Top 10: How to think about the SDGs

As global citizens, it is not only important that we think about Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — better known as the SDGs or the Sustainable Development Goals — but also that we transform how we think about them.

In the year 2000, the nations of the world signed a Millennium Declaration setting a bold agenda at the start of the century for achieving a world free from hunger and poverty. They created an initial set of 8 Millennium Development Goals (the MDGs) to get us halfway there by 2015.

Despite a very slow start and great initial cynicism, the world did far better on the MDGs than many people expected. This resulted in the world adopting a set of goals to finish the job — and to incorporate key components left out of the MDGs. (See earlier discussion on the differences at this link).

Here are my top 10 recommendations.

  1. Don’t think of them as “17” but as “1.” The SDGs recognize that the challenges of poverty, hunger, conflict, the environment and discrimination are inextricably linked and can only be solved through an integrated approach. You will hear people say “Goal X (fill in any number 1 to 17) is really the key to solving all the others” and they will be right in a way. But if you focus on any goal without fully taking account the complete system, the SDGs will not succeed.
  2. The SDGs are for every country. Every nation on earth has poverty and discrimination. Every nation is threatened by crime, violence and climate change. This is a paradigm shift — from focusing on aid from rich countries to help poor countries, to every nation working in alignment for a world that works for everyone.
  3. The SDGs apply at every level.  Similarly, the SDGs recognize that progress is not just the job of national governments. In fact, many of the key challenges must be solved in local communities.
  4. Going for the “High-hanging fruit.” When you are trying to get “half-way” you start on the easiest pathways to progress – the “low-hanging fruit.” But to include everyone, you have to start with the most difficult situations – the most remote, the most marginalized – because that will take the longest.
  5. Good governance.
  6. Partnership, not patronage.
  7. Harvesting the data revolution.



Top 10 Policies for Civil Society Engagement

June 28, 2017: The Hunger Project recommends that international governmental organizations (IGOs) adopt the following practices for effectively engaging with civil society as an essential element of good governance:

  • Major Groups: IGOs should utilize a framework like the major groups defined by the UN, rather than dealing with civil society as a single category. IGO should ensure that youth, women, farmers, indigenous people, organized labor and others from the Global South express their own voices in addition to that of INGOs.
  • Democratic Selection:  Civil society should select their own representatives in consultative processes through an inclusive, democratic process rather than having representatives chosen by the IGO.
  • Mainstream Participation: Civil society representatives should have a seat at the table, with equal voice alongside government representatives. Civil society representatives should be allowed to be present and participate in intergovernmental negotiations.  Good examples: the GAFSP Steering Committee and the Committee on Food Security/Civil Society Mechanism.
  • Existing Networks:  Civil society is best equipped to prepare and provide coherent recommendations through its existing, regularized networks, not through ad-hoc work groups of individual organizations. IGOs should avoid establishing “their own” civil society groups and processes.
  • Travel Funding: For IGOs to legitimately include perspectives of civil society from the Global South at meetings, they must allocate sufficient travel and accommodation funds for Global South representatives.
  • Mandates to Offices: Civil society participation should be a mandated priority of regional and local offices, and not optional depending on local leadership. It should be regularized in a transparent manner, held at times and places that work for all stakeholders and announced well in advance.
  • Early and Sustained Engagement: Civil society should be invited to engage as early as possible in the policy-making process, and be informed of a clear timeline to review and provide recommendations to draft statements including follow-up processes.
  • Caucus Facilities: At major meetings, IGOs should provide civil society with its own meeting rooms with adequate time and space for caucusing before and during official deliberations, in close proximity to the policy makers and the media.
  • Side Events: The prevailing competitive approach to side events is chaotic and counterproductive. Major groups should facilitate civil society in cooperatively organizing all side events, and conference organizers should provide an official, unified online schedule for both side and parallel events.
  • Updates and Information Flow: Email and web-based announcements and updates should uniformly reach all participants, both from governments and civil society. IGO websites should include email list subscription forms.

Photo: Civil society representative Josephine Atangana addressing the plenary of the Second International Conference on Nutrition, Rome, 2014. John Coonrod/The Hunger Project.



