20 Apr 2022 - by Andrew MacKay

Lawyers Advancing Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6

On 21 February, A4ID launched the five ‘People’ chapters of the Legal Guide to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), at a virtual event in partnership with Linklaters. The ‘People’ SDGs – or SDG 2 on Zero Hunger, SDG 3 on Good Health & Well-Being, SDG 4 on Quality Education, SDG 5 on Gender Equality, SDG 6 on Clean Water & Sanitation – bring together cross-cutting issues of access, fairness and equality that are intrinsically human-centric. This blog provides an overview of the event and the discussions and ideas that were shared.

The SDG agenda aligns strongly with A4ID’s mission to fight poverty through the engagement of the legal sector. In this context, A4ID is currently developing the Legal Guide to the Sustainable Development Goals, a unique resource made up of 17 chapters specific to each of the 17 goals. This resource is built to create a greater awareness of the SDGs among the global legal community and inspire legal professionals to take action for the SDGs. 

One of the pillars of the SDG Agenda are the five ‘People’ SDGs. The achievement of these SDGs is so important as each of the goals have in common to be directly linked with human rights. Unfortunately, they also have in common that progress towards their targets has been severely curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic aftermath. 

This launch event brought together the legal and development communities to discuss how the legal profession across the world can best contribute to the realisation of the rights to food, health, education, clean water, and gender equality for all, without discrimination. As well as showcasing the diverse ways lawyers and in-house counsel can contribute to this agenda through their client advising capacity and pro bono work. 

This was an opportunity for experts across the sectors to come together to share their experiences and ambitions of contributing to the ‘People’ SDGs, with a likeminded audience that can take these learnings forward and look to support the SDG agenda themselves.  

Moderated by Matt Sparkes (Global Head of Sustainability, Linklaters), speakers participating in the panel included Robert Yates (Director, Global Health Programme, Chatham House), Aisling Zarraga (Partner at Linklaters), Jacqui Hunt (Global Lead on Ending Sexual Violence, Equality Now), Delphine Dorsi (Director, Right to Education).  

Why is the SDG Agenda so Critical?

The webinar was opened by Owen Clay (Corporate Responsibility Chair, Linklaters). As an organisation, Linklaters have used the SDGs as a framework for their sustainability work for many years, and were therefore well placed to support A4ID in this launch.  

Yasmin Batliwala (CEO, A4ID) joined Owen to share the purpose of A4ID’s overarching SDG Legal Initiative, which aims to reach every legal professional in the world and provide them with the knowledge and opportunities to take practical action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. As well as how the Legal Guide to the SDGs can be utilised by the legal community to create real change across the world and advance positive global change. 

In an ideal world, there would be equity across the planet and humanity, regardless of where you were born. However, realities such as limited access to food and malnutrition remaining widespread for around 11% of people across the globe, highlight how far off this is from achievement. Yasmin emphasised the support that A4ID requires from law firms and others in furthering the mission of the Legal Initiative. 

Keynote speaker Diana Good (Chair, Conciliation Resources) shared her diverse insight with the audience, given her previous experience working as a Partner at Linklaters and her current role across international development. Diana shared the urgent need to reach the SDGs universally, as well as the progress that has been lost as a result of ongoing crises across the globe. Including the pandemic, the climate crisis, increasing conflict and funding cuts in areas of development. Diana has a strong belief that all SDGs are linked by SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. Access to health, water, education – none of these goals mean anything in her view, if you do not have access to justice as a top priority and if government institutions are not held to account. You can read more on this topic by downloading A4ID’s Legal Guide to SDG 16 here.

How Can the Legal Community Support the ‘People’ SDGs?

The COVID pandemic has threatened progress for each of the ‘People’ SDGs, including food security, education and healthcare, and often disproportionately affecting women and girls. A4ID’s ‘People’ chapters focus on addressing these challenges. Panel experts shared their experiences of working on progressing the ‘People’ SDGs, as well as how they have previously worked with and across the legal community to further their impact in these areas, particularly in the face of the pandemic and its disastrous effects. 

Discussions were focused on how panel participants feel lawyers can be engaged and proactively contribute to the SDG agenda. Suggestions included bringing lawyers into debates where they may not have necessarily been involved before, especially in holding stakeholders to account in their commitment to furthering the SDGs, such as local governments.  

Panellists shared examples of how the legal community has made an impact on sustainable development in their experience, as well as other areas they feel lawyers could work in to make a difference. For example, working with development organisations not just on their output and work within the sector but on issues that need addressing internally, such as support required within human resources. Assistance such as this provides organisations with a wider scope to focus on their work to advance the SDGs. The panel session rounded up with a selection of questions from the audience. 

Everyone Can Make an Impact

In her closing remarks, Yasmin shared a final call to action with the audience, emphasising the potential for every member of the legal community to have a positive and meaningful impact in advancing the ‘People SDGs’ and supporting A4ID’s SDG Legal Initiative. Throughout the session, panellists shared a range of examples of how lawyers have worked with players across the development sector to protect quality of life across the globe, ensuring that all individuals enjoy peace and prosperity – making that vital difference.  

You can access the five ‘People’ Chapters of the SDG Legal Guide here.

As well as watch a video highlight reel of the event here.