Animals must be “part of UN equation” for sustainable development

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African donkeys seeking shade while taking a break from their work. The ejiao trade is threatening their very survival.
African donkeys seeking shade while taking a break from their work. © The Donkey Sanctuary

Two leading international equine charities have met with high-level leaders at this week’s United Nations General Assembly to highlight the vital contribution of working horses, donkeys and mules in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The UN SDGs are a bold commitment to end hunger, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Projects are aimed at eliminating poverty worldwide as well as ensuring access to clean water, sanitation and decent work opportunities to encourage economic growth.

The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare held meetings with member states, UN Departments and other civil society partners to establish a core team of UN Member States, networks and organisations to help champion the importance of equines to the livelihoods of 600 million people worldwide and the need to provide better support for their health and welfare.

World Horse Welfare CEO Roly Owers and The Donkey Sanctuary CEO Mike Baker outside UN Headquarters in New York this week.
World Horse Welfare CEO Roly Owers and The Donkey Sanctuary CEO Mike Baker outside UN Headquarters in New York this week.

As Felix Dodds from the University of North Carolina said: “Development aspirations of SDGs will not be realised if animals are not part of the equation.”

The Donkey Sanctuary CEO Mike Baker said being part of the SDG plan was an exciting development in the charity’s UN engagement. “This is a crucial time and a fantastic opportunity for us. It is only recently the UN General Assembly for the first time agreed language on the need to protect working animals which was a fantastic step forward.

“Now we have to persuade them to turn words into action and we will work tirelessly to ensure donkeys, mules and horses everywhere have their voices heard as we work with our partners to make this a reality,” Baker said.

World Horse Welfare Chief Executive Roly Owers said WHW was delighted that so many countries where working equines are visible immediately recognised their value to the SDG’s once the link was highlighted. “They know that for many of the poorest communities, the only way to sustain their families is through the transport and traction provided by their horses, donkeys or mules. Better caring for these animals to protect their ability to make a living, earn more and access water and markets for their goods, as well as education for their children, is therefore essential for sustainable development to take place.”

During a lunch hosted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development at the UN headquarters in New York, Baker and Owers greeted guests from across the UN, Africa and civil society organisations Others at the lunch included UNDESA, UN diplomats from Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria, and Egypt, plus representatives from the UN Food and Agriculture Cluster, the Tellus Institute, the Stakeholder Forum, Thinking Animals United and CIVICUS.

Baker said The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare shared a passion to ensure as many working donkeys, horses and mules as possible get the care and welfare they need.

“We deliver that ourselves every day to thousands of equids but across the world there are many millions who need more protection. We cannot do this alone. We need to persuade others that this is something they should do and moreover it is in their interest to do. What was striking in our meetings at the UN was whilst people agreed with us they had not really considered the issue previously and wanted to learn more,” Baker said.

“So there is an opportunity and we will be following up these very encouraging conversations to build the partnerships that can build a better world for working equids far beyond the limitations of our own organisations. “

The Donkey Sanctuary UN Ambassador Ian Cawsey said: “We all want less poverty and less hunger but we are showing that improving the welfare of the working donkeys, mules and horses is not an optional extra but an integral part of making that happen.”

From left, World Horse Welfare communications and public affairs director Jessica Stark and CEO Roly Owers, wih The Donkey Sanctuary's CEO Mike Baker, UN Ambassador Ian Cawsey, and Advocacy Manager Valentina Riva. 
From left, World Horse Welfare communications and public affairs director Jessica Stark and CEO Roly Owers, wih The Donkey Sanctuary’s CEO Mike Baker, UN Ambassador Ian Cawsey, and Advocacy Manager Valentina Riva. © The Donkey Sanctuary
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