In case you missed it.
Our previous post gave readers an overview of the content to be discussed at our meeting on the 10th of May. This covered the theoretical component that was discussed. This article will cover the discussion and practical components.
Why should we believe the SDGs will succeed? How are they different from the Millennium Development Goals, also proposed by the UN, which failed?
The MDGs were centred around the role of the government. While the SDGs are still fairly state-centric, the emphasis on partnership leaves us with more hope.
The dominant view in this discussion seems to be that the UN is a superstructure we can trust to guide us in the right direction. This member does not agree with this view, but would like to know, if we view the UN in that way, who is it supposed to be partnering with, when there is no other structure like it?
The UN encourages participation of various kinds on various levels, there is no specific partnership that needs to take place. Clean energy, for example, is worked on through PPPs (Public Private Partnerships, where a state works with a private company to find solutions to national problems). It is therefore not a case of the UN partnering with another body, but a case of the UN encouraging all other entities to work together.
That being said, the member is right to have a distrustful view of the UN, coming from an African viewpoint. The UN is a large Western institution that has been known not to have non-Western countries’ best interests at heart at all times. In addition to this, the UN is still focused on state-centric forms of governance, which is not applicable in all contexts, as the member rightly points out. However, it is possible to remain watchful and critical even if we accept the goals.
Who is the UN, as a Western institution, to prescribe goals and legally binding resolutions to the rest of the world, when the majority of people were not consulted.
One member argues that it is not possible to consult absolutely everyone, but that room is gradually being made for more voices, drawing upon Resolution 2250, which binds states to involving youth in decision-making, among other things.
The member who raised the question disagrees, showing that the accessibility of global communications networks would make it quite simple for a deciding body – if such a global institution absolutely must exist – to draw on more voices than just those of the heads of states represented in the assembly. While this still cannot reach every single person, it does allow for grassroots participation and agency on the part of citizens, who are not merely passive victims.
All people have the ability to identify a problem and think of a solution. The difficult part is implementing a solution that will last. This requires quite a bit of thinking. Considering all the aspects of a problem and all the ways in which the problem and your proposed solution will be interacted with is key. It is difficult, but it is a skill that can be built just like a muscle. The most important thing you can do to help this is to gain as much information about the project, the environment it will take place in, and the people affected by it as possible. Your gut feeling when it comes to a project is important and will guide you towards making it successful, but building this skill will make it sustainable.
Consider Affected Groups
Obviously, a project will have a target group. Looking at the example of a community where idle youth are exposed to violent activity, we can come up with the solution of creating an after school sports programme to keep the boys – who are most susceptible – off the streets. The target is therefore obviously boys in the community, but the target group is not the only group that will interact with the project. What about disabled boys, who won’t be able to play conventional sports? What about girls, who will have no place to go in the afternoon? What about boys who have to walk their sisters and younger siblings home first? Where do the parents fit into the picture? Et cetera.
Keep in mind that it is always possible for you to miss something, even if you are already skilled in this regard. It is important to seek help to make sure you take as many things as possible into account.
Climate change is happening, and there is very little that can be done about it at this point, but the effects can be mitigated and accommodated. Projects have to take the climate factor into account, because later the project may not be able to continue due to climate constraints. The project should also, under no circumstances, contribute to worsening climate change. For example, if you want to make a youth sports programme, don’t build a swimming pool, because water is very limited and should not be wasted. Or, if you help a community grow their own food, make sure that the crops can grow with little water, because water may become scarce, in which case the community will be without food again.
When starting a project, you should have your main goals written down somewhere, and stick to them. However, you must be flexible in your strategy, especially when you form partnerships. You are limited, and your project cannot grow without partnerships.
When approaching a possible partner, understand that it is a give and take situation. You will not be able to simply demand what you want and not have to give anything in return. Start by explaining who you are and what your project is, and how it fits into the bigger picture. Second, show them why they should care, and why your project is relevant to them. Explain what you can bring to the table, and lastly propose what you expect from a partnership with them. Be willing to compromise. If at all possible, meet face-to-face and work out all the details in person. Perhaps most importantly, do not commit to anything you will not be able to fulfill.
Your flexibility should also allow others to take your project and branch out. Other people may be just as passionate as you about the issue, and they can access different areas and resources. It is sometimes difficult to let other people take a part of your project and expand it without you, but understand that you cannot possibly reach everyone, and to effect change on a larger scale – which should be the ultimate goal – you need to expand.
If the community doesn’t care about your project, your project is going to fail. It is therefore important to generate buy-in. First, make the problem very clear, but do not use impersonal statistics. Show how it affects the community directly. Second, give the people your are working with ownership. Consult them before jumping in and doing things, because they will not appreciate it, and your attempts at help may end up being completely misguided. In addition to this, creating ownership and buy-in makes you more accountable to the people. Finally, make sure you are visible. Visibility creates legitimacy. No-one is going to trust you if they do not know or understand what you are doing and why you are doing it.
Source Sustainably and Locally
Reduce waste for your projects as much as possible. Use recyclable and biodegradable products, and support local businesses. It may cost more, but in the long run it will be much better for sustainable development as a whole.
Make sure you understand and come to terms with your limitations. Know when to say no and when to let go. Knowing yourself, your community, and your project will tell you how to approach situations.
Special thanks to Alpha Shawa for reminding us to have a critical eye and not just blindly accept ideas.