When the Canadian government evaluates its progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, policy makers need to hear from those on the ground.
This conviction emerged from a January 2023 meeting among staff from the Mary Ward Centre in Toronto and colleagues from the social justice ministries of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto and the Canadian Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Aware that the Canadian government was preparing a Voluntary National Review (VNR) of its progress to date achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we decided to collaboratively craft a responsive civil society report. No One Left Behind? An Intersectional Analysis of the 2030 Agenda in Canada highlights the voices of youth aged 15-19 years and migrant workers in Canada, and examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery efforts on SDG achievement.
Following a 5-month long drafting process, we took our report to the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) to share with government officials. Our delegation, sponsored by the IBVM/CJ UN Office, included Varka Kalaydzhieva (Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto), Srs. Sue Wilson and Joan Atkinson (Canadian Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph), youth representative, Brantella Williams, migrant worker representative, Gabriel Allahdua, and myself. The UNNGO Office coordinated a meeting with the Canadian Permanent Mission so that we could share findings from our report and discuss next steps for our recommendations. We also attended a reception hosted by the Canadian Mission on the eve of the Canadian VNR presentation and met the Representative of the Permanent Mission of Canada, Ambassador Bob Rae, as well as other members of the official delegation.
While Canada’s VNR presentation was ultimately disappointing, focusing on selective achievements and omitting substantial content on remaining gaps, the relationships developed through this process, both with government officials and civil society organizations, will hopefully lead to better outcomes in the future. Already, back in Canada, our collaborative group has met with federal officials responsible for SDG coordination and we have plans to continue advocacy and improve engagement among civil society, government, and other partners.
My Canadian advocacy efforts were enriched by our CJ/IBVM delegation collaboration. While I reached out to the Canadian government, Fionnuala Lynch IBVM and Giovanna Muha CJ reached out to Ireland and Romania, respectively. We shared tips on meeting with officials and learned from our respective VNR presentations, with Romania and Ireland leading the way on engaging children and youth in their reports.
My overall experience at the HLPF was being part of a team that joyfully worked together to hold governments accountable to their SDG commitments, doing so from our shared Mary Ward charism. Working together at the HLPF has cemented our resolve to continue to share SDG advocacy learnings with our fellow CJ/IBVM UN Reps, and to form a subcommittee that will push efforts on the SDGs to help ensure we truly leave no one behind as we journey to 2030.
Author: Sarah Rudolph IBVM (Canada Province UN Representative)
Photos: (1:) Brantella Williams (youth representative), Sarah Rudolph ibvm, Sue Wilson and Joan Atkinson (Canadian Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph). (2:) Ambassador Bob Rae, Janet Palafox ibvm and Sarah R. (3:) Giovanna Muha cj, Janet P, Fionnuala Lynch ibvm, Cynthia Mathew cj and Sarah R.