By Elisabeth Rochford*
The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 focused the world’s attention on 17 “Global Goals” to be met by 2030. They highlight the significant challenges that lie ahead for every one of us, as a student, community member, policy maker or NGO worker. Goal 17 is to “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development” – but just why are partnerships so important in sustainable development and why could cooperation be vital to achieving these goals by 2030?
- It works better
Locals commonly know best what is needed for their own communities, and local experience is a powerful tool and motivator. Local people are often expert guides in their own culture, environment, geography and society. However, strong state support and international resources can also be crucial to bolstering locals who may be lacking in capacity to act on their own. Through a combined effort from both communities and bigger organisations in setting up and maintaining development projects, the initiative can benefit from the varied expertise of all involved.
It can also mean that resources are better utilised in ways that are relevant and targeted to local needs. This avoids misinformed aid ideas, where good intentions can miss the point and fail to address the real social problems at play. Thorough cooperation and co-production can also improve transparency and accountability, reducing the possibility of corruption.
- It lasts
Cooperation between local and international actors leads to the improved sustainability of development projects. Locals often also have a great deal of influence in their community and can help promote development initiatives through informal local networks with greater success than international actors, who may be seen as untrustworthy or to have conflicting interests. In this way locals, as community organisers, may achieve greater support and cooperation in their locality for the development initiative, helping it last.
- It promotes equity and inclusiveness
High-quality programmes produced by locals and outsiders can promote equity and inclusiveness in communities, tackling issues of marginalisation and exclusion. By working together, local and international actors can ensure that resources are distributed fairly and everyone is involved in the process. This can mean a more equal power balance that also incorporates an external perspective, driven by a desire for fairness.
Inclusiveness between local and international agents in development initiatives can also help to engage those who might otherwise be marginalised in the wider processes to ensure that their rights and needs are recognised.
- It empowers local communities
When it comes to development, empowerment is a vital element in its success. Working with communities and involving locals in the decision-making and implementation of initiatives can empower them to assert control over their own development, and help them access resources and capacity needed to do so. It encourages self-reliance, helping to free people from control by mainstream political processes and manipulation or exploitation through unequal power relationships with the state or international actors. That’s why local people’s ability to negotiate with and to hold accountable the institutions and initiatives that affect their lives must be fostered and acknowledged.
- It ensures that we all get to play our part in the world
Ultimately, each and every one of us has an important role to play in global development and deserves to be given the chance to do so. Community development cannot operate in a vacuum, but needs local coordination via local government structures and support from international sectors. We need to foster greater development dialogue and cooperation rather than a simple bottom-up or top-down approach.
A successful sustainable development agenda requires widespread participation and the formation of partnerships between local and international actors. In the words of Ban Ki-moon: “To successfully implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we must swiftly move from commitments to action. To do that, we need strong, inclusive and integrated partnerships at all levels.”
It’s up to all of us who study global development, volunteer and aspire to make the world a better place to ensure true, productive cooperation between organisations or individuals with the resources for change, and those who seek to solve their own problems.
- UN Sustainable Development Goal 17. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg17
- Suzy Mmaitsi. “In Kenya, A Skill Can Turn A Girl From Bride Into Business Owner”. BRIGHT. https://brightreads.com/in-kenya-a-skill-can-turn-a-girl-from-bride-into-business-owner-30b5b9c19c38
- North Carolina State University. “Where Credit is Due: How Acknowledging Expertise Can Help Conservation Efforts”. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140408122139.htm
- World Bank. “Localizing Development: Does Participation Work?”. http://econ.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTDEC/EXTRESEARCH/0,,contentMDK:23147785~pagePK:64165401~piPK:64165026~theSitePK:469382,00.html
- Richard Stupart. “7 Worst International Aid Ideas”. Matador Network. https://matadornetwork.com/change/7-worst-international-aid-ideas/
- Adam Grech. “The Role of Aid Theft in Africa: A Development Question”. Development in Action. http://www.developmentinaction.org/the-role-of-aid-theft-in-africa-a-development-question/
- James Stewart. “Local Experts in the Domestication of Information and Communication Technologies”. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13691180701560093
- Lisa Cornish. “In an Era of Declining Trust, How Can NGOs Buck the Trend?”. DevEx. https://www.devex.com/news/in-an-era-of-declining-trust-how-can-ngos-buck-the-trend-89648
- Katy Jenkins. “Practically Professionals? Grassroots Women as Local Experts – A Peruvian Case Study”. Science Direct. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0962629807000996
- UN Research Institute for Social Development. “Social Inclusion and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda”. http://www.unrisd.org/unitar-social-inclusion
- World Health Organization. “Track 1: Community Empowerment”. http://www.who.int/healthpromotion/conferences/7gchp/track1/en/
- John Gaventa, Gregory Barrett. “So What Difference Does it Make? Mapping the Outcomes of Citizen Engagement”. http://www.gsdrc.org/document-library/so-what-difference-does-it-make-mapping-the-outcomes-of-citizen-engagement/
- “Goal 17: Revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development”. http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/globalpartnerships/
- “Partnerships: Why They Matter”. http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ENGLISH_Why_it_Matters_Goal_17_Partnerships.pdf
*Elisabeth Rochford, MSc Human Rights student at London School of Economics and Political Science and Communications Intern at the Wonder Foundation.