As we approach the first anniversary of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), on 25 September 2016, at least one thing is clear: nothing will be achieved without a joined-up approach and an integrated strategy.
In practice, this means that the UN’s silos will need to start talking the same language. It’s not about dumbing down; quite the opposite, in fact. It’s about better understanding the work done by partners, including all the nuances and intricacies, so that we can work more effectively together. This counts on all levels (national, regional and local) as well as between levels. For example, the UN System and Member States will have to work more closely with civil society.
International trade: a case in point
Jeffrey Sachs is Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General and Director of the Earth Institute – and a strong supporter of the UN’s 2030 Agenda. He has consistently highlighted the importance of trade as a way to end poverty, and to achieve the SDGs, saying that “when countries open up to trade, they generally benefit because they can sell more, then they can buy more. And trade has a two-way gain.”
But when asked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) (also known as TTIP) he expressed grave concerns. He supports neither agreement, partly over concerns for the environment and growing inequality. Sachs’ ambivalence to free trade agreements reflects the reality lived by many millions of people worldwide – and the legitimate concerns of civil society. After all, the liberalisation of international trade and the dismantling of barriers have had both positive and negative impacts for the Global South.
In this context the World Trade Organization (WTO) is regularly involved in trade disputes and multilateral trade diplomacy. What does this mean in practice? It means that rival claims and complex agreements are unavoidable. But again, understanding the nuances is key.
The crucial role of women
The role of free and fair trade is not, however, the only cross-cutting issue for the SDGs. It is increasingly clear that for trade to be free and fair – truly free and fair – women need to play a more active role in decision-making processes. Indeed, the only way to achieve peace, progress and prosperity will be by empowering women.
UN efforts have been led by UN Women since 2010, not only in developing and sharing empowerment policies but also with regards to training and education. For example, UN Women’s Training Centre provides guidance to UN officials, governments and civil society: to mainstream gender at all levels, while giving stakeholders the tools to improve their internal gender equality.
Researcher Kristjana Sigurbjörnsdóttir, from UNU-GEST in Iceland, stressed the importance of gender in UNU’s Global Goals Series, stating that “without the full and equal participation of both women and men, it will be impossible to make real and lasting progress in addressing sustainable development challenges, such as ensuring welfare and educational services and food security, or building peace and accountable institutions”.
Adding value through clarity
International trade and gender equality are two important cross-cutting areas that the UN System and Member States need to address in a more coherent and coordinated manner to ensure sustainable development by 2030. In recognition of this fact, UNU has made a concrete contribution to the discussion via its Jargon Buster app: by integrating the knowledge created and used by UN Women and the WTO.
The UNU Jargon Buster is a metaglossary app for iOS & Android, which gathers the knowledge created and used across the UN: from simple acronyms to political proceedings to technical designations. All contributions allow students, journalists and civil society to understand better what the UN does and how they can benefit from its work.
We are very pleased to welcome the WTO and UN Women and we look forward to welcoming many more agencies, funds and programmes. For more information download the UNU Jargon Buster here!
UNU Jargon Buster App 2.0: Unscrambling More UN Jargon, 14 April 2016
UNU Jargon Buster App 2.0: Launch at UNU-MERIT, Maastricht, 8 April 2016
WEEE? UNSSSS? New app unscrambles jumble of U.N. jargon (Reuters), 27 January 2016
A Roadmapp for the UNU Jargon Buster, 9 December 2015
UNU Jargon Buster 1.0, Launch at UNRIC, Brussels, 10 November 2015