By Zoom 9am Thursday 2 September 2021
E ngā Manukura katoa o Aotearoa whānui,
ko tēnei he mihi maioha ki o koutou.
Ko tōku tūmanako kia haumarutia tonutia tātou
I o tātou kainga maha, i tēnei wā o te Urutā, Covid 19.
Noho ora pai mai koutou.
To all Leaders around Aotearoa New Zealand
This is my heartfelt greeting to you all.
My hope is that we remain safe
in our homes at this time of Covid 19
Please all stay well.
Thank you to the University of Canterbury and Lincoln University for hosting this year’s Aotearoa SDG Summit, and for the opportunity to contribute on the theme of ‘Collaboration for Systemic Change’.
As we face yet another year of unprecedented challenges, it seems fitting that this conference has the theme of collaboration. The events of the past eighteen months have surely taught us that collaboration at local, national and international level is essential to protecting our health, delivering economic well-being and protecting our climate and environment for generations to come. We have become accustomed to using online platforms for meetings and hui such as this also.
Systemic change and the Sustainable Development Goals
Aotearoa New Zealand has reached a point where we can further enhance our approach to foreign policy in a way that is independent, values based and cogniscent of the Treaty of Waitangi as our founding document. Our stance on universal human rights, climate change and sustainability, reversing the harmful intergenerational effects of child poverty and progressing opportunities for Māori strengthen the proposition that we can achieve the objectives expressed across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As we are aware each member of the UN has undertaken a non-binding commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When I consider the role that Aotearoa New Zealand can take both at home, amongst the international community and in our approach, we have much to offer. But we are new to this journey and Covid-19 acts as a significant disruptor to an accelerated approach.
Since taking office in 2017 the Government has implemented a range of core changes that has led to greater congruence with the broader objectives of the SDGs. These changes include the formation of the Public Sector Act 2020, the adoption of a living standards framework and implementation of a wellbeing lense to the Budget process, a range of public policy objectives, reforms in the areas of freshwater and climate change, and an undertaking to ensure that wellbeing extends to local government responsibilities.
These are some areas the Government is able to strengthen alignment with the SDGs. However the recent OAG report on the Government’s preparedness to implement the sustainable development goals makes clear that more can be done to ensure that there is strategic integration, leadership and coherent implementation across Government.
In addition to this I believe that our unique approach to foreign policy is disposed to accommodate Māori values that have characterised who we are as a people. Values such as:
manaakitanga – kindness or the reciprocity of goodwill;
whanaungatanga – our connectedness or shared sense of humanity;
kaitiakitanga– stewards of our intergenerational environmental wellbeing; and
mahi tahi and kotahitanga – collective benefit and shared aspiration.
This set of values recognises that everything is connected and needs to be purposeful aligning well to the SDGs.
The world we live in at the moment is full of complex challenges, including conflict, inequality and poverty, that have been exacerbated by a global pandemic. At the same time we face the urgent and unprecedented impacts of climate and environmental crises; and we are experiencing increased and fast-evolving global security risks, such as transnational crime, cyber threats, and artificial intelligence.
Never before has our resilience, globally, as a country, and individually, been more important. The Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework for creating resilient societies. They are an urgent call for action to end global poverty, reduce inequality, improve health and education, spur economic growth, tackle climate change, and work to preserve oceans and forests. They guide us on ‘what’ we need to do. To deliver systemic change, we also need a commitment towards empathy, sustainability, and intergenerational solutions for wellbeing. These are the ‘how’ we must go about our work, both domestically and globally.
Both within New Zealand and globally, we need to refresh our joint commitment to these Goals. I say ‘refresh’ because the pandemic has changed the context for how we implement the SDGs.
Working for the SDGs domestically, and building meaningful partnerships
The SDGs are a transformational agenda. Across the full span of our Government’s work, we are looking for opportunities for systems-level change that can underpin and sustain this transformation. Among the tools we are using are:
aligning our systems to value all aspects of well-being. Our Living Standards Framework, Well-being Budget, and Indicators Aotearoa all ensure that we prioritise, pursue, track and report on social, cultural, economic and environmental well-being.
Acting for the long-term. We are establishing institutions that have broad support and provide long-term policy certainty – for example, mandatory setting of targets and reporting on child poverty; and an independent Climate Change Commission. These are practical demonstrations of our commitment to kaitiakitanga.
Building strong partnerships to drive change. I acknowledge the critical contribution that communities, business, iwi, civil society, and other groups make to New Zealand’s full implementation of the SDGs. This conference highlights the important mahi that you are all involved in.
Supporting the Pacific to achieve the SDGs
The SDGs also have currency and can inform the way we support the region and our global outlook.
Regionally, we are firmly connected culturally, linguistically, and geographically in the Pacific. Our whanaungatanga to Polynesia extends to the significant Pasifika diaspora communities who now call Aotearoa “home”. Our strength and success as a region relies on kotahitanga – our common objectives – and a commitment to mahi tahi working together.
As we support the region to achieve the SDGs, we must operate within our Pacific context. This means:
the SDGs will inform how we work with Pacific partners in the region, this will also support the most pressing issue – climate change and the issues that matter most for our region;
in conjunction with our common commitment to the SDGs, we will support each island nation’s ambition to chart their own recovery and development pathway. We will continue to provide international development cooperation in a way that supports Pacific priorities; and
we will work to strengthen multilateral architecture across the Pacific.
Our approach to partnering with the Pacific to meet their resilience challenges will – I believe – signal a new respect for the inherent mana of the Pacific. Working with and alongside the Pacific to reach their intergenerational goals.
Global solutions for global challenges – in support of multilateralism.
This brings me to the global outlook, and the critical need to work towards SDG 17 by strengthening partnerships for the Goals.
We require systems-level change to confront the global challenges that we face. And without effective global institutions and multilateralism, we will not achieve durable solutions to these global challenges.
As we work to uphold critical elements of the international rules-based system like the UN Charter, international trade law, and international instruments such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), we assert a common set of tikanga or norms that should prevail in the region. These tikanga underpin the peace, security and prosperity we seek, alongside our kaitiakitanga aspirations for New Zealand and the Pacific.
A well-functioning multilateral system should seek out common values to find practical, credible solutions that strengthen our global systems. I sense that Covid-19, its impacts and geo-strategic competition will urge new conversations on this front and I certainly welcome the opportunity to refine those values that characterise who we are.
The Government has more work to do to better implement the Sustainable Development Goals in a strategic and co-ordinated manner. I want to acknowledge the OAG who tabled their report just a few days ago. The report made seven key recommentations that will support the Government in considering critical next steps to elevate our focus on domestic measures to co-ordinate the implementation and reporting on the SDGs. I know that there is a presentation from the office to follow and will leave the outline of those recommendations.
However in the current climate I thought I would leave an open ended question for panellists and participants to consider.
I acknowledge that there is a critical role that Government must play to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are embedded in an approach that ostensibly supports critical outcomes to build a more equitable, decent, sustainable and prosperous society. Alongside that commitment there is a role for civil society to ensure that there is an enduring social and democratic licence to meet those objectives, there is also a role for the private sector and iwi māori. I also believe that there is a role for Parliament.
I hope that your discussions about collaboration will aid further consideration of how we as a country can meet our 2030 SDG objectives – Thank you for this opportunity to participate.