By The Lord Chidgey, Member of The House of Lords, UK Parliament.
Two years ago the Global Goals for Sustainable Development were passed, and with it, the world finally had a roadmap to the end of extreme poverty. But progress has been slow, action plans have stagnated, and political priorities have changed. The energy and excitement that once surrounded the goals has subsided and there’s a real danger that without urgent action, we will miss our chance to tackle the world’s biggest challenges - climate change, poverty, and disease eradication - by 2030.
The Commonwealth can and must take up ownership of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. 2.4 billion people, that’s one third of the world’s population, live in one of the 52 member countries of this voluntary group. And with over half of the population under the age of 30, it has the potential to be an unstoppable force for global progress and sustainability.
But first it must get its own house in order. The World Bank produced a report last year that examined Women in Business and Law. The findings were quite shocking. At least 39 out of 52 Commonwealth countries have discriminatory laws on the books that keep women and girls from achieving their full potential. And at least 6 Commonwealth countries do not have legislation on domestic violence, whilst 15 still have exemptions that permit marital rape. I find this utterly unacceptable and that is why I support Global Citizen and their campaign to Level the Law.
The Commonwealth has demonstrably shown that it can be a powerful force for good. Bringing leaders together from a diverse range of nations, the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia rallied support for the end of polio, raising over US $100 million. Four years later, these same countries banded together in Malta to revitalise political support for the eradication of polio. As Baroness Scotland said at the time, this convening provides “an exemplary example of what the Commonwealth can do when it collaborates and works together with focus to bring something about.”
Next year the UK will host the Commonwealth Summit. This will be a unique opportunity for the UK Government to demonstrate that they remain an outward facing, globally engaged country, that is ready to provide leadership and cooperation on the world stage. Polio eradication is just a matter of when, not if, thanks to the continued support of Commonwealth countries - including the UK itself which recently announced an additional £100 million to the effort. The Summit next year can be the catalyst that provides the leadership needed to wipe it out once and for all. Then the Commonwealth can turn it’s attention to the deadliest killer disease of all time, malaria.
Working with our allies, we can fire the starting gun on the race to end malaria. Ninety percent of the Commonwealth’s population live in malaria affected countries, and Commonwealth countries comprise almost two thirds of the global population at risk from this disease. Ridding the world of one of the oldest and deadliest diseases should remain central to the vision of a global Britain, building a safer, healthier, more prosperous world for us all.
The Commonwealth Summit next year can help end preventable diseases, and significantly “advance the cause of gender equality. If we are to ever see a more fair and just world, the Commonwealth family must take ownership of the Global Goals. Anything less and we’ll be letting down those that need our help the most.
Lord Chidgey is a Member of the UK House of Lords for the Liberal Democrats. He is the Shadow Minister for Africa, the Lords Chair for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Commonwealth, The Lords Chair for the APPG for Africa, and President of the Liberal Club Commonwealth Forum.