PNPM Progress: A Path Towards Sustainability in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Program Nasional Pemberdayaan Mandiri (PNPM), or National Program for Community Empowerment, is a government-led, multi-donor trust-funded pilot program, which is managed by the World Bank Group (WBG) and delivered through the PNPM Support Facility (PSF). Also funded by: AusAid, CIDA, DANIDA, USAID, EU, UKAID, and the Dutch Government 


Photo Credit: World Bank, PNPM (Peduli) Indonesia: Caring for the Invisible

 As the Government of Indonesia’s flagship community-driven development (CDD) program, PNPM strives to improve the socio-economic welfare of the poor and most marginalized groups by expanding opportunities through community consultation at all phases of the program, empowerment, and capacity building of civil society organizations (CSO). The key elements of PNPM-CDD programs include: community development, institution building, community block grants, strengthening local governance and partnerships, and technical assistance for program development

In working with numerous Indonesian and local CSOs and a handful of implementing partners, PNPM programs are currently active in roughly 6,000 sub-districts, 73,000 villages, and 33 provinces. Nearly Rp1.4 billion, which roughly equates to USD 21 million, is allocated to each village per year solely for development purposes. In the first year, PNPM programs helped nearly 12,000 marginalized individuals to build confidence, gain new livelihood skills and training, access information and public services, and to create new opportunities to participate in community life.

However, addressing the root drivers of social inclusion are not just about improving economic conditions, but about fully integrating individuals into every nook and cranny of civic life—increasing participation and breaking down social barriers by changing mindsets and reversing engrained stigmas. The Government of Indonesia realizes the marginalized are important and unappreciated assets (financial, labor, social), and often benefit less from public programs and poverty reduction schemes.

In this manner, local and national CSOs have a comparative advantage and are well positioned to empower marginalized groups to become more self-reliant and able to live dignified lives. CSOs work with a diverse range of marginalized groups in rural and urban Indonesia: female micro-entrepreneurs, street children, LGBTQ, violence against women and girls (VAWG), and people living with HIV/AIDS among others. Though CSOs have a limited financial capacity to provide services and activities such as mentoring and training, the PNPM has established grant making to mitigate the costs.


Photo Credit: Source Unknown, PNPM Program Indonesia

PNPM programs have provided women, specifically, with business training and equipment, skills training, and loan arrangements to start businesses. As a result, women’s groups are now running laundries, phone card counters, food production, and coffee shops, for example. However, CDD programs in Indonesia could benefit from a thorough gender analysis needs assessment to identify which constraints women face particularly in a rural environment. Programs also need to collect and analyze disaggregated data between men and women, between rural and urban villages, and among communities, households, and individuals, to best target those in need and to measure participation. Affirmative action and inclusion of marginalized groups, such as women, must be addressed through quotas.

In 2015, the Government of Indonesia introduced the new Village Law, which is the new master framework for village development and community empowerment and embodies many of the aforementioned principles of the PNPM-CDD program. Although adopted and enacted to ensure sustainability of the PNPM programs, this framework also brings attention to the many challenges and implications it faces for future implementation.

Firstly, the programs must find a better, comprehensive way to measure accountability. Under the new law, the some 73,000 villages are seeing a large influx of resources from the government and outside funding agencies such as AusAid, CIDA, DANIDA, USAID, EU, UKAID, and the Dutch Government. The district governments have low capacity to monitor the cash flows and implementation of village governments. Who will provide the accountability and oversight and perform the audits? Or, who will be responsible for strengthening the oversight? The programs need a strong monitoring, evaluation, and learning (ME&L) framework—built-in accountability targets and performance-based indicators—to ensure precise development results and to prevent elite capture of village transfers.

A community-led development (CLD) approach, however, introduces such social accountability measures, supporting regularized processes such as public forums, at which local governments can demonstrate transparency and accountability and citizens can review and challenge the progress of targets and goals. CLD also supports communities to generate and access timely, locally relevant data that informs priority setting and strengthens progress tracking.

Secondly, it is important to remember that an increase in resources does not necessarily equip the villagers with the skills and expertise needed to obtain jobs and administer good service delivery. CDD projects often do not benefit everyone and takes years to trickle down to the most marginalized groups. How do we streamline this process to ensure that the most vulnerable are receiving the resources?

Lastly, although the law provides a strong legal framework for mainstreaming PNPM-CDD principles in village socio-economic activities, it does not necessarily guarantee sound implementation in practice. The PNPM-CDD programs must be sustainable and fully integrated into the local system of government. The law does not specifically address what it can impact in the short term versus what it can affect in the long term, which is necessary to ensure sustainability and resiliency. PNPM-CDD programs could learn from the CLD’s approach to sustainability and resiliency.

