Canada’s National Centre for the Sustainable Development Goals launched in Ottawa recently. The centre is the first of its kind in Canada, which acts as a coworking, meeting, and learning space with a focus on supporting and amplifying organizations who are addressing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs were adopted by all UN member states in 2015 as a call to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure peace and prosperity for all. The 17 goals cover areas including quality education, climate change, and reduced inequalities, and include targets ranging from ending hunger and malnutrition to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, all by a 2030 target.
Despite Canada’s high standard of development, three million Canadians struggle to satisfy their basic needs, according to the UN. A 2018 voluntary progress report by the Canadian government on the SDGs indicated that groups such as Indigenous people, women, the LGBTQ community, newcomers, and people with disabilities face “unequal and unacceptable barriers” and “are more likely to face poverty, discrimination, and social exclusion.”
The centre, which hopes to bring actors together to tackle these issues, was spearheaded by the Community Foundations of Canada, a national network for community foundations, and Impact Hub Ottawa, a coworking space and social impact community. It is backed by 20 other organizations representing national and international groups including ONE, The MATCH International Women’s Fund, and Youth Action Now.
“With only ten years remaining to achieve the ambitious goals laid out in Agenda 2030 we are still far from the targets and need new solutions,” says Katie Miller, Managing Director of Impact Hub Ottawa and Chair of the Impact Hub Association Board. She says the centre is one of those solutions.
The idea for the centre came from realizing that most of the Impact Hub’s members (97%) align with at least one SDG, and that collaborating towards shared goals would be strategic. The centre will bring together organizations working towards SDGs relating to gender equality, reducing inequality, sustainable cities, and climate change. “The only way to achieve [the targets] is in collaboration and by starting to align our efforts,” Miller shares.
In addition to being a space for strategic networking, learning, and collective action, the centre’s location, which is in close proximity to Parliament Hill, will enable collaborations with government and other actors working towards the achievement of the SDGs, Miller says.
“We’ve started the programming and we’re bringing together leaders working in these areas [gender, inequality, climate, and sustainability] to come together,” Miller says. “It’s neutral, cross-sectoral, and brings attention to the SDGs both for organizations and the broader public.” The centre’s programming, which is accessible non-members of Impact Hub, includes an information session series on climate change and an “SDG Deep Dive Series” which will bring together leaders and organizations working towards the goals to explore collaboration opportunities. The events target changemakers, activists, and organizations working towards social equity and global development initiatives.
“No single sector can address the SDGs alone. The way we connect, do business and empower each other needs to shift if we are going to pursue a future where everyone belongs,” says Andrew Chunilall, CEO with Community Foundations of Canada.
In a 2017 address to the UN which mostly focused on historic and ongoing injustices committed against Canada’s Indigenous people, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the SDGs “are as meaningful in Canada as they are everywhere else in the world.”
This is demonstrated by the reality that one out of every seven Canadians lives in poverty, Indigenous communities are in a state of emergency over water quality, and the Canadian north experiences the impacts of climate change at double the global rate.
The launch of the national centre for the SDGs comes during the United Nations’ Global Goals and Climate Week, where global leaders gathered in New York to discuss the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
Photos: Pedro Domingos