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Bringing the promise to life: realising the Pledge to Leave No One Behind


As 2016 comes to a close so too does the first year of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of 17 ambitious goals and 169 targets, adopted by world leaders at the UN, that together form a plan of action of people, planet, prosperity and peace.

Agreed in September 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the SDGs it contains, represent an attempt by the world’s governments to tackle some of the key challenges of our generation – from eliminating hunger and ending extreme poverty, to tackling environmental degradation and ensuring decent work for all. Critically, the Agenda includes the pledge to Leave No One Behind – a commitment that all goals and targets must be met for all nations, peoples and segments of society, and that the groups that are furthest away from SDG targets must be reached first.

So where are we at after the first year? Well, some governments have begun to take concrete steps to implement the Agenda:

  • setting up coordination committees – as in Mexico, Colombia and Indonesia
  • designating a high-level political official or agency to drive progress – such as in Estonia and Sierra Leone
  • or analysing the alignments between the SDGs and existing national planning and strategy processes – as in Egypt and Turkey.

While these actions are very welcome, the scale of the challenge means we need to go further and faster. Today, across the world, millions of children are being left behind because of who they are and where they live. That toxic combination of poverty and discrimination relegates many children to the back of the queue. It demands immediate action if we’re to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

The Leave No One Behind Pledge is key to realising the SDGs, but incentives for policy-makers to implement it are currently weak. Not only is there a lack of clarity about what the Pledge means in practice, but tackling exclusion to reach groups that have been left behind is often politically and economically challenging. As a result, there’s a real danger that the Leave No One Behind Pledge could quickly become an empty promise – a principle that features in the rhetoric, but isn’t translated into meaningful change.

In our new briefing – Realising the Pledge to Leave No One Behind: A promise to reach every last child – we set out the implications of the Pledge for policy and practice, and outline concrete steps that must be taken at national and international levels to bring the promise to life.

At the national level, governments need to analyse, act and account – ensuring that they understand who is left behind within their country, putting in place an action plan to reach excluded groups, and ensuring progress is assessed through transparent, inclusive and participatory monitoring and accountability processes.

At the international level, governments, donors and multilateral agencies should align, advance and account – aligning international policies to ensure they contribute to the Pledge, investing in the creation and dissemination of high-quality disaggregated data, and ensuring regular, open and inclusive international monitoring and review.

Through our Every Last Child campaign, Save the Children is working to support governments and partners at each step of the journey towards the fulfilment of the Leave No One Behind Pledge:

  • To analyse and advance, we’ll soon be launching our GRID disaggregated data tool to help identify who the furthest behind groups of children are.
  • To act and align, we’re calling or governments to make guarantees for children in three key policy areas: fair finance, equal treatment, and accountability and we’re campaigning for international tax justice, and for aid policy to be geared towards meeting the needs of the world’s most excluded children.
  • To account, we’re working from national to international levels to ensure that accountability processes are robust and support children’s participation.

Achieving the ambition of the 2030 Agenda is dependent on ensuring no one is left behind. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity – the world’s children will not accept an empty promise.

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