The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of goals that meet the urgent environmental, political, social and economic challenges facing our world. Utilising The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission’s SDG publication Go and Do Something, we have created easy to read focus articles looking at each SDG from an Australian, Salvation Army perspective. These articles explore how each SDG affects us locally, and include practical tips of how you can get involved. We hope this tool will be of benefit to you as you seek to partner with God in bringing about his Kingdom.
- Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure to support economic development and human well‐being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.
- Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product.
- Increase the access of small‐scale industrial and other enterprises to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets.
Our politicians love talking about ‘innovation and infrastructure’! In almost any press-conference with a politician, you’ll hear about how it will be the thing that will “drive our nation forward”. We are an ‘innovation nation’ and even have a governmental body called “Infrastructure Australia”, and if a ribbon is to be cut to open something new and shiny, a politician will be there! Yet while the conversations around innovation and infrastructure may only involve a few, the concepts at play affect many. Infrastructure and innovation are so important to ensure a healthy society, and can allow us to do things in more efficient, effective and sustainable ways. However they can also have negative impacts. Infrastructural advances and innovative practices have already seen people lose their jobs, replaced by more efficient and less expensive machinery including robots – and the mechanisation of work is only tipped to increase.
Further adding to the social burden is the unequal distribution of infrastructure that actually improves people’s lives. Transport is an example of this, where “outer-urban areas transport disadvantage is the result of a range of intersecting factors including poor public transport infrastructure, a higher proportion of low-income households and the need to travel further distances in order to get to places of employment, services and activities”. As an SBS report highlighted, “Lower-income and vulnerable residents suffer most when infrastructure and services are inadequate. This is especially so in suburbs with poor public transport, as they are less likely to be able to afford a car.”
It is vital that we as Christians speak into the innovation and infrastructure space, for progress enjoyed by the community must be enjoyed by everyone and not a select, privileged few. As Dr. James Read highlights in the ISJC’s Go and Do Something Report, “The material conditions of human life impact the spiritual conditions; and the spiritual health of a people impacts its infrastructure. The interplay is not simple or always the same, but it is real. God has made people to be embodied souls and ensouled bodies.” How our infrastructure and innovation is used affects us all, so we must work hard to ensure that all benefit. This is the picture we get from scripture, and while the Bible doesn’t talk about the public transport corridors or wind‐generated electricity, it actually speaks about the concept of infrastructure on many occasions. One of the things that makes the picture we are given of the New Jerusalem a delight is that it is solidly built, well‐watered and superbly lit; roads from north, south, east and west point towards it, and people from everywhere can travel on them without fear. There is no better portrayal of ‘resilient infrastructure’ than this.
What can we do?
- Encourage our politicians and industry leaders to use their procurement strength to ensure new infrastructure developments benefit as many as possible. One such way of doing this is through the concept of ‘Social procurement’, which is one of many policy instruments that governments and some construction companies are beginning to use to promote social equity and justice. Instead of forcing the market to be more socially responsible through regulation, or making state aid or philanthropic donations to these ends, social procurement involves governments and firms participating in the social economy by leveraging their spending power.
“Social procurement takes many forms. Some initiatives involve the direct purchasing of products and services from social benefit organisations that specialise in employing disadvantaged groups such as Indigenous, disabled, ex-offenders, ethnic minorities, youth or the long-term unemployed… Other approaches rely on indirect means. There may be contractual clauses to require existing supply-chain partners to provide training and employment for such people. They may also be required to contribute in other ways to the communities in which they work, such as by employing local businesses… This in turn translates to measurable longer-term benefits in the wider community. These include increased wealth, better health and reduced crime.”
- Take an interest in local planning, and encourage politicians and developers and industry to consider the social interest, knowing that how our communities develop impacts the flourishing of all people.
- Consider how we use infrastructure to harm others and whether you can be an influencer at work or church or your home to ensure this doesn’t happen. It is not uncommon now for businesses, local councils, and sadly even at times new churches to build infrastructure that discourages the homeless from sleeping under an awning or balcony and so on. Bumps in the paths, uneven seating, and in some cases even spikes and water sprinklers have been installed to make somewhere as uncomfortable as possible to sleep. The Bible shows us examples of infrastructure being used for unjust purposes. Ephesians 2 describes how Christ came to tear down and destroy the walls of hostility that had been erected for the purpose of keeping people apart. This reminds us that these infrastructures which make life uncomfortable for the vulnerable are not good or just or in keeping with God’s vision. So speak out against these injustices that separate others from their community.
- Commit this SDG to prayer both individually and as a Corps
– Give thanks to God, the Creator, Preserver and Governor of all things. ‘For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything’ (Hebrews 3:4).
– For all those who are engaged in the work of rebuilding what has been destroyed by war and animosity, thereby making it harder for people to experience the good things of life.
– To be challenged about how my work and lifestyle encourages the flourishing of the whole community. Can I do more? Can I be an influencer for the Kingdom of God?
For more reading on The Salvation Army’s thoughts around SDG Nine, see the International Social Justice Commission’s Go and Do Something publication.
 http://infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/  https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/relationship-between-transport-and-disadvantage-austr  https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/culture/article/2017/08/22/high-density-developments-why-poor-could-lose-out  ISJC, Go and Do Something, 22.  Ibid, 22.  https://theconversation.com/how-australia-can-spread-the-benefits-of-our-bulging-infrastructure-pipeline-70704