Leave no issue behind

    April 15, 2023

    A virtual side event during the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development 2023 last May 28, 2023

    Three children looking through a barb wire fence

    The road to sustainable development that truly leaves no one behind is becoming even more challenging, with certain regions and countries, as well as specific goals, exhibiting regression.

    To achieve the sustainable development goals, we should have a comprehensive understanding of its aspirations as seen in the targets on the one hand, and of the issues that affect and hinder its achievement, on the other hand. For no one to be left behind, it is also imperative that the 2030 Agenda, with its 17 goals and 169 targets leave no social, economic, political or cultural issues behind. All issues that affect the achievement of each of the SDGs should be given substantial attention and should be directly articulated and addressed by the 2030 Agenda and by each of the goals that relate to them. More often than not, issues relate to multiple goals, and it is best for these issues to be reflected and taken up in each of the goals that they relate to for the SDGs to exhibit their comprehensive and interrelated nature.

    More than a quarter into the 2015-2030 timeline of the Agenda 2030, the need to recognize and articulate issues on street connected children, evictions from settlements, and homelessness have not been thoroughly and consistently discussed in the official SDG 11 processes and its overall discourse as well. But this can readily be resolved because these issues have always been part of the conversations among civil society organizations, peoples’ organizations and community-based organizations as well as several multilateral organizations and other institutions. 

    The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR) recognize the individual’s right to an adequate standard of living which includes housing as well as the right to continuous improvement of living conditions. Housing is also one of the central areas of SDG 11 as articulated in Target 11.1 and Indicator 11.1.1. But aside from monitoring and addressing the proportions of populations who dwell in various states and forms of human settlements (slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing), it is also important to look into the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the various means and forms of movement from one housing to another, or worse from being sheltered to being homeless. We should also examine if these movements or changes are voluntary or forced, if they happen peacefully or violently, if they are undertaken due to personal considerations or to external socioeconomic factors, and if they result in a better standard of living. Target 11.7 on public spaces also relates to this because people who have been evicted and the homeless all dwell on public spaces yet these issues are not extensively discussed and articulated in SDG 11 and its targets and indicators.

    Street connected children and issues that they face are also not sufficiently and directly articulated in SDG 11 and its processes despite street connected children and their issues being primarily located and related to urban areas. The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has even issued General comment No. 21 (2017) on children in street situations to highlight their importance and guide States on addressing the situation. This general comment can also be reflected in SDG 11. They may relate to Target 11.7 on public spaces, but universal access to public spaces may not cover the use of spaces as shelter or as areas for livelihood, especially informal livelihoods. Although the issues of street connected children strongly relate to other SDGs because of their multifaceted nature, SDG 11 can serve as the SDG which can consolidate these issues since the essence of street connected children lies in their location in the urban setting.