The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals that are part of a United Nations resolution called the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015, these goals set a forward-looking path to a sustainable, prosperous planet with resilient peoples.
In December 2021, First Nations-in-Assembly passed Resolution 44/2021, Support for a First Nations-led pathway to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which directs the AFN to conduct a distinct First Nations analysis of the SDGs and engage First Nations on the development of a First Nations-led pathway to the SDGs.
The AFN participated in the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, USA. The HLPF, held annually, is a forum where countries, such as Canada, can report on their progress towards implementing the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. The UN High-Level Political Forum is the main forum to ensure States are accountable for commitments in the 2030 Agenda and the 17 SDGs.
This year, there were 39 countries that presented a Voluntary National Review (VNR) outlining their progress. This was Canada’s second time presenting a VNR, with the first being in 2018. The AFN was represented by Judy Wilson, Proxy for the Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek and supported by the AFN Secretariat.
Central to AFN’s advocacy regarding SDGs includes advocating for Canada to establish mechanisms for meaningful inclusion of First Nations in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda while reiterating to our government counterparts that input from the AFN does not replace the need for Canada to engage with First Nations directly.
In February 2021, Canada released the “2030 Agenda National Strategy: Moving Forward Together”, followed by the Federal Implementation Plan for the 2030 Agenda Strategy in August 2021. In both instances, First Nations were not engaged in this process, despite the AFN’s advocacy.
As part of the 2030 Agenda National Strategy, Canada has committed to closing the gap, advancing reconciliation, acting on the TRC Calls to Action and the National Inquiry into MMIWG, and fulfill its international obligations under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). It is essential to include First Nations at the decision-making table, as these issues directly impact them.
AFN Priorities at the High-Level Political Forum
- Supporting, elevating, and amplifying First Nations voices across Turtle Island by ensuring that there is meaningful engagement, inclusion, and participation in the implementation of the United Nations’ 17 SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.
- Achieving international recognition that First Nations in Canada are Rights-holders and have a nation-to-nation relationship with Canada that must be recognized, upheld and respected.
- Advocacy for a First Nations-led pathway to the SDGs, including adequate, sustainable, and long-term funding to enable the successful implementation of the 17 SDGs.
- In a special event titled, “SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) & The Water Action Agenda Special Event,” hosted by the UN-Water and UN-DESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs), the AFN voiced concerns from First Nations’ on statements regarding economic opportunities of water that were highlighted at the 2023 UN Water Conference. The AFN explained the significant relationship of First Nations women and water, that water is considered a living being, and that we need to treat the water as if it is our family. The AFN strongly recommended incorporating Indigenous knowledge with respect to water into the UN’s Water Action Agenda.
- Panelists at this side event concluded that Indigenous traditional knowledge is an integral part to achieving the Water Action Agenda noting that the UN has many processes built on belief and identified that we need to use our inherent knowledge to inform our processes, not belief. After the special event, the AFN approached UN Water Vice Chair Johannes Cullman to further discuss AFN’s intervention on the importance of Indigenous knowledge and its role in protecting First Nations’ water sovereignty.
- The AFN delegation met with Karina Gould, Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada. Minister Gould stated that the implementation of the SDGs has been a learning process for Canada, noting the continued work necessary to inform Canadians about the SDGs, including First Nations. Minister Gould voiced a keen interest in hearing the priorities of First Nations on sustainable development.
- At this meeting, the AFN spoke about the lack of First Nations inclusion in the development of Canada’s SDG strategy and implementation plan and that long-term funding is needed to be able to do this work and the importance of ensuring that First Nations understand the SDGs and how they are significant to their prosperity. It is imperative that no First Nations is excluded in this process.
- Additionally, the AFN spoke about specific funding for the Early Learning and Childcare Program (ELCC) and the delays in getting funding out to First Nations. Minister Gould indicated that $276 million has been set aside for First Nations ELCC.
- The HLPF offered a significant opportunity for the AFN to bring forward critical issues facing First Nations, especially in relation to the implementation of the SDGs and 2030 Agenda.
- In Canada’s VNR presentation, Minister Gould stated, “As part of our ongoing commitment to Indigenous Peoples, reconciliation is a priority for the Government of Canada, and it is a cross-cutting theme across all SDGs. We are committed to working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to advance the SDGs.”
- The HLPF set the context for the upcoming SDG Summit, occurring on September 18–19, 2023, and will produce a political declaration to advance the implementation of the SDGs. Participation from the AFN will be critical to ensuring that First Nations are not left behind in this process.
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Assembly of First Nations