The CLD approach addresses sustainability and resiliency by addressing challenging factors such as climate change and population growth and how this in turn puts strong pressures on rural areas. The CLD approach calls for a process that includes actions to ensure that a program and community are resilient to climatic, political, and economic shocks. Local communities must have a regularized process of disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness.

The PNPM-CDD programs in Indonesia are promising and making considerable progress. However, the programs can build upon this progress by introducing several key distinguishing principles introduced by the CLD approach, namely: a keen focus on facilitators as mobilizers and “agents of change” rather than “beneficiaries,” a gender-mainstreamed approach, built-in social accountability measures, timely and disaggregated data, strengthening legal existence through ME&L, and implementing sustainability and resiliency safeguards.

How Are We Doing on the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were conceived as a vision for the post-2015 agenda. They are an action plan to continue the work the Millennium Development Goals started. We are six months into the SDGs. Do we know what’s been accomplished thus far? How are we doing?

You can see for yourself how well the world’s progress on the SDGs. Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German foundation, has constructed an SDG index. The SDG Index has compiled information for 149 of the 193 United Nations member countries. Each country has updates for each SDG that pertains to it. While there are updates for every country, there is no guarantee that all the data is completely up to date or correctly classified.


There is a digital report with the data and country dashboards. Additionally, each SDG has additional data points and insights for OECD countries. There is also an interactive map that displays a ranking for each country and SDG. Each country is given a score based on how they’re progressing, as judged by the official indicators.

This Index is not sanctioned by the United Nations; instead, these reports, indexes, and data sets are meant to be preliminary points for governments and other stakeholders. The SDG Index is a tool that NGOs, governments, and citizens can use to gauge priorities and challenges in their country.

A suggested next step for the SDG Index would be breaking this information down by district, when and if possible. A more geographically detailed report of information would be advantageous for local actors.

You can learn more about the SDG Index and report here and see more information here.

UNICEF Calls for Innovation

Screenshot 2015-11-12 at 4.08.31 PMThis year’s State of the World’s Children Report has been published and it is calling for innovation. While it is a fact that remarkable progress has been done towards the protection and promotion of children’s rights, an unfortunate amount of children still exist whose rights are continuously violated and are regularly experiencing the tragic repercussion of poverty and malnutrition. The State of the World’s Children Report – Reimagine the future: Innovation for every child, expresses the need for cooperation from the global community to find advanced and unconventional ways to address the age-old problem that is still affecting the lives of the innocent children all over the world, which is poverty and malnutrition.

(See table at the bottom of this post with a quick summary of statistics in Hunger Project program countries.)

Poverty begins prior to the birth of the child, increases across the life course and onto the succeeding generation. It is a cycle of deprivation. A child living in poverty does not only mean being deprived from an access to material goods, it is also a deprivation of life, health, cognitive development, education and opportunities. While an adult may experience poverty temporarily, for children, the consequence can last a lifetime.

Poverty is associated with malnutrition. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, the poorest 20 per cent of the world’s children are twice as likely as the richest 20 per cent to be stunted by poor nutrition and to die before their fifth birthday. Stunting is one of the many manifestations of malnutrition. It is a form of growth failure. Stunting commence prior to the birth of a child. Poor maternal nutrition, inadequate feeding practices, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, non-exclusive breastfeeding and clinical and subclinical infections or diseases are causative agents of stunting. Not only poverty has an awful repercussion to a child’s health, it also deprives a child’s fundamental right to life.

Poverty also plays a huge role when it comes to a child’s cognitive development. Children living in poverty are most likely to encounter learning disabilities and developmental delays. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, nearly 9 in 10 children from the wealthiest 20 per cent of households in the world’s least developed countries attend primary school – compared to only about 6 in 10 from the poorest households. Children who are stunted are most likely to have poor performance in school and have higher chances of dropping out. They are unable to reach their full potential because of the procured learning impediment. Some children choose to drop out of school and prefer to start working at a very young age for the reason that they are able to contribute to their family’s income.

Poverty persists to be a driving force of child marriage. Seldom families get their daughters to marry before 18 because it reduces the family expenses. Many communities also practice economic transactions like “bride price,” where the family receives money or livestock in exchange for their daughter. This practice often results to girls not being able to obtain an education. UNICEF reported that for every 100 boys in secondary school, only 76 girls are enrolled. The cycle of poverty is an often product of child marriage. Because of early marriage and pregnancy, girls are forced to drop out of school, making it harder for them to escape the awful consequences of poverty.

