In the year 2000, many countries in the world, under the stewardship of the United Nations, came up with the Millennium Goals, goals for all countries to maximise health, education, justice and better lives.
Some countries have achieved some of these. Many are far from achieving most of these.
As we come to the final year of that plan, feminist organisations around the world are looking towards a more just and sustainable future and goals that will lead the world towards that. At a meeting in New York from the 7th to the 10th of this month, participants created and endorsed a declaration calling for structural and transformational changes in the way development is being planned and implemented. I would like to share here some of the thoughts and ideas of the declaration.
“We demand a paradigm transformation from the current development neo-liberal economic model, which prioritises profit over people and exacerbates inequalities, war and conflict, militarism, patriarchy, environmental degradation and climate change. Instead, we call for economic models and development approaches that are firmly rooted in principles of human rights and environmental sustainability, that address inequalities between people and states and that rebalance power relations for justice so that the result is sustained peace, equality, the autonomy of peoples and the preservation of the planet.
This transformational shift requires the redistribution of unequal and unfair burdens on women and girls in sustaining societal well-being and economies, intensified in times of violence and conflict, as well as during economic and ecological crises. It must also bring attention to the kind of growth generated and for this growth to be directed towards ensuring well-being and sustainability for all. It must tackle intersecting and structural drivers of inequalities and multiple forms of discrimination based on gender, age, class, caste, race, ethnicity, place of origin, cultural or religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, health status and abilities.
A development model that will work for women and girls of all ages and identities must be firmly rooted in international human rights obligations, non-retrogression, progressive realisation and the Rio principles, including common but differentiated responsibilities, as well as the fulfilment of the Extraterritorial Obligations of States as outlined in the Maastricht Principles.
It also requires states to have ratified and implemented international human rights treaties, including on economic and social rights and women’s human rights and multilateral environmental agreements.
Any sustainable development framework post-2015 must aim for social inclusion and equity, human security and sustainable peace, the fulfillment of human rights for all and gender equality.
It requires reviewing the current security paradigm of investing heavily in militarised peace and security; respecting the secularity of the state where this is enshrined in national norms; reverse the current model of overconsumption and production to one of sustainable consumption, production and distribution and ensure a new ecological sustainability plan that applies a biosphere approach and respect for planetary boundaries and ecological sustainability.
We aim to build political commitment and overcome financial and legal obstacles to sustainable development, peace and the respect, protection and fulfillment of all women’s human rights. We urge the international community to address the unjust social, economic and environmental conditions that perpetuate armed conflict, violence and discrimination, the feminisation of poverty, commodification of natural resources and threats to food sovereignty that impede women and girls from becoming empowered, realising their human rights and achieving gender equality.”
Specifically the declaration calls for five broad areas to be reworked:
1. Gender equality to be cross-cutting across all sustainable development goals, strategies, and objectives, as well as a standalone goal to achieve gender equality and the full realisation of women’s human rights that contribute to the redistribution of the current concentration of power, wealth and resources, including information and technology.
2. Any goal on education must include specific means to address the social, cultural and community practices that prevent girls and adolescents and women across the life course from accessing and completing education and lifelong learning.
3. Any goal on health must include the achievement of the right to the highest attainable standards of health including sexual and reproductive health and rights.
4. Ensuring economic justice by creating an enabling international environment for development that upholds extraterritorial obligations of states to ensure macro-economic and financial policies that meet economic and social rights as enshrined in the Maastricht principles.
5. Promoting ecological justice by ensuring the health of the eco system and promoting and restoring nature and recognising its intrinsic value.
This is not just a feminist cry. There are many like-minded people who understand that true sustainability and equity are the only ways for us to survive and for all of us to thrive.
It is worth thinking deeply about.
The writer is a noted danseuse and social activist