Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
by Mac-Edwin Obi (Nigeria)
Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by Mac-Edwin Obi (Nigeria)
Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Will Require Huge resources both human and material;ways and means of ensuring resources availability and efficiency.
Key words: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), partnerships, poverty, data gathering and processing
A popular saying goes thus: ‘all fingers are not equal’. This maxim has always held true since the beginning of man. It is for the above reason that some people find it very easy maintaining a decent living, perhaps due to better educational accomplishments; it also could be due to aristocratic background or they toiled and sweated it out to make it to the top echelons of society.
On the other hand, some others struggle to eke out a living. It could be the circumstances of their birth, the level of advancement of the society they were born or just fate. The reality is that these two groups MUST co-exist in society. This is the origin of poverty, nay, inequality!
Poverty is at the root of all the developmental challenges the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seek to address. Be it poverty eradication or better education; or ensuring equality, provision of water or provision of other infrastructures. All these boil down to availability of financial resources which in its most basic form manifest as poverty. It then obtains therefore that if there was no inequality from the beginning of man there would be no need for Sustainable Development Goals and all other development programmes carried out by different agencies and government in living memory.
Instances abound of when funds were raised for people across the world in distress. One that comes to mind is the ones the American musician (just became a Nobel laureate!) Bob Dylan raised through his concerts for then drought-stricken Ogaden region of Ethiopia in 1985. Many donor conferences have been held for different nations ravaged by war, for example, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia.
The decision to launch the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a development programme of the United Nations was a world first-it streamlined all development efforts towards poverty reduction. The goals are, inter alia, ending poverty, ending hunger, improving maternal health and building global partnerships.
At the end of it (MDGs) implementation period, 193 world leaders on September 21, 2015 at the United Nation General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals as a successor to the MDGs. Chief among the SDGs are goal 1-ending poverty, goal 3-improve health, goal 4-quality education, goal 10-reduce inequality, goal 13-take action against climate change, goal 16-peace, justice and strong institution and goal 17-form partnerships. The SDGs implementation period runs till the end of 2030.
This essay will give ways and means to deploy human and financial resources to realize the SDGs.
Mobilising and Efficiently Managing Resources for the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals
The resources required for the implementation of the SDGs are basically in two forms-human and financial. The first, the human, is by far the most important. Not even the super mainframe computers of the US military can replace the ingenuity of the human being. It takes human beings to organise such
large-scale global interventions as the SDGs. Secondly, the whole intervention is geared towards improving the lot of humans; we have to do it for ourselves!
The first area where the human resources have to be deployed to ensure successful implementation of the SDGs is in the area of data gathering and processing. Very few countries in the world today can give you their accurate population to nearest million-it is always `estimate` figures. Nigeria is almost 200 million; The Gambia is about 1.7 million, Brazil is well over 200 million. Going further, there are a little over 7 billion people on earth. We are an `estimate` generation! These same `rounded up` values that we calculate the poverty rate, literacy rate, and development indices, how then can we successfully combat global poverty and inequality if we do not know the accurate of poor people? I agree it is a huge challenge considering the size of our world. Getting the correct figures will involve not only the engagement of people but also resources. All the same, we still have to fashion out ways to develop data that as close as possible to the real thing.
Some examples here will suffice to show the preeminence of accurate data. In page 4 of the United Nations-published 2016 Sustainable Development Goals, 2016 Report to herald the commencement of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, percentage of the people that lacked access to food was put at 11 percent in the 2014-2016 period which worked out at nearly 800 million people (apparently by putting the world population at 7.2 billion people. Using another world population figure can make that figure higher or lower that estimated 800 million, the variation can be as many as 50 million people, about the population of Britain! From use of figures, we increase or decrease the number of hungry people. If we increase it (in error, of course!), scarce financial resources may be deployed where they are not needed. If we decrease (which is far more problematic) we may be keeping a sizable part of humankind in perpetual hunger, nay poverty.
Furthermore, Uganda was hitherto hailed as success story in fight against HIV a few decades back. News media (including the British Broadcasting Corporation) carried reports in 2015 about the decision of donors to halt funding considering embezzlement of funds. Why will it not be easy when there are mainly estimates and projections? Even in my native Nigeria there is always a variance between the number of HIV-positive patients on antiretroviral treatment presented to donors and development partners and the real people getting these drugs. It is the funds meant to cater for the difference between these figures that civil servants steal.