The Hunger Project recognizes the significance of nutrition for the eradication of world hunger and poverty. At the Hunger Project’s epicenters, health care professionals explain the basics of nutrition for both children and mothers and the importance of pre- and postnatal care to women. Women also have access to antenatal care services in the epicenter and children also have access to the epicenter nursery schools and are guaranteed to a full nutritious meal every day they are in attendance. The Hunger Project also partners with more than 100 organizations representative of governments, civil society, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and the research community dedicated to the eradication of malnutrition and poverty.

Others fail to see the correlation between nutrition and poverty. To some, it is mere financial inequity. They fail to see the bigger picture of how one factor leads to the other. Children who are living in poverty are much more likely to be in poverty later in life and is likely to shepherd the next generation to go through the same vicious way of life. Not unless the cycle is being cut, helpless and innocent children are relentlessly punished of this deprivation.

According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, all children must have an equal chance to make the most of their potential. The report features people across the world who went the extra mile and applied unorthodox approaches to further the progress. The global community must prioritize the children and fully dismantle the numerous hindrances to achieve innovation and ultimately achieve a future in which children from all corners of the world can enjoy their rights.

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Financing Community-led Development: Putting People First

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.08.18 PMThe United Nations’ much anticipated Third Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) has come and gone. Over four days, more than 6,000 high-level development actors gathered to discuss the needs and means to finance the implementation of the Post 2015 Development Agenda. What was declared as the final draft of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) left much to be desired, especially according to CSOs.

In the wake of the Zero Outcome Document of the Post 2015 Development Agenda, The Hunger Project and CONERN Worldwide‘s FfD3 side event, Financing Community-led Development: Putting People First, proves to be timely and crucially relevant. The Preamble of the Zero Outcome Document outlines five areas for intended outcomes by 2030: people, planet, poverty, prosperity and partnerships. The content states the need for integrated programming, cross-sectoral partnerships, leaving no one behind, and creating self-reliance for sustainable development. These points were key points made during the aforementioned FfD3 side event.

Chaired by Tom Arnold, coordinator ad interim of the SUN Movement, challenged attendees to consider grassroots, bottom-up development initiatives that place women at the center and prioritize partnerships with local governments. Orla O’Neill, Assistant Country Director of CONCERN Worldwide Ethiopia, spoke specifically about resilience-building and why it must be achieved at the community level. Orla noted the truest fact in development: poverty is complex and solutions must be designed accordingly at the local level. Much like her co-panelists’ affiliations, Orla explained that CONCERN integrates sectors of development and engages community members as partners and key stakeholders, rather than beneficiaries. CONCERN’s specific purpose around their efforts is “the ability of a community, to anticipate, respond to, cope with and recover from the effects of shocks and stresses that drive or exacerbate malnutrition in a timely and effective manner, without compromising their long-term prospects of moving out of poverty and hunger.” This is backed by the inalienable priority of communities being at the center of decision-making because of community members’ skills, experiences, opinions and closest understanding of their culture and needs.

Neguest Mekonnen, Country Director of The Hunger Project-Ethiopia provided the programmatic example of The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy. Focusing closely on the role of women and voluntary leadership roles in local community clusters, Neguest discussed the need to mobilize several communities together to leverage available resources and capacities in order for people to invest in and be agents of their own development. A cluster of communities yields strength in numbers in establishing strong social accountability mechanisms to hold local governments to account and successfully partner with them to fulfill basic human rights services in the long-term. In the Epicenter Strategy, this includes training of trainers in local communities to fulfill “animator” roles as HIV educators, literacy and numeracy teachers, agricultural farming technique teachers, advocates for healthy pregnancies and micro-finance committee leaders. Without these local leaders and community knowledge, the lynchpin in mobilizing and transforming mind sets from hopelessness to empowerment would be impossible.

