September 25 2018 is significantly identified as the third anniversary of the inauguration of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, an agenda that was adopted by world leaders to guide development actions to be implemented in different phases over the next fifteen years. According to the UN Secretary-General at the time, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, “The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world’s leaders and the people…they are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success.” Since its inception, the SDGs have been a roadmap for a number of organisations in planning and charting the course for supporting and implementing the SDGs, and also for developing more strategic approaches to business sustainability. It therefore goes without saying that private organisations and individuals play a key role in driving the attainment of the SDGs.
At the 10th annual United Nations Private Sector Forum held on 24th of September 2018 over 300 Chief Executives from leading businesses in the world, Heads of States and leaders from the UN and civil society deliberated to explore resolutions to drive sustainable development and peace. In his opening remarks, the UN Secretary-General made particular emphasis on the role that businesses must play in building and maintaining peace. The fact that both large and small scale organisations play a significant role in driving economic growth and remain close to individuals and people from the grassroots put them in a good position to align with the UN SDGs in ensuring the attainment of the different goals. According to him;
“What matters in the UN Global Compact is that you are committed to values, and those values are exactly what makes your companies not only profitable, effective companies to the economy, but companies that contribute to prevention and sustaining peace which are now central to our concerns at the United Nations.”
Taking a look at the progress being made three years after, the key global challenges and areas for improvement may provide a blueprint for businesses and governments to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by the set target of 2030.
Communicating the SDGS
According to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), as at February 2018, about 100.9 million Nigerians were internet users with access to a variety of information and resources from the World Wide Web. However, a number of Nigerians are still not aware of the SDGs or their implications and how they affect them in the long run. This was proven in a survey carried out at a tertiary institution in the Southwestern part of Nigeria in 2017. Responses from participants of the survey showed an abysmally low knowledge about the SDGs especially in an academic setting. From the foregoing, it appears a clear gap exists between the SDGs and the people it is meant to impact, and may be an indication of the direction that needs to be taken for some of the interventions that may aid in the facilitation, attainment and achievement of the SDGs in Nigeria.
With the proliferation of information and the rate at which digitisation and globalisation have made communication easier, there are still concerns over the possibilities of attaining the SDGs by 2030 in light of the fact that performance of the SDGs/accountability should have been more visible in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform has identified certain areas it believes the country needs support in attaining the goals. Areas like financing, and deployment of domestic resources, to mention a few. Nevertheless, indications and lessons from the MDGs have shown that apart from the above-mentioned areas, there should be a bit more drive in engaging more stakeholder groups and becoming more vocal in the attempts to make more impact.
Progress on the SDGs
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have a strategic focus to address poverty, improve democratic governance, combat climate change and disaster risk, as well as tackle economic inequality through partnerships with governments, the private sector, civil society and citizens alike.
Key successes in Nigeria
In achieving the SDGs, Nigeria seems to have taken progressive steps through an improved attempt at private-public sector collaboration, a different trajectory from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) whose emphasis was on developed countries’ roles in helping developing countries. This collaboration creates opportunities for more engagement and participation in the success of the SDGs. The established Nigeria Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) reflects the Global Private Sector Advisory Group set up by the United Nations Sustainable Development Funds to achieve a more focused symbiotic relationship for the SDGs because of the lapses experienced during the implementation of the MDGs.
The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President (OSSAP) on SDGs was also established to aid seamless correlations between policies, plans and strategies towards attaining the SDGs.
The OSSAP on SDGs in collaboration with The National Bureau of Statistics along with other stakeholders established a baseline for SDG indicators in Nigeria. It tracks and examines the status of the SDG indicators before the commencement of its full implementation. It places emphasis on the important role data plays in monitoring the progress and implementation of the SDGs.
Key success in Botswana
In February 2018, the Republic of Botswana launched the National SDGs Roadmap to guide stakeholders on the implementation of the SDGs. The roadmap among other things presents details of the key areas to be addressed and the specific steps to be taken to facilitate the implementation of the 2030 agenda.
In addition to all of these, the plans have also highlighted a few significant areas that are noteworthy to witness progress in the success of the SDGs. They have noted the need for:
- Localisation – capitalising on the participation of local authorities to drive the attainment of SDGs
- Strengthening engagement with private sector, civil society, academia and other stakeholders.
- Capacity building for various stakeholders
- Drawing up a clear action plan for the effective implementation of the roadmap.
In India, one of the interventions the government has put in place to ensure the success of the SDGs is through the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) program. It has identified the need for education as a key necessity in creating “Sustainable consciousness” and taken sensitisation for the SDGs to the grassroots by conducting workshops, lectures and several other activities to drive home the points.
As the world marks the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) on September 28, 2018, this year’s commemoration is particularly significant because it is tied to the 2030 Development Agenda and the SDG target 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions specifically. However, beyond the IDUAI, stronger efforts to throw more light on the SDGs and how they affect the average citizens need to be explored. For instance, the issues of trafficking, violence against children, sexual violence, etc. have witnessed significant progress over the past decade as a result of the media spotlights and advocacy that have gone into these issues. But more attention can also be given to other targets on the SDGs, making them close-to-home and realistic to the people they affect.
How can this be achieved?
Define priority SDG targets: A deep understanding of the SDGs and the targets will help orgnisations in aligning and fostering the drive to attain the SDGs. Creating a value system that align with SDG targets will go a long way in defining these priority areas and help organisations chart the course for attaining them.
Measure and analyse: Setting business objectives, and selecting the appropriate disclosure measures will encourage transparency for corporate organisations and the government, giving the public a clear indication of progress being made in attaining the SDGs.
Report, integrate and implement change: At every stage of the implementation of the SDGs, reporting, tracking and making data available to track progress should be at the fore of any intervention plan in attaining the SDGs.