Being ambitious with SDGs, still time to get it right

Training of community volunteersVSO: Training community health workers and volunteers in Africa

By Priya Nath, Global Policy and Advocacy Advisor (Post-2015)

Last week, the UN released a ‘zero draft’ document outlining how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will look. At the same time, thousands of people gathered in Brussels to discuss the big global development challenges as part of the annual European Development Days and this was a hot point of discussions by experts.

The Zero Draft gives us a sneak peak at what we can expect heads of state to sign off in September this year. It’s the product of two years of discussions pulled into one comprehensive global agenda to address poverty. For those of us in the development sector it was great to see that there is a high level of ambition in the draft SDGs but this ambition cannot be allowed to waiver over the next few months while the finer details are agreed in tough negotiations still to come in June and July. 

VSO is among groups that believe that the SDGs should be driven by people, not by governments or politics. The draft alludes to this, way down in paragraph 43, by stating that this is “an agenda by and for the people” but it would be better if these seven short but important words were closer to the top of the agenda.

People in this context include the millions of volunteers who help to support vulnerable members of their communities with things such as access information, undertaking everyday tasks or getting their voice heard.  The new agenda is a great opportunity to recognize and support these vital, yet often invisible individuals. To help support volunteers to continue to play this important role, they will need to be acknowledged in development plans and resourced so they can continue to help provide extend basic services to some of the most marginalised communities on the planet.

The other key area of ambition that needs to be retained is the aspiration to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. This is currently up front in the preamble where it is great to see that gender equality is being recognized as a basic human right, not just as an instrument to help achieve other things. But to achieve this goal, we’ll have to tackle the very ingrained power structures across all our societies which continues to put men at the head of almost every decision making table if not surround it completely.

What really matters now is how these words translate into action. The zero draft has yet to nail the ‘how’ question: How will governments be held account in a meaningful way? How will resources be directed?  How do we ensure that people themselves, especially those experiencing poverty and marginalization, have a say in assessing the progress of this agenda?

Member states are among the key players at the Intergovernmental Negotiations in New York later this month and the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in July. Both forums must produce implementation, accountability and measurement plans that match the ambition of these goals and targets. This relies on inclusive open dialogue with everyone sticking to the task until the end so that we get the best deal possible for people and planet.

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Category: A Frontpage, Africa, Developing countries, Development, EU, EU, European Commission, European Year for Development 2015, Humanitarian assistance, Humanitarian funding, Millennium Development Goals, Opinion, World

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