What is the role of youth at the local level? Burkina Faso’s UN Youth Envoy for the Post 2015 Development Agenda joined the panel as a youth representative for Restless Development. Cheick, a young male and development leader of several NGOs, spoke about the critical role of leveraging the large youth population for leadership roles at the grassroots level to mobilize and positively impression youth, especially at the adolescent age. Telling examples of failed development attempts to construct desirable and central water pumping stations in a village, Cheick explained that such a shortcoming was due entirely to a lack of community decision making and youth leadership. Without awareness of cultural traditions and emerging changes as recognized by youth, development initiatives risk failure – and wasting money – when solely implementing based on “expertise” or data. Cheick stated that the reality is that “youth want to be agents of change, not passive recipients of action.”

Speaking on behalf of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the United States Government, Beth Tritter, Vice President of Policy and Evaluation spoke from the lens of a foundation that stemmed from the UN’s first Conference on Financing for Development in Doha. Beth explained that MCC aims to yield results that outlive investments through prioritizing country ownership and country implementation to adapt initiatives most appropriately to local conditions and needs. Two mutually benefitting strengths of MCC: strengthening good governance and investing directly in citizens. Beth also noted that MCC’s scope covers all sectors and seeks to work with a multitude of stakeholders to achieve a shared vision of sustainable development. From the CSO perspective, it is encouraging that a community-oriented foundation that results from the first FfD still operates today, proving to other donors that their approach is worth adopting.

Financing community-led development is not only appropriate, but economically and sustainably promising. To achieve this, panelists called for multi-sectoral funding streams for longer term programs – estimating between five and eight years – as well as flexibility to accommodate changes to maintain relevance. There was also a strong preference for funding that benefits collaboratives or alliances. Such groups bring a multitude of expertise across sectors and are accountable to one another to fulfill goals. Most importantly, financing community-led development must prioritize community decision-making, community ownership, and country ownership in the longer term. Development initiatives must mitigate dependency, providing hand ups, solutions, training and alleviating time. This will not be accomplished to the utmost through “trickle-down” funding, higher level decision making and exclusive resource provisions. Invest in empowerment, locals, women, youth and integrated, long-term programming is the means if the goal is truly sustainable development that leaves no one behind.

FfD-3 Post-Analysis

The adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Photo Credit:
The adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Photo Credit:

The United Nations hosted the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) from July 13 – 16th in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The resulting document was the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) on financing the Post 2015 Development Agenda. While The Hunger Project highlighted a number of things that we loved about the AAAA drafted prior to FfD3, we have  a number of concerns surrounding the final document.

Issue #1: In the AAAA, there is ample mention of women throughout the document; on the surface it seems that gender and women’s empowerment have a firm commitment. However, the language is rather recommitments from Doha and Monterrey (highlighted by the Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development’s “Reaction to the Outcome Document”.) AAAA merely “reiterate[s] the need for gender mainstreaming including targeted actions and investments in the formulation and implementation of all financial, economic, environmental, and social policies” (Para. 6). Reiteration and recommitment is not nearly ambitious enough to really push gender mainstreaming to the forefront of development policies and give women equal access and rights to the benefits of development.This risks maintaining the status quo, which barely mainstreams gender equality to a level that will boost development and the preservation of human rights for all.

Issue#2: Another major issue surrounding the final outcome document is the heavily reliance on private sector funding. This raises serious questions about what the outcome of development will actually look like and who  development is meant for. Civil Society attendees of FfD-3 and the pre-cursing CSO Forum highlighted that reliance on the private sector is without promise of significant results. This is partially due to the fact that private-sector focus often brings about  “trickle-down” economics in implementation of development initiatives. Trickle-down economics has never proven to be able to reach the poorest of the poor, the most inaccessible or the most malnourished and vulnerable persons: the very group that development must target  . Another concern surrounding the private sector is the ability to sue governments over national development policies if they  conflict with business interests. CSO imparted its preference that national governments instill policies that mandate that the private sector make human rights and the environment business priorities, as well as develop a strong tax-base for which multilateral corporations can pay due tax to its host state and/or city. This tax revenue would ideally be used by the state for developmental initiatives, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable (which are commonly not target market populations for private sector investment).

Issue #3: While there is room for AAAA’s inclusion of an integrated approach, there are a number of top-down approaches that still linger within the FFD framework. Aid for Trade (Para 90) is particularly concerning. It is  a mechanism to bolster the development of developing and least developing countries, but there is very little evidence that current trade policies are effective in reducing poverty and hunger. Strong accountability severely lacks (i.e. there need to be stronger safeguards in international trade agreements).

