Improving on the progress made by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the last 15 years, the United Nations recently finalized and adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an all-inclusive and achievable group of objectives that, if attained, will make this world a just, peaceful, and a sustainable place for all. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets are aimed at eradicating extreme poverty in all its forms, promoting economic prosperity, ensuring environmental sustainability, promoting social inclusion and achieving global peace and Security. However, it is a well-established principle and fact that sustainable development cannot be achieved by governments alone; achieving these goals will take a coordinated effort from many groups, including the private sector, the government, the civil society, media, academia, youths, local communities etc., In fact, corporations will play a key role in this effort.
It is a truism that the MDGs failed to create maximum impact in Nigeria as a result of low-level of awareness and commitments among stakeholders, and government lateness in implementing the goals in Nigeria which took about 7 years after the commencement of MDGs. Hence, to correct these anomalies which have shortchanged Nigerians and Nigeria in terms of development, and in other to maximize the potentials and opportunities created by the SDGs, the urgent need for an enhanced Multi-Stakeholder engagements and commitments is very crucial at this time. The multi-stakeholder joint action that is solution-oriented and inclusive of all groups, including women, indigenous people and minorities, will also be crucial to realizing these set of aspirations and SDGs implementation backbone in Nigeria. The joint action for implementing the SDGs if achieved will bridge the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in Nigeria. The effectiveness of such partnerships will depend on building strong links to national, states and local actors and initiatives; collective long-term commitments linked to SDG achievement and ensuring transparency and accountability for results.
SDGs and the Government
Achieving SDGs in Nigeria is non-negotiable and the need for three-tiers of government at National, state and local level to take pro-active steps in domesticating and mainstreaming the SDGs into the development plans and policies at all across-board is highly essential. Nigerian Government delayed the implementation of the MDGs by six years, a development that limited the gains of the agenda.
Owing to the delay, Nigeria struggled to achieve within (9) nine years what other countries achieved in (15) fifteen years, and coupled with several other factors which militated against the success of the MDGs, such as lack of political will; corruption; lack of institutional and systemic capacity nationally; weak financing for development; partnerships and cooperation challenges, lack of accountability and poor performance of the machinery of government, the cost of governance, the neglects of the private sector etc., However, the implementation of the SDGs starts January 1st, 2016 worldwide, but in Nigeria as at today, there seems to be little or no provision and commitment on the part of the government.
As at now, the federal government has not done much, although the transitional committee had been established to work out modalities for transiting from MDGs to SDGs, but looking at some of the multiple challenges faced by the central government like weak economy, insecurity, subsidy, political instability, not able to meet up with timely payment of workers salary etc., may lead to another lips service on the part of government and this may affect another quick implementation of the SDGs.
Today, only the house of Representatives has established committee on SDGs, all state house of assemblies are yet to replicate the same, in fact, they pretend not to be concerned about it, even despite Ban Ki Moon Meeting with State Governors in Nigeria to discuss the SDGs, only Abia state seems to have made a formidable move by appointing SSA to the Governor on SDGs which is a welcomed development. Other states still do not show any concern, even presently, governors are complaining of the minimum wage and planning to reduce it, and if done successfully, will negate the entire principles and objectives of the SDGs, none of them as of now has created the Office of the SDGs which will act as an interface between the people, stakeholders and the Government, even in the area of budget mainstreaming, the state governments are yet to factored in the SDGs.
The Local governments which are the closest to the people are still totally in the dark about the SDGs, their importance and roles, and how it affects the people, the economy and the environment in their various localities. The Judiciary across all states too has not been committed yet to the global Goals as we have not seen any clear-cut agenda in terms of reforms, programs, plans etc. and all these are really issues to worry about.
Since Governments who are to provide the enabling environment for the people and other stakeholders and also meant to effectively show readiness in terms of domestication and implementation is not yet ready and serious, then this will affect other stakeholders to take action and may lead another replication of the MDGs era if urgent action is not taken. However, it is highly imperative and important for Nigeria to immediately hit the ground running from 1st January, 2016, since we are still at deficit in achieving MDGs in Nigeria, It is also imperative that the two chambers of the National Assembly to constitute Standing Committees on SDGs, Government at all levels must as a matter of urgency create an enabling Policy and Legal Framework, Institutions and Institutional arrangements for the SDGs, Funding Mechanisms and Pathways, Capacity Building and Mainstreaming of the SDGs at the sub-national levels, Renewed and Smart Partnerships for SDGs, and Data generation, monitoring, reporting, and accountability. Lastly, the government should work tirelessly in ensuring Goal 16 and 17 of the SDGs are prioritized as this will go a long way in achieving the other goals. The aim of the goal 16 is to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
And Goal 17 is to Strengthen and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development which is the foundation for the multi-stakeholder joint action.
