The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were signed by all United Nations member states in 2015, the Netherlands included. The Dutch government has committed itself to realising these goals, at home and abroad, by 2030, leaving nobody behind.
With this first Dutch SDG Spotlight report titled “Beyond non-commitment”, we are joining other countries in keeping our government on track through an independent report, written by civil society organisations, about the state of the art of the SDGs. The SDG Spotlight report for the Netherlands was published in March 2021 and (partly) translated to English in June 2021. It critically assesses the Dutch policy approach to SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities) and SDG 15 (Life on land), showing the Netherlands’ approach to the SDGs is characterised by a high degree of non-commitment.
Spotlight on SDG10 and SDG 15 shows painful results
The Dutch 2020 Spotlight report focuses on SDG 10: Reduced inequalities and SDG 15: Life on land. These two goals represent two main areas of the SDG agenda: people and planet. The results of the Spotlight report can be described as painful. The Dutch government’s policy on SDG 10 (reducing inequalities) and SDG 15 (life on land, biodiversity) are ambiguous and non-committal. The frame that The Netherlands is “doing pretty well” on the route to 2030, is not correct. In the area of social and ecological sustainability, the Netherlands is not making enough progress. To the contrary, the impact of Dutch policy is negative and does not bring the goals closer.
In the area of equal opportunity, diversity and social cohesion (SDG 10), the Netherlands is showing a mixed image, but the overall trend remains negative, especially for vulnerable groups. In the area of biodiversity, environmental protection and quality of the living environment (SDG 15), the Netherlands is simply falling short.
‘A high degree of non-commitment’
The Dutch government does make policies for a more sustainable economy, an inclusive society and corporate social responsibility, but the policy approach is characterised by a high degree of non-commitment. Good policy ambitions are not accompanied by measurable goals, adequate resources or clear legal frameworks. The government does not give enough guidance and direction to companies, which are given the space to regulate themselves and are not led towards a more sustainable production model with rules and pricing. Making international trade chains more sustainable is largely pursued through voluntary covenants. Time and again, we see that these approaches yield too few results.
Also, the government does not speak with one voice and its policy is not coherent. While one ministry or department develops policy that contributes to the SDGs, another department develops activities that have the opposite effect. Politics and actual implementation in practice give different signals, especially in the international and European context.
This way, we will certainly not achieve SDG 10 and SDG 15 by 2030.
Our goal: encouraging ambitious SDG action
The report examines the goals and indicators on the path towards the SDGs, something that has not been investigated for the Netherlands before. With this SDG Spotlight report on the Dutch role in achieving the SDGs, we want to encourage more ambitious and more coherent action on the SDGs. Our main conclusion is that it is high time for the Netherlands to translate the SDGs into an ambitious strategy with measurable goals for the national and international level. This strategy should be broadly anchored in all ministries.
The initiative for the SDG Spotlight report was taken by Global Goals Accelerator – in which Earth Charter, Worldconnectors and Ellen van Reesch (independent advisor) work together – and Building Change: a partnership of Partos, Woord en Daad and Foundation Max van der Stoel. The report is made possible by the substantive and financial support of NCDO, WWF and the Civic Engagement Alliance.
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