Issue #4: AAAA lacks deadlines for completion of  goals in relation to financing. This risks lacking accountability  as without specific dates it will be difficult to clearly monitor and evaluate progress. This poses the question of how  issues with implementation will be managed or recognized through 2030?

AAAA should have ideally  created a development assistance system that  catalyzes country ownership of programs to mitigate dependency on foreign aid. The treatment of women, reliance on the private sector, and the inclusion of historically top-down development initiatives undermines the ability of countries and citizens to have ownership of development projects and risks staying within the status quo without long-term sustainable  development.

Creating the Campaign for Community-led Development

2015-06 Workshop RebeccaOn the morning of Wednesday, June 24, the last day of InterAction Forum 2015, an excited and enthusiastic group of 50 NGO representatives participated in an Open Space workshop hosted by Catholic Relief Services, the Alliance to End Hunger and The Hunger Project.


  • Irene Amadu, Organizational Development Officer, Catholic Relief Services, Nigeria
  • John Coonrod, Executive Vice President, The Hunger Project
  • Kushal Neogy, Partnership and Capacity Strengthening Director, Catholic Relief Services, India
  • Rebecca Middleton, COO, Alliance to End Hunger (at left in photo above)

Short comments and reflections by the hosts preceded the group table discussions, to which the majority of the workshop was dedicated. During each of two rounds, each table of 10-12 was given post-its, markers, and a poster with four thematic boxes. Group members discussed their thoughts on each category in its relation to community-led development and from the very beginning, it was clear how diverse the crowd was and how everyone’s individual backgrounds made a big difference in how they approached each concept. Despite their differences, there were generally similarities and overarching themes within and across groups. This workshop focused on participation, rather than passive listening, which made it unique and very well-received by members attending the forum.

Session I: Define Community-led Development
Language: When considering what language should be employed, there was a focus on having an adaptable, flexible definition that acknowledges local knowledge and practices and respects the community’s structure. Additionally, it should identify and conflicts and interests clearly and openly, and most importantly, is welcoming to all groups.

Principles: Participants had an opportunity to become more creative in discussing the principles of community-led development they found most important. One of the most widely-agreed principles was the high level of attention given to local norms and cultural sensitivity, which leads to “local buy-in.” Another was the inclusion of all individuals, especially the marginalized, regardless of gender, education level, age, disability, or religious affiliation. More general, but equally important, principles discussed included decentralization, sustainability, trust and equity.

Evidence: There was a particularly lively debate among one group over organic vs non-organic change: which is more effective or is a mix of both the most efficient method? Common ideas were M&E evaluation, based on community data and statistics, with an additional clause that the community was to choose success indicators. The evidence should point to both a local and global impact and that it is sustainable beyond NGO and government engagement.

Practices: There were various ideas, with several highlighting again the importance of community structure, norms, and needs. Communities need to be given the tools necessary for decision-making and finding their own solutions, including proper training and broad, bottom-up participation. Practices should be characterized by humility and vulnerability, communication and cooperation, and mutual accountability.

Session II: Create the Campaign

After the first four elements above were presented by each group, everyone returned to the task for the second time, but this time, to discuss four different categories: Allies, Elements, Messages, and Tactics in community-led development.

Allies: Particularly in this session, the question commonly raised was what exactly defined communities in community-led development. Depending on their personal and professional backgrounds, it seemed many people defined it differently. However, when discussing what allies would be required in a campaign for community-led development, answers were fairly consistent: the communities themselves, religious and traditional leaders; institutions and universities; NGOs; the local and national government; the media; and even the donor agencies.

The elements of such a campaign would largely include money and resources, as well as a timeline and supporting data such as cost-benefit analyses and ROIs in preparation for arguments on the opposition. More qualitative elements would be the amount of willingness, motivation and interest within the campaign itself.

Messages: There were several variations of what messages the campaign should promote. It would have to communicate the benefits, successes and effectiveness to keep momentum, as well as specifying tangible and impactful goals. They should include narratives from the communities themselves and be multi-pronged to cater to different target audiences. What exactly do we need to do together to complete these goals?

Tactics: The final discussion varied from specific to general, from the sensitization and education of allies to general advocacy and policy. Additionally, content should be localized and involve a community dialogue. The use of media and social media, as well as enlisting certain champions and faith leaders, were also popular ideas.

Next steps: The hosts and leadership of other organizations will keep everyone informed, reach out to others, and will determine ways to formally establish the campaign and move it into action.

