In Focus: Working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Melanesia

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

In 2015, all 193 United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a shared blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all people. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are an urgent call for action by all countries to address the global challenges we face today. They recognize that eradicating poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies aimed at reducing inequalities, improving access to education, responsible consumption and technological innovation, tackling climate change and preserving our environment. They call for global partnership to achieve peace and prosperity for all people.

For an overview of the 17 SDGs take a look at the graphic below. More detailed information about the SDGs can be found on the website of the United Nations: https://sdgs.un.org/goals.

Sustainable Development Goals

How successful have we been so far in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Melanesia?

In Solomon Islands, the national implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is set out in the National Development Strategy 2016-2035. In Vanuatu, the government’s efforts to address the SDGs are guided by the Vanuatu 2030 The Peoples Plan.

Both countries regularly reflect on their progress towards achieving the SDGs in voluntary national reviews. According to the latest national reviews and UN statistics, both countries have made significant progress in addressing sustainable development. However, major challenges remain in nearly all areas of development.

SI and Vanuatu Governments have promoted economic growth through investments in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism and mining sectors, leading to sustained growth, lower unemployment and lower poverty rates.

There have been major improvements in addressing health and wellbeing in Melanesia. Maternal, neonatal and child mortality have significantly declined in recent years. Incidences of tuberculosis have become fewer and the risk of dying from non-communicable diseases has decreased. However, there have been worrisome increases in alcohol consumption, the number of obese people, diabetes and incidences of cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, the availability of modern family planning methods to women of reproductive age has declined and child marriage and adolescent birth rates are on the rise. Furthermore, sexual violence against women remains a major challenge.

Access to clean water and sanitation as well as electricity and the Internet has widened in recent years. However, further improvements are urgently needed as over half of the population in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu still lacks access to basic water and sanitation facilities. Only 63 % of the SI population had access to electricity in 2017 and only 13 % access to the Internet (63 % and 26 % in Vanuatu, respectively).

In both countries, the proportion of population suffering from hunger has slightly increased in recent years, to around 13 % in Solomon Islands and 10 % in Vanuatu. Particularly, child malnourishment poses a persistent problem, with roughly one third of all children under 5 years in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu experiencing stunted growth in 2015.

While rates of engagement in primary education in Vanuatu are slightly increasing (to 81 % in 2017), enrolment in primary schools in Solomon Islands is on a worrisome decline (67 % in 2018, compared to 81 % in 2007).

Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have agreed upon comprehensive national policies for climate action and environmental protection, recognizing the role that a healthy environment plays in achieving other SDGs. Governments and NGOs have started to implement climate adaptation, environmental conservation and disaster resilience programmes with support of the international community. Nevertheless, environmental degradation due to local human activities including logging, inappropriate waste disposal and overharvesting, as well as the effects of climate change, in the form of higher sea levels, shifting weather patterns and more frequent extreme events, are on the rise.

To summarize, Melanesia still faces major challenges and will need significant support of the international community to achieve the SDGs by 2030. Especially, the SDGs related to Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, and Life on Land and Below Water urgently need attention. COVID-19 has slowed down our efforts to tackle the SDGs – therefore, it is even more important that we take action now.  

For reference and further information consult: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/, and https://data.worldbank.org/.

How does MMUK address the Sustainable Development Goals?

MMUK supports the global efforts to achieve the SDGs by partnering with the Anglican Church of Melanesia to bring about positive change in Melanesia. Most of our projects directly address one or more of the SDGs. Additionally, our support for ACoM and its mission enables the implementation of many other projects initiated by ACoM, which aim to achieve a more sustainable future for communities in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in accordance with the SDGs.

For example, our long-standing cultural exchanges for clergy and students from both, the UK and Solomon Islands, foster global understanding and relationships and directly address SDG 17: Global Partnership for the Goals.

Our support for the renovation of the Pamua Girls’ Dormitory is one example of how we are helping to tackle SDG 4: Quality Education in Melanesia.

The ACoM Environment Observatory project, which we continue to support throughout 2021, raises awareness of environmental issues and enables church-led observations of environmental and climatic change across Solomon Islands. Thereby, it addresses SDG 13: Climate Action, SDG 14: Life below Water, and SDG 15: Life on Land.

In our future communications, we will use the SDG symbols published by the United Nations to show how our work in Melanesia relates to the global efforts to achieve a more equitable and sustainable future for all people.

MMUK Initiatives and matching UN Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts; Climate change.

Solomon Islands, Logging

SSF Campaign on the Human Rights Implications of Illegal, Unregulated and Unsustainable Logging

Logging & the Abuse of Human Rights
Logging In Melanesia – A Call To Action

SDG15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use...

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss; Forests.

SDG5 - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; Gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Marie Schlenker