What Does the UN Have to Do With Nelson?
The West Kootenay Global Awareness Network (WKGAN) and The BC Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) met with community leaders in Nelson recently to discuss the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how our community is tackling them.
In September of 2016, 193 nations signed the agreement, moving forward on 17 goals to help end poverty, hunger and inequality worldwide by 2030.
The BC Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) has been traveling around the province and meeting with community leaders, activists and politicians to help map out what goals are being accomplished at the local level.
“The big questions is, if you went to a small town like Nelson, does this international agenda mean anything to people,” said Michael Simpson, Executive Director for the BCIIC.
“In every community we’ve gone to there are already people working on these global goals, the numbers blew us out of the water. We had no idea when we set out doing this — and we’re fairly well-networked, we’ve got a good idea about who are the NGOs and so on,” Simpson continued.
“But when you get down to the community scale and start asking people ‘who is working on poverty in your community’ and you have 20-30 people in the room who are well informed about their community, they can start mapping that out.”
Simpson said that while there may be several independent organizations working on similar goals, food banks and missions for example, they might not realize it.
Helping to collect and share this information will allow these groups to better function as they work together and trade skills or techniques.
“Let’s say you’re running a food bank in Nelson. They might not know that right next door somebody is doing the same kind of work who has a new, cool technique they’re using and so on,” Simpson told The Nelson Daily.
“There is a whole way of looking at it, a real opportunity for collaboration if they understand the SDG and see what each other are doing.”
Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed off on the SDG agenda and current PM Justin Trudeau has also embraced the goals.
Throughout this latest tour Simpson and his organization have discovered that most communities are also tackling these objectives at a municipal level.
Unfortunately, in BC, the provincial government is the missing link, and there is no provincial plan.
“In other provinces they’ve done this. In Alberta they’re taking the SDGs and working with the ministry to figure out how to incorporate them. Here in BC we don’t have that,” Simpson said.
“One of the things that has come up is talking about ‘how do we make this work and get it more on the map in the coming months’ especially with elections coming up.”
According to Simpson, each town they’ve visited has its own unique issues and ways of dealing with them.
“What’s interesting is that each town has different issues going on and that’s what Thursday’s meeting, the last half, was about. People were trying to identify what are the key issues showing up in our community that are reflected in the goals,” Simpson said.
Nelson scored high on nearly every front, Simpson discovered. There are groups dealing with every single one of the SDGs at the local level. As for the particular issues facing our community, affordable housing was highest on the list.
“In some communities some of the goals aren’t being tackled, but Nelson has enough variety that there are people working on every single goal,” Simpson said.
An area where Nelson did exceptionally well was in regards to education. According the information gathered at Thursday’s meeting, Nelson appears to have excellent opportunities for youth in terms of quality education.
“There was some very positive, unanimous feedback that if you’re a young person growing up in Nelson you have a huge number of opportunities. Even if you’re an adult learner there’s lots of opportunity in Nelson and that is not true of other communities,” Simpson said.
For more information on the SDGs, including community mapping and a searchable database, go to https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs and to see how the province is working on these issues go to http://bccic.ca/keeping-score-un-sustainable-development-goals/.