The importance of good data collection and processing can never be over-emphasised. The simple solution is to engage a lot more people. Most informed commentators have made assertions that the forerunner of the Sustainable Development Goals, the MDGs, did not deliver the success expected because it was far from the people. It was drafted in New York and adopted by the heads of government and technocrats like all other charters. This time engaging people whose lives will be touched by the SDGs as volunteers at the lowest level will make the SDGs work better! The closer to the people the better. Let the people at the most rural level gather the data and now send to the big city offices-a bottom-up approach. This way the data will be more accurate. No successful implementation can be achieved without real data from the base.
Similarly, another method the United Nations (UN) and its partners can adopt to ensure successful implementation of the SDGs is to encourage the culture of mentors/goodwill ambassadors. This has worked well with appointment of popular movies and sport stars as ambassadors. The likes of David Beckham have huge following across the world and any venture they are involved in sells well. The best
utillisation of this tool came when the United Nations Children`s Fund (UNICEF) signed an agreement to become the shirt sponsors of Spanish football giants, FC Barcelona. You cannot imagine the number of people across the globe who got to know of the UNICEF and by extension its activities through that deal. The effect is more profound than sending hundreds of field officers to different parts of the world. It also is cost-saving and funds are never enough in huge developmental projects like SDGs. Such alliances should be formed and remember, the eighth goal of the now-rested Millennium Development Goals is
`develop a global partnership for development`.
In the light of the fact that resources are scarce, the UN has to carry governments along every step of the way. Come to think of it, the SDGs aim to achieve the same goals and targets every responsible government on earth wants to achieve-eradicating poverty, provision of education, ensuring equality, building infrastructures and very importantly protecting the environment by checking climate change. Government involvement in the 193 nations is so key that I wonder what could be achieved without government backing. For example, the government owns most schools, hospitals, community centres and so on. These are the vehicles through which the SDGs will be delivered. How can one improve quality of education without government support when the same governments run most of the schools in the countries where education is a challenge?
Furthermore, the UN cannot overlook the organised private sector and non-governmental organizations if it must mobilize and deploy scarce human and financial resources efficiently. Implementing the SDGs will cost a lot; in actual fact it is a tall order! A veritable means of raising the huge funds required is by engaging the private sector-both formal and informal. The UN is an organisation filled to the brim with highly skilled technocrats. It (the UN) could go into partnership with the businesses in its respective operation areas and offer consultancy services in the form of research, staff recruitment and training; and even helping these companies form partnerships outside the local area. In return these companies can fund particular projects targeted at realising the SDGs. They can also donate in kind and can even integrate SDGs projects into Corporate Social Responsibilities.
The good thing with the partnership with business is that they are serious because they are in it for the profit. It then obtains that they (businesses) will not allow any loopholes in the deployment of their funds. In the long run, there will be accountability and efficiency in the system (you cannot say this of most governments!)
There will always be need to cater for some members of society considering that our circumstances in life are different and some people (rather unfortunately) will fall short of society`s standard, there will be need to lift these down-trodden of society. The17-goal- Sustainable Development Goals is the globally accepted tool to achieve this aim, especially with its 169 targets.
The only way these goals can be achieved within it 15-year framework is reaching out. The programme should not be known only to people in the capital cities. The message should permeate all nooks and crannies of the world, especially the dwellings of the world`s poorest. And the way to achieve the penetration is via building PARTNERSHIPS. Partnership with the community leader to inform his subjects about the aims of the programme, partnership with the media to mount thorough sensitization of the populace either through newspaper articles or television/radio jingles and taking the partnership to schools where SDGs clubs can be formed to `catch them young`.
Partnership with the government, NGOs and big businesses is a sine qua none for the success of the SDGs. The SDGs are unique when compared to the MDGs-they are more encompassing. The SDGs are mainly to fight poverty but there are goals that are directly related to poverty. Good examples are goal 13 which if it is efficiently implemented will tackle the monster called climate change which is a problem for both the poor and the wealthy. Goal 16 aims at building peace, justice and strong institutions. Peace and justice affects everyone.
We all must own the SDGs for it to work because it about us, it is for us!