Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Sustainable Development Goals and the Charism of the Sisters of St Joseph by Linda Pepe, CSJ

(This is a presentation that Sr. Linda made when 29 representatives from congregations of Sisters of St Joseph from around the world met this July.) 

I preface my remarks by saying the SGD’s are aspirations of well-meaning world leaders, but
Sr. Linda Pepe addresses the I-JPIC meeting 
this document contains no incentives to reach the targeted goals, and no consequences if the goals are not met.  As well intentioned as this document is, it relays on the good will of the signers to work toward the target goals, but as leadership in nations change so do the priorities and areas in which they put their efforts.  What “compels” national leaders to work towards their pledged targeted goals is the pressure of their citizens to hold leadership accountable.  When it comes to realizing the goals of this document, that pressure will only happen if the United Nations keeps before the citizens of the world the SDG goals and the commitment made by the signers.

I chose to answer the following:
       In the light of our Charism, what it important to highlight in the SDG’s?   Why?

[The SDG’s established 17 goals dealing with 6 major areas: 
Ø  People:  to ensure healthy lives, education, and the inclusion of women and children
Ø  Human Dignity: to end poverty and fight inequality
Ø  Prosperity: to grow a strong, inclusive and transformative economy
Ø  Justice: to promote safe and peaceful societies, and strong institutions
Ø  Partnerships: to catalyze global solidarity for sustainable development
Ø  Planet:  to protect our ecosystems for all societies and our children]

There are 17 goals set forth in this document, dealing with six major areas: People, Human Dignity, Prosperity, Justice, Partnerships and the Planet. The attainments of these goals are vital for the future of our world, but the majority requires the government’s efforts and determination to see that the goals are met.  Holding them accountable for their pledges can only be done if the citizens of these countries KNOW what pledges have been made. 

The first thing that I would highlight is the title –Sustainable Development Goals. What do we mean by Sustainable Development Goals?  What are “we” (the global “we”) trying to achieve and “who” is involved in this “we” of the SDG’s?  While we tend to react and respond to issues, sustainability requires that we get beneath the surface of the issues and examine the systems of power and voices that construct the systems that format the issues about which we are concerned.  Whether we are looking at economic issues, environmental issues or social issues, it is not enough to look at what is happening.  We must begin to look at the systems that are the underpinning of the issues, and ask how things have come to be the way they are, no matter where we look in the world.  Then we must learn to act, not simply react.

Our Charism of reconciliation and right relationship requires that we understand the underlining causes of injustice and work to make systemic change.  Quick fixes or band aid solutions will not achieve the targeted goals of the SDG’s.  If our world is to have a future, it requires an understanding of the past, the present and what needs to be accomplished or changed if all human beings are to have healthy societies and communities in the future.  Each of us has the challenge to seek to understand the relationship of the social, environmental and economic aspects of our own societies and how these aspects interact with communities and societies around the world.  Our challenge is to have a sense of the whole, even as we experience our own parts and pieces of that whole.  That sense of the whole requires that we move from seeing only from our own perspective or viewpoint, our piece of the social, environmental and economic aspects of the world and seek to understand the perspectives and viewpoints brought forth by other persons, communities and societies. Our own education is the first thing I would highlight.

That said, and I think our own education can be an ongoing process, there are a few goals that, in the light of our Charism, I think we can have an immediate impact on their development and progress. These are goals that are achievable, not by 2030, but in the near, if not immediate, future if we, as C/SSJ’s make a concerted effort to work to implement them, as well as hold our elected officials responsible for their pledges.  These are the goals that I would highlight because they require no government mandates or financial expenditures, but only the efforts of ordinary people, working in collaboration with organizations and agencies already dedicated to these goals.  Let’s not re-invent the wheel, when there are many well organized and legitimate organization who believe that the world can be a better place for all. We need to work with them, and add our voices and the voices of those we help empower, to make systemic changes. 

I would highlight the following:
Ø  #3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.  Where affordable healthcare
Sisters in Tanzania minister to those with aides.
is not present, we need to work toward this right for all peoples.  We need to promote the right of all peoples, regardless of race, economic status, gender preference, or age to equal healthcare.  This also includes working toward the elimination of poverty that often sentence children, who are born into poverty, to a less than healthy life.  It includes working toward clean water for all people, and an examination of our own individual use of this natural, but limited, resource.

Ø  #4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.  Education is the means by which all who acquire it can achieve a sense of dignity and self-worth in addition to lifting themselves out of poverty.  A decent education is the right of all children, and we should work to achieve that goal on local, national, and if the opportunity presents itself, international levels.  Discrimination in education is the result of social, economic, religious and racial prejudices.  The causes for the inequity in education needs to be addressed before the opportunity can exist.

Promotion of women in Burkina Faso
Ø  #5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. An educated society recognizes that in order to become sustainable all members of society must be functioning at their highest levels. As CSJ’s it is imperative that we continue to speak out against the violence against women and the inequities within society. The underpinning causes for gender bias or inequality, whether for economic, social or religious must be understood before we can address the injustice.  We must understand and respect cultures and traditions but that does not mean that we cannot work toward empowering women and girls to assume their rightful place in society.  This is incorporated in Goal #4 above.

Ø  #12- Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.   Even in the wealthiest or Global North countries there is great poverty and hunger.  We are all part of the consumption and production patterns.  This may be the easiest goal for us to work on because it requires a personal commitment to conserve, and use wisely or sparingly, the earth’s resources, i.e. among the most valuable are water and food.  This goal also requires us to support the farmers and food producers who are often squeezed out of business by large agricultural corporations with their genetically altered food products.  The Faire Trade movement comes to mind immediately, as well as our support of cottage industries in the various countries where our sisters live or are in ministry.

Ø  # 16 – Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.  What is within our control is the first part of this goal – peaceful and inclusive societies.  Racism and prejudice exist in each of our countries, cities and neighborhoods. Confronting or addressing prejudice can be done through education.  We have seen the ugliness of prejudice whether it be for reasons of race, religion, economic status, country of origin, or sexual orientation.  On an international level we only have to look within our own borders at the reception that today’s immigrants and refugees are receiving.  It is within our power to do something about this on a local or state level, and on a national level by holding our elected leaders accountable for the policies they enact, or for the lack of condemnation when policies or racial hatred is expressed.

I have chosen to highlight these goals because they do not require State mandates or the International Community’s approval.  These are doable goals, if we but have the will and desire to do them.