FfD Analysis – Preliminary

(This piece was largely informed by today’s MFAN/Brookings event – many thanks to the organizers for a very useful discussion!)

ffd3_logo_700x323Washington DC, June 15, 2015:  Last month, the organizers of the upcoming Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) in Addis Ababa released a revised draft outcome document, which they are redrafting this week. FfD3 is a critical milestone in finalizing the Sustainable Development Goals in September.

The Hunger Project is hosting a side event at FfD3 on Wednesday, July 15th at 1:15PM at the Intercontinental Hotel with CONCERN WorldWide. In light of the draft outcome document and discussions around financing for implementation, we will  emphasize local partnerships and gender-specific, community-led approaches that  we have found to be the most critical investments to restore empowerment to the hungriest and most impoverished people to control their own lives and destinies.

One central transformation at FfD3 is Domestic Resource Mobilization. While official aid is still seen as important, it is seen as most important in building each country’s financial self-reliance: its ability to reduce corruption, and raise its own tax revenues and spend them wisely. A particular area of concern is strengthening the ability of the world to halt tax avoidance (para 20) by multi-national corporations that may be generating wealth in lower-income country but evading paying any taxes. This significantly reduces national revenue that can be allocated for development expenditures.

Here is our top-10 list, based on the current draft. Half are elements we would hate to lose in the upcoming negotiations, and half are areas where greater attention could be useful.

Five Points we love and would hate to lose

  1. Start with women: The draft wisely includes a strong commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in its very first paragraph, and in para 6 calls for gender mainstreaming in the formulation and implementation of all financial, economic, and social policies and agrees to take concrete policy actions to ensure women’s equal rights, access and opportunities for participation and leadership in the economy. In para 12 it promises to substantially increase public investment in ending hunger, explicitly including promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women in that context. Para 18 calls for “social infrastructure and policies to enable women’s full participation in the economy.” These sections seek to meet the inalienable and inherent human rights of women as well as boost economy in placing development initiatives into the hands and empowerment of half of the world’s population.
  2. Ending hunger by empowering small-scale producers: The draft explicitly recognizes that ending hunger “will lead to rich payoffs across the SDGs.” . Para 12 recognizes that ending hunger depends on increasing incomes through higher smallholder productivity, and Para 14 therein calls for greater financial access to micro enterprises. This is fairly revolutionary, as it points to a bottom-up,  approach (the argument that economic growth leads to ending hunger). This bottom-up perspective has been bolstered by an IMF Report, released June 15, which states that “increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth while a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth—that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down.”
  3. Engage Local Governments: Para 31 is an explicit commitment to “scale up international cooperation to strengthen capacity” of local governments to achieve sustainability, “particularly in areas of infrastructure development, local taxation, sectorial finance and debt issuance and management, including access to domestic bond markets.” This paragraph has expanded quite significantly from the earlier draft, now listing a dozen other areas of capacity building.
  4. Integrated Approach: The draft commits to a “holistic strategy” (para 2) “integrating the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development” (para 10). It commits to delivering social protection and essential public services for all including spending targets on health, education and WASH. Ideally this will be implemented through coordination between ministries and multisectoral approaches.
  5. Data for the People: The focus on data and transparency has expanded a great deal in this draft, and it starts (Para 115) with emphasizing the role of data for smart decision-making, including at the local level. We specifically applaud this empowerment role of data, especially as  the draft goes on to make many statements about the due need for accountability.

Five points that ought to be stronger

  1. Youth Employment: The draft calls for developing a global strategy for youth employment by 2020. This is a very weak response to a huge and urgent economic challenge, as well as to the complex challenge of seizing the opportunity of the “demographic dividend” of the current youth bulge.
  2. Social Capital: Nowhere in the document is the recognition that people’s own energies  are an enormous resource for achieving the SDGs. Utmost capacity goes beyond allocated funds and paid positions; it includes sweat equity and pro bono assistance.
  3. Conditions for inclusive economic growth: Private business activity, investment and innovation are identified as major drivers of inclusive economic growth. While this is sometimes the case, it often has the opposite effect: increasing inequality. The document is missing an important opportunity to describe necessary policies and principles of practice that will make private economic growth at least sufficiently “inclusive.”
  4. Civil Society: While civil society appears in various lists of the “usual suspects”, nowhere does the draft identify the distinct roles that civil society plays in development (such as, for example, in points 6-8 above!). This includes catalyzing social accountability mechanisms to hold local governments to account, building effective partnerships between citizens and their local government officials, and capacity building through training and leadership skill development.
  5. Bottom-up Data: While the Post-2015 agenda called for a data revolution, the sections on data are not very revolutionary. The call to strengthen national statistical systems is more of a  solid 19th century recommendation at a time when 21st century technology offers huge new possibilities for aggregating lower-cost, higher-quality community-level data rather than attempting to disaggregate expensive, slow, national-level surveys and evidence.


