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We are five years into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and we have ten years to go. The agenda is ambitious. 17 goals. 169 targets. 232 indicators. The SDGs are the keys to making our planet more peaceful, sustainable, and where we can all thrive. But to get there, we have to work together. If we remain on the current pace to address the SDGs, we will achieve the SDGs by 2100, not 2030. For us to accomplish this feat of global development, we must recognize how progress in one area affects progress in another. The COVID-19 pandemic has made each of these 17 goals even more complicated, and that is why finding the right partners, strategies, and tools to advance these goals is more critical than ever before.
For two days last month, the Society for International Development, Washington Chapter (SID-W) convened the international development community at its virtual Annual Conference to discuss the development community’s progress towards advancing the SDGs. It was clear that there is an increased sense of urgency for members of the industry to strategically work together to achieve these goals on time.
With the theme of The Decade to Deliver, this year’s version consisted of plenaries and breakout sessions, which addressed a range of issues impacting the sector from inequality to environmental implications of infectious diseases to economic growth and trade support in the new normal. What resonated the most to me is that the only path to achieving the SDGs is through effective partnerships and inclusion.
What makes effective partnerships for the SDGs?
One session, led by Joanne Sonenshine, Founder and CEO of Connective Impact, addressed this question head on. Sonenshine explained that knowing which partners are worthwhile to engage with is based on understanding their priorities, while at the same time being very clear on your own. “It’s really about finding an intersection of interests, priorities, need, and anticipated game.” Aligning visions, being clear about your mission, and identifying the specific area of mutual benefit that will deliver to both or all of your organizations is important to discuss before agreeing to partner.
In practice, it’s as simple as creating a Venn diagram, identifying that middle area of opportunities to engage, and then delivering accordingly. Sonenshine emphasized that partnerships are all about mutual benefit and finding an effective one consists of three parts: (1) setting/clarifying your own priorities; (2) relying on comparative advantage; and (3) once you have identified your priorities and gap fillers, figuring out the “who” and “where.” Sonenshine ended with an important reminder that effective partnership comes when you have confidence in the value that you add to partners.
Why does inclusion matter?
Lucie Amadou (Deputy Chief of Party, Counterpart International), Maitreyi Bordia Das (Manager of Global Programs, Urban, Resilience and Land Global Practice, World Bank), and Rosarie Tucci (Director, Inclusive Societies, United States Institute of Peace) emphasized that other than the obvious, normative reasons, there are also pragmatic reasons for advancing the SDG agenda. Das explained that inclusion is a moral imperative. Lack of inclusion is very costly to societies, economies, and in many other ways. For example, lack of inclusion causes grievances to accumulate and when that happens, there is anger. And then when something else triggers that anger, it has costs to the entire society. Recent work from the International Monetary Fund shows that inequality affects growth generally. This goes back to the point that progress in one goal aids progress in another.
From the lens of peace building and peace processes, Tucci explained that inclusion really matters because “deals struck between governments and armed groups often fail when they do not have the broad-based buy in from diverse constituents and the broader public.” Inclusion makes the implementation of peace processes more effective because you have the support you need to execute on the terms of the agreement, and you have the pressure required to keep the parties accountable. Tucci emphasized that essentially, inclusion is beyond the rights argument and becomes an effectiveness argument. It becomes a matter of legitimacy and sustainability.
We only have a decade to deliver. So, let’s get it right by ensuring that effective partnerships and inclusivity are central tenants in the journey to achieve self-reliance. We must strategically work together and focus on a people-centered approach to get there by 2030.
With the conference in the rearview mirror, SID-W has already begun looking to 2021. We hope to build a bigger and better version next year. We hope to see all of you then, and thanks to those of you for attending!
For those who attended the conference, you can access all content through January 2021 by logging in to the conference platform. For those who were unable to attend, you can access recordings of most sessions on our YouTube channel now.
To learn more about our Annual Conference check out the following links: