By Shaleen Rakesh, Executive Director, VSO India
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have come out of a long consultative process. We are now entering a crucial phase of this global dialogue. VSO has been advocating for a people centred approach to how this framework will be implemented. In practice, this might mean different things in different country contexts where VSO works. It’s crucial that VSO aligns its strategic and programme priorities for the successful implementation of the SDGs.
In India, VSO is working with IBM through a corporate volunteering programme aimed at strengthening and capacity building of NGOs, contributing directly to SDG 17 (Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development). VSO India is in close consultation with UNDP and UNV in India as well as citizen’s networks and movements to ensure, going forward, the organisation continues to contribute to SDG implementation effectively.
Alice Castillejo, Country Director, VSO Myanmar believes that the SDGs are being addressed by the work the organisation is leading in-country e.g. Health (SDG3), Education Quality and Equitability (SDG4), and Good Governance (SDG 3, 4, 16). However, she explains that “there isn’t a very explicit discussion going on in country currently about the SDGs. Even though CSOs and government are talking about this there is no strong lobby.”
Dawn Hoyle, Country Director for VSO PNG says that “The government of PNG are focused on delivering their national development plan (Vision 2050) which incorporates the SDGs. I am not aware of any discussions taking place, particularly in the small and dispersed civil society, on the SDGs.” However, despite challenges, the programmes of VSO in PNG in the areas of health, education, political empowerment and gender based violence, Dawn states, “are making an important contribution towards the achievement of the SDGs.”
A common agenda for VSO globally is to lead on a process of citizen’s monitoring of the SDGs. This involves VSO staff, volunteers, alumni and their collective influence within country level civil society networks. Peter Nderitu, Country Director of VSO in Sierra Leone feels that VSO volunteers can play a huge part in SDG implementation and monitoring. He feels that VSO can make a difference to in-country dialogue within civil society on issues like Ebola mitigation and health programming interventions, where VSO is currently focusing in the country.
The big potential for VSO remains that of a knowledge broker and facilitator of in-country dialogue and action. The different-country; different-role approach will then converge into the larger mosaic of VSO’s role globally- that of an advocate for volunteerism, youth citizenship, women’s empowerment, and a vision of a viable global pact between diverse actors for sustainable development.