Analysis of the Zero Draft SDGs

On June 2, 2015 the UN released the “Zero Draft” of the SDGs, entitled Transforming Our World by 2030: A New Agenda for Global Action. Here are the top 10 points we in The Hunger Project should know about them.

2015-05 Daisy(Photo at right: Our Uganda country director Dr. Daisy Owomugasho presents testimony May 27, just prior to release of the Zero Draft, with our policy analyst Mary Kate Costello. Click photo to watch video).

  1. Still 17 goals but summarizing them as 9: The same 17 goals and 169 targets that emerged from the member state Open Working Group (OWG) Proposal a year ago have been included here in full — while at the same time “summarizing” them more concisely in the preamble. While there have been strong voices arguing to “simplify” the 17 goals, doing so would inevitably over-simplify some important issues. The nine (unnumbered) summary bullets are:
    • End poverty and hunger;
    • Secure education, health and basic services for all;
    • Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;
    • Combat inequalities within and between countries;
    • Foster inclusive economic growth, shared prosperity and sustainable lifestyles for all;
    • Promote safe and inclusive cities and human settlements;
    • Protect the planet, fight climate change, use natural resources sustainably and safeguard our oceans;
    • Strengthen governance and promote peaceful, safe, just and inclusive societies; and
    • Revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development
  2. Strong Preamble: Unlike the OWG Proposal, this draft has brought in some of the poetry of the Secretary-General’s synthesis document. It states “We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet for present and future generations. We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps needed to shift the world on to a sustainable path.”
  3. Chapter 1 – A Strong Declaration: The first six pages now constitute a powerful statement of principles and declarations, rather than a narrative of former conferences and broad general observations about the challenge. Earlier this year, we had submitted a series of recommendations at this link based on the outline requested by the UN — based on the 3 pillars of our approach. You can find snatches of our language in the Zero Draft. Each of our pillars are more strongly represented here than in previous drafts, even to acknowledging the role of “ordinary citizens” in meeting the goals that are “of the people and by the people.”
  4. Integrated Approach: The Zero Draft is stronger on the necessity of an integrated approach than any previous UN document, ever, as far as I know.
  5. No “root causes”: A number of progressive civil society groups have criticized the document for not addressing issues like patriarchy head on. This omission is not surprising in a document to be negotiated by countries of every imaginable ideology, yet they have an important point and we applaud their continued push on it.
  6. Indicators: The development of indicators has been moved to an Inter-Agency and Expert Group which will finalize them by March 2016.
  7. Chapter 2 – Means of Implementation: This chapter is a placeholder pending the Addis Summit next month, but it DOES explain what had been a mystery to me in the list of targets – the difference between numbered items like (1.1 and 1.2) and lettered targets (like 1.a and 1.b). The lettered targets are for means of implementation.
  8. Chapter 3 – Follow-up and Review: The Zero Draft includes a multi-tiered process for tracking progress at the national, regional and global level. It includes a point that national reviews will build on reviews by local authorities, multi-stakeholder dialogues, citizen reviews and participatory monitoring.
  9. Annex 1: While the OWG set of 17 goals and 169 targets has been carried over as adopted, the Zero Draft includes an Annex with proposed (and presumably uncontroversial) revisions to the targets to remove all the places where the OWG calls for “reduce by (an unspecified) X%” and ensure consistency with already existing international agreements.
  10. Nutrition: One disappointment to the nutrition community is that the draft only explicitly includes targets for stunting and wasting to 2025, and not the other four agreed-upon World Health Assembly (WHA) nutrition targets – and does not extend the 2025 targets to even stronger targets for 2030. It makes no reference to last year’s International Conference on Nutrition outcomes. The counter-argument from the UN is that the SDGs need not include everything. The Zero Draft paragraph 5 “encourages ongoing efforts by states in other fora to address key issues… and we respect the independent mandates of those processes.”