It’s not too often that the United Nations directly reaches out and affects life in Penticton.
That’s the goal though, of the B.C. Council for International Cooperation, which ran a workshop — their second — in Penticton on Nov. 24 to help local organizations network on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The goals cover huge range of issues, from ending poverty to climate change.
Michael Simpson, BCCIC executive director calls the goals aspirational, but also universal. During their first tour of the province, where they visited 30 communities including Penticton, he said they found groups already working on many of them at the local level.
“We wanted to know if you took these sustainable development goals, with all their aspiration and beautiful language and you went to Comox or you went to Penticton, would people say this works? “ said Simpson. “People have been working on life on land, peace and justice, decent work and economic growth. We found over 2,100 groups and it is still growing.”
Groups working on health and well being are the most common, according to the BCCIC research, followed by education. At the other end of the scale clean energy had the lowest number. Among the key findings identified at the roundtable discussions in the communities they visited was the potential for greater political engagement and more support from all tiers of government.
The goal of the BCCIC workshops, Simpson said, is to help these groups collaborate and build more of a movement, making connections between this global agenda and local Penticton issues, as well as identifying the opportunities for local groups to create political engagement.
“You can quickly see that no matter what you are working on, whether it’s the boys and girls club, whether it is climate change, it fits in to this international agenda,” he told the worksop, which included a wide range of community leaders from First Things First Okanagan, a group working on climate change, to Brynn White, program manager for the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program and representatives from other community groups, including the Boys and Girls Club.
White said it is tough making these kind of concepts stick at the local level.
“You can have things in regional growth strategies, and integrated community sustainability strategies and official community plans and when push comes to shove around those decisions, those things often don’t get adhered to in the spirit it was intended,” said White, adding that there is something missing between the grassroots and the United Nations.
“We have to understand why this doesn’t necessarily translate into the community decision making process,” said White.
Dan Harris, BCCIC program officer, said B.C. has a lot of potential to rise to the challenge.
“Canada is on board with these goals and we at BCCIC are looking forward to continuing to engage with British Columbians on how our province can show leadership,” said Harris.
The British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) is a coalition of international development and civil society organizations that has engaged in sustainable development and social justice issues for over a quarter century.