Media release: Government’s commitment to sustainable development goals needs greater clarity

31 August 2021: The Government needs to clarify how it intends to meet its commitment to achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030.

That’s the key finding from The Government’s preparedness to implement the sustainable development goals, a report by the Auditor-General published today.

The Office of the Auditor-General reviewed how the Government is demonstrating its commitment to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This looked at what arrangements are in place and how the Government is encouraging stakeholders and the public to engage with efforts to achieve the goals by 2030.

“New Zealand signed up to the 2030 Agenda in 2015. In my view, the period since then should have been enough time for the Government to have established a foundation from which to achieve the sustainable development goals,” says Auditor-General John Ryan.

The Government produced its first report on New Zealand’s progress towards the sustainable development goals in 2019. That report highlights a range of policies and activities that contribute to the goals. The Government’s well-being focus and the Living Standards Framework also have some alignment with the goals.

However, the Auditor-General’s report found that the Government still needs to clarify:

  • whether it will set targets for each of the sustainable development goals New Zealand will work towards and, if so, in which areas;
  • what specific actions it will take to implement the goals; and
  • how it will monitor and measure progress.

“Having measurement systems in place and transparently reporting on progress are both necessary to enable Parliament and the public to assess the Government’s performance and hold it to account,” says Mr Ryan.

After that commitment has been clarified, the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of government agencies need to be more clearly defined.

The Government has improved the data that is available about well-being. Two monitoring frameworks that assess well-being outcomes have been developed, and these have several indicators that align with the sustainable development goals. However, improvements are needed if these frameworks are to adequately monitor progress.

“Although efforts are under way to address data gaps, and we acknowledge the challenges in this work, we are concerned that these efforts might come too late to help determine New Zealand’s baseline data and subsequent progress towards achieving the 2030 goals,” says Mr Ryan.

The Government also needs to consider how it will work with Māori to ensure that plans to achieve the goals uphold and reflect te Tiriti o Waitangi. Stakeholder and public engagement are also needed to increase awareness of New Zealand’s commitment to the goals and to encourage participation across all sectors.

Mr Ryan recognises that while the focus right now needs to be on responding to, and recovering from, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UN has observed that many groups that the 2030 Agenda defines as vulnerable have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19. The principle of “leaving no one behind” is therefore even more relevant in the current environment.

The report has seven recommendations to help the Government improve its planning, governance arrangements, stakeholder engagement, and measuring of progress towards the goals.

“It is our hope that the Government acts on our recommendations and takes the necessary steps to define, measure progress against, and ultimately achieve New Zealand’s commitments to the sustainable development goals by 2030,” says Mr Ryan.



NOTE FOR MEDIA: About the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

In 2015, all United Nations members adopted Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). The SDGs came into effect on 1 January 2016 with the aim of being achieved by the end of 2030. They cover social, environmental, and economic sustainable development.

The United Nations describes the concept of sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The 2030 Agenda states that eradicating poverty is the biggest challenge and fundamental for sustainable development.

The sustainable development goals are:

  • 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 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
  • Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development