by ROWENA OREJANA
Kiwis should look at what New Zealand’s commitments will be to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the kind of society we want.
The NGO representative of the United States-based Dominican Leadership Conference to the United Nations, Sr Margaret Mayce, OP, said that from now until September 2015, member-states will negotiate what will be in those goals.
Sr Margaret talked at a forum held by The Peace Place–Aaiotanga at Pompallier Centre on September 28. She spoke on the role of NGOs at the UN, the progress of the Millennium Development goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda with its focus on sustainability.
“How is New Zealand faring in the larger picture in terms of social development, poverty, climate change? What kind of society do you want for the future generation? And what are the
things that make for peace?” she asked.
Sr Margaret said the UN is about the common good and peace. But the way to attain those is tricky and often blocked by the self-interest of member-states.
“Until international priorities are straightened out and set in proper order, there will never be a true and lasting peace. The common good has to do with being attentive to things that bring peace,” she said.
Giving a thumbnail sketch of the world, she said that, based on figures from organisations like the UN and the World Bank, we live in a planet of more than seven billion, and nearly half the
population live in poverty. An estimated 790 million people are starving.
One in five children die before the age of five because of malnutrition or waterborne diseases. Half the Earth’s forest cover is gone and global warming will increase temperatures disastrously.
“The other truth today is that there is more inequality in the world than there has been at any point since World War II,” she said.
She said the Sustainable Development Goals will include what was in the Millenium Development goals, but will have sustainability at the core.
“There’s talk at the UN. This is going to be a new vision. The new agenda will apply to all nations — a global partnership and a transformative approach,” she said. “They are calling it a transformative approach, but no one is actually saying what it means.” She said it needs
to mean a change in the mindset of states, otherwise nothing will change.
“Part of the dilemma we are in today in terms of the health of the planet has to do with the way we believe development should be done,” she said. “We are at the stage in the world today where if we keep developing using fossil fuels, we are going to develop ourselves out
of existence and destroy the planet. In some ways, the planet would probably recoup, but we won’t be around to see it.”
She said the planet’s health is a prolife issue. “If that which contains all is in such jeopardy, then all our other efforts to secure human rights, respect for life, they’ll be for naught. So if we are concerned for life, then one of the primary concerns for us all is the health of the climate,” she said.
Some goals being discussed for inclusion are: no poverty/hunger; food security; healthy lives; quality education; gender equality/empowerment of women and girls; availability/sustainable
management of water and sanitation for all; equality within/among countries; sustainable production/consumption; urgent action on climate change.
She said although the goals seem unattainable from an individual perspective, we can contribute in small ways.
“You can’t change the world but you can focus on New Zealand. And if you focus on New Zealand with great integrity and great consistency and persistence, that’s your contribution to the common good, to the good of the whole, because at the end of the day we are interconnected,”
she said.

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