Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals, otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a set of 17 goals aiming to transform the world over the next 15 years. They seek to end poverty and hunger, realise universal human rights, achieve gender equality and the empowerment of every woman and girl, and ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. Our Public Affairs Officers shared their thoughts on achieving the SDGs.

Morillio Williams - Public Affairs Officer SRHR

What are the SDGs? And which goals does Simavi address in its work?

“At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25-27 September 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The new Agenda covers a broad set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030. These goals can be seen as the successors of the UN Millennium Development Goals, which were adopted for the period 2000-2015. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

Simavi believes that all the SDGs are important in achieving a healthy life for all. However, within our work on SRHR and WASH there is a special focus on the following goals: SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality), SDG 6 (clean water an sanitation) , SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals).”

How important are the SDGs in your daily work?

“Achieving the SDGs contributes to Simavi’s mission of working towards basic health for all. However, the goals will only turn from words into change and sustainable development if we implement them. Everyone must contribute to realising the targets, but authorities (policy makers) will play an important role in this process. Therefore it is important for Simavi to continue monitoring the process to ensure that the SDGs are implemented and finally realised.

Furthermore, it’s important to Simavi that the SDGs are properly implemented with sufficient political and financial commitment. Monitoring and influencing the follow-up and implementation processes at national, local and international level is therefore part of our activities in the field of advocacy, in which we focus on the following areas: Adolescent & youth SRHR (combating child marriages, contraceptives for young (unmarried) women); Maternal health & reproductive rights (safe legal abortions); the importance of hygiene and menstrual hygiene management in particular; inclusion of marginalised people in WASH and highlighting the links between WASH and nutrition.

Finally, the SDGs are also important in virtually all of our international networks, such as the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition and Sanitation and Water for All. While in the Netherlands, the SDGs are an important item on the agenda of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Trade and Development.”

Roel Blesgraaf - Public Affairs Officer WASH

How does Simavi contribute to the SDGs?

“As we want to achieve a healthy life for all, all our programmes and activities contribute to the fulfilment of the Agenda 2030. As we do this by tackling both WASH and SRHR issues, our work mainly contributes to SDGs 3, 5 and 6.

For example, in our MKAJI-programme in Tanzania we will improve 100 local health centres with WASH facilities. In this programme, we will also provide training to staff and local communities about maintenance and related subjects, such as Menstrual Hygiene Management. Since the start of the programme, we’ve already seen a 70% increase of deliveries in health centres with WASH facilities. As the amount of assisted deliveries grows, more women and babies have higher chances of survival. This has, of course, a high impact on their families and communities.

However the indirect benefits of our programmes are much bigger; many also contribute to improve economic empowerment (SDG 8) and combating poverty (SDG 1). Another example is our Going for Gold programme. This programme will improve women’s economic opportunities in artisanal and small-scale gold mining communities in Ghana and Tanzania. In this way, we also contribute to SDG 8: ‘promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’.”

What does the Post-2015 development agenda need to be an agenda that leaves nobody behind?

“This is a question which everyone tries to answer. A position paper of the Agenda 4 Change, an initiative led by WaterAid, IRC, Water for People and AguaConsult, to change the sector’s way of working in line with the SDGs, said: “To deliver universal services we must tackle inequalities by targeting resources at the most marginalised and excluded people, and ensure the articulation of their rights to WASH services is met with responsive and accountable service provision – in short, including everyone.”

This is much said than done. For this to happen, two factors are vital:

  1. Government at national and local level should take the lead for implementing the SDGs. Only strong institutions at national level can ensure WASH and SRHR services. NGOs like Simavi can initiate and facilitate processes, but the ownership should lie with the government.
  2. Governments cannot do it alone. They need businesses, NGOs and research institutes to provide innovative solutions, finance mechanisms and social accountability.

This shows that much needs to be done: indeed, the whole development sector must change. It easy, but it is really important to realise this if we really want to leave nobody behind.”

“Achieving the SDGs contributes to Simavi’s mission but the goals will only turn from words into change and sustainable development if we implement them.”

“Simavi believes that all the SDGs are important in achieving Simavi’s mission to ensure a healthy life for all.”

Morillio Williams - Public Affairs Officer SRHR and Roel Blesgraaf - Public Affairs Officer WASH
about the importance of the SDGs for Simavi's work

Morillio Williams - Public Affairs Officer SRHR

Do you have any concerns about the final SDGs?

“I’ve seen that a number of critics have flagged concerns about the SDGs. They accuse the goals of being aspirational, vague and unachievable. Moreover, it is being argued that too much ground is trying to be covered in this large set of goals. It is true that one can be critical when looking at the SDGs and its process, and it could be questioned if this new consensus for development is easily communicated to, and understood by, the general public. Compared to the MDGs, the SDGs provide less focus for advocacy, given the broader agenda. Rallying around all of the SDGs is basically impossible for one civil society group.

Given these concerns, it should be noted that the SDGs are quite different from the MDGs. They unite development and the environment, and focus on global public goods problems as well as national obstacles. Moreover, they apply to all countries, rich and poor, so it’s obvious that they are going to be much more complex to implement and monitor. In short, we’re talking about an ambitious set of goals. Therefore, despite the fact that the SDGs are extra ambitious and set a new timeline for us to work with, we should not let concerns about practicality and achievability blunt the ambition of this mechanism. Research consultant May Miller-Dawkins put it nicely: “The high ambition and non-binding nature of the SDGs could increase rather than diminish their overall long-term impact”.

Bearing in mind what the international community has done as a whole to reach these goals, it will be important to keep raising concerns and being critical to get the most out of the SDGs.”

Roel Blesgraaf - Public Affairs Officer WASH

What is Simavi doing to ensure nobody is left behind?

“Simavi has focused on the ultra-poor and marginalised communities ever since 1925. This is the reason why we work mostly in rural areas, where most of the people without SRHR and WASH services live. A risk in the Agenda 2030 is that because of the need for innovative finance and the inclusion of the private sector, many donors and development partners are looking for scale. It’s much easier to achieve scale in cities and peri-urban areas than in rural areas. This is why we always raise our voice for marginalised people in rural areas in our advocacy efforts.

However, in practice, focusing on the most off-track countries or areas in a country is far from straightforward. Often these countries or areas suffer from violence and conflicts that make it difficult to ensure sustainable results. The Agenda 2030 asks us: are you working in the countries where we can really make a difference? Which cross-sectoral links do you have to make in your programmes to ensure people are not left aside? In response to these questions, we are currently adjusting our Theory of Change, a process in which the Agenda 2030 helps us to do very well.”

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