

Just a few of supportive sections which APOs can use in their advocacy work are highlighted below:

  • Achieving these aims will not be possible unless the structural and systemic barriers to achievement - and root causes of exploitation and degradation of the environment – are addressed.
  • Current neoliberal macroeconomic policy is a major driver of unequal distribution of wealth and power and the destruction of natural resources, and must be reconsidered and replaced.
  • Notions of development based entirely on economic growth present a myopic view of progress and must be discarded, and corporations must be held to account for their social and environmental records. We call for a new development paradigm which furthers the well-being of humans, nature and animals... [To my mind this is the most important and progressive amendment!]
  • Goal 1: Agricultural and trade policies of all countries must be brought in line with the SDGs, including by ending subsidies that harm small farmers and perpetuate environmentally unsustainable practices.
  • Goal 2: ... Governments must redirect their investments in research and development away from institutions that promote unsustainable, monopolistic agriculture - which contributes to biodiversity decline, pollution, and soil erosion - towards diverse and agro-ecological alternatives. Food waste should be reduced and available food redistributed, rather than intensifying agricultural production at the expense of biodiversity and animal welfare. We call for the use of the precautionary principle when implementing new technologies, and exhort companies to internalize environmental and human health costs of GMO and pesticide use and other unsustainable practices...
  • Goal 2 cont: Biodiversity, soil health, and wildlife conservation are central to increasing food security and improving nutrition through sustainable diets. The sustainable production of nutritious food requires that we learn from and live in harmony with nature, preserving the environment on which we all depend.
  • Goal 3: Progress for SDG3 also depends on mitigating the effects of climate change and environmental risks with far-reaching implications, including on the health and well-being of all people, food and agriculture production, and sustainable industrialization.
  • Goal 9: All governments, including regional and local authorities, should promote inclusive, ecologically-sound industrialization and the provision of basic infrastructure that incorporates the protection of nature ...
  • Goal 9 cont.: Infrastructure development that ignores economic, environmental and social costs can impact long-term economic viability and undermine the environmental foundation on which people’s livelihoods, well-being, and cultural life depend.
  • Goal 14: Eighty percent of marine pollution comes from land-based sources. Without accepting planetary boundaries and a comprehensive circular economy we will not be able to protect the marine ecosystems. To reduce negative impacts and stem the tide of climate change, nutrient contamination, plastic and microplastic waste and the discharge of toxins, we must focus environmental policy on precautionary solutions, effective regulation and taxation of unsustainable practices.
  • Goal 17: The power of corporate actors to influence legislation must shift dramatically in favor of a new Earth jurisprudence that protects the natural world.

The 2017 meeting of the HLPF on sustainable development will be held in New York from Monday 10th July, to Wednesday 19th July. The theme will be "Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world". The set of goals to be reviewed in depth will be the following:

  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
  • Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
  • Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
  • Plus Goal 17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. Goal 17 will be considered each year.

The meeting will also include voluntary national reviews.

NGO Major Group

WAN is a member of the NGO Major Group (NGO MG), one of the nine groups recognized by the UN as the main channels through which broad participation is facilitated in UN activities related to sustainable development. See here for more about Major Groups. The NGO MG is tasked with collating and reconciling the diverse perspectives of NGOs into a word-limited position paper—a challenging endeavor! WAN took part in their latest consultation exercise on the 2017 HLPF, and was impressed by the open and participatory way in which the NGO MG operates. The result of this consultation can be found in their official position paper for the HLPF. As you will see, we were able to insert quite a number of animal protection concerns into the final paper.

The NGO MG is asking all NGOs to share and use this paper - on social media, with government representatives you meet, and on your organization’s website.

See below for more about the national advocacy needed!

Side Event

WAN is currently working with colleagues from the following organizations in pitching for a Side Event at the HLPF:

  • Brighter Green
  • A Well Fed World
  • Compassion in World Farming
  • The Good Food Institute
  • Humane Society International

The theme of the proposed side event is “The Future of Food and Agriculture in a Changing World” and would highlight the inherent unsustainability of industrial animal agriculture and promote alternatives that can provide kinder, healthier and more equitable solutions to world hunger and food security while eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity.

Please keep your fingers crossed that our Side Event pitch will succeed!

Regional Preparatory Meetings

We are also represented at the following Regional Preparatory meetings:

We promise that we will do all in our power to make the case for animals in these important meetings!

National Advocacy Needed Now!

Whilst we are doing what we can to make the case for animals through these various channels, we are very aware that final decisions will not rest with civil society, but with UN member countries. So we are calling on all APOs to lobby their national governments to make the case for animals and the environment. The supportive parts of the NGO MG official position paper will be useful background for this advocacy work. However, a copy of our more targeted briefing is also available on request (general briefing, briefing on the SDGs under review and comments on the SDG indicators). Please do not hesitate to ask for this (or, indeed, for any other information and advice on your advocacy).

Thank you for helping us to help the animals!


Janice Cox

Janice is co-founder and a director of World Animal Net. She has held a variety of management and advocacy roles in the international animal welfare movement over the past 30 years. Janice focuses on WAN’s work on advocacy, development and education/training. Based in South Africa, she has assisted with regional strategic planning for animal welfare on the continent, including working with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)'s Southern African office for one year. Janice was the recipient of the Humane Society International 2014 award for “extroardinary commitment and achievement for animal protection”.


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