The 2015 blueprint – agreed by 195 nations – is meant to be ’fully embedded in planned activity of each department‘
The 2015 blueprint – committing countries to stamp out hunger, provide clean water and quality education and tackle gender inequality – is meant to be “fully embedded in planned activity of each government department”.
But the sustainable development goals (SDGs) are mentioned only once in the foreign secretary’s new 30-page strategy, and only to state that the UK “support achieving” the ambitions.
Quizzed by the international development committee, Ms Truss was told the omission is “astonishing” and asked if she is “a bit embarrassed” by the “one fleeting reference” to the UN-agreed targets.
But she argued: “I don’t think you can judge the importance of a particular issue by the number of times it is mentioned.”
Ms Truss insisted the goals are “baked into all the work we do” and are “core to what we are trying to achieve” in developing countries.
The strategy has already been criticised for mentioning trade on no fewer than 27 occasions – three times the 9 mentions of poverty.
It was described as a “depressing” intention to copy China’s much-criticised “aid for trade” approach, linking spending to opportunities to boost the UK’s international muscle.
But Ms Truss told the committee: “We are not returning to tied aid,” – while Nick Dyer, a senior Foreign Office official, insisted: “I don’t recognise the phrase aid for trade.”
She also confirmed her three-year aid budget – until 2025 – has been set at 0.5 per cent of national income, after last year’s Tory manifesto-busting cut from 0.7 per cent.
The move casts fresh doubt on whether the cut will ever be reversed – something promised by ministers, but only “once the fiscal situation allows”.
The foreign secretary also admitted that any further aid spending for Ukraine, as the war drags on, might have to mean cuts elsewhere in the shrunken budget.
“That is precisely the discussion we are having with the Treasury,” she told the committee.
In 2015, the UN announced 17 Sustainable Development Goals – succeeding the Millennium Development Goals – with the aim of achieving them by 2030.
Last summer, the government stated: “The UK is committed to the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The most effective way to do this is by ensuring that the Goals are fully embedded in planned activity of each Government department. The most effective mechanism for coordinating implementation is the departmental planning process.”