The SDGs and the Civil Society
The Civil Society really played a crucial role in the formation and the birth of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) globally, and the new goals provide a blueprint for eradicating poverty in low-income countries while addressing problems of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production in the developed world.
The SDGs will be driven not primarily by governments, but by evolving partnerships between governments, civil society, and the private sector.Civil society has larger responsibilities and there are many important ways that civil society can play an effective role in shaping and influencing the post-2015 development agenda, including:
- Raising wider stakeholder awareness about post-2015 processes and the SDGs;
- Engaging in actions to put pressure on decision-makers and monitoring what governments are doing;
- Providing research and information to support relevant state actors through research outputs, consultations.
- Providing expert input and solutions directly to decision makers through advisory roles or expert discussion groups;
- Providing a communications and engagement link between the public and decision-makers;
- Strengthening local and national campaigns by establishing networks and partnerships that are linked to the global level, providing examples of how to make the agenda relevant and grounded in local action;
- Training relevant stakeholders and decision-makers in implementation and enforcement practices;
- Working with the private sector in domesticating the SDGs into their businesses and aligning their strategies towards the global goals laid down principles and agenda. etc.
Looking at these critical roles of the civil society above, it is important for them to be fully committed to the success of the Post-2015 Agenda. Civil society must help shape what the world considers “progress.” There are many questions to consider.
Will key development initiatives result in a more equitable distribution of wealth? How will the agenda affect small-scale farmers, eradication of extreme poverty, displaced people, solve climate change issues and gender equality? To achieve our ambitious goals over the next 15 years in Nigeria, Civil society must live up to their expectations, they must see one another as partners and not competitors and above all, they must work in collaborative capacity in line with the Goal 17 of the SDGs talking about the revitalized global partnerships.
The SDGs and Private Sector
The role of the private sector is fundamental and pivotal, at the same time the contribution is indispensable in achieving the SDGs success in Nigeria. The new Post 2015 global agenda has put more focus and attention on the drivers of change, such as economic growth, job creation, reduced inequality and innovation that makes better and more careful use of natural resources. The private sector plays a prominent role in advancing all these drivers and government can tap into the resources of the private sector to achieve the SDGs. When it comes to making changes in how humans live in developing countries today, private business is a critical force shaping lives. They are making massive inward investments to developing countries especially Nigeria, providing goods such as soap, medicines, mobile phones, computers and services such as consultancy, accountancy, and legal advice.
In any country, 90% of employment come from the private sector and the inclusion of goal 7, ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all; goal 8, promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; goal 9, building resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation are all tied to the private sector. The goals are capped and cemented by goal 17, calling for; strengthening the means of implementation and revitalising the global partnership for sustainable development.
Financing the goals is a crucial element to achieving sustainability and the private sector is expected to be a main partner and source of funding, but unlike the MDGs, which neglect the businesses, the SDGs emphasize the need for cooperation between private, public, scientific and non-profits sectors as well. The formation and birth of SDGs present a great opportunity for business-led solutions and technologies to be developed and implemented to address the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges.
As the SDGs form the global agenda for the development of our societies, they will allow leading companies to demonstrate how their business helps to advance sustainable development, both by minimizing negative impacts and maximizing positive impacts on people and their environments. Covering a wide spectrum of sustainable development topics relevant to companies – such as poverty, health, education, climate change and environmental degradation – the SDGs can help to connect business strategies with national priorities.
Companies can also use the SDGs as an overarching framework to shape, steer, communicate and report their strategies, goals and activities, allowing them to capitalize on a range of benefits such as: identifying future business opportunities, enhancing the value of corporate sustainability, strengthening stakeholder relations and keeping the pace with policy developments, stabilizing societies and markets, using a common language and shared principle and purpose.
The private sector's role in contributing to the SDGs, focusing on how business contributions to governance issues, such as anti-corruption, peace and stability, and the rule of law, can help advance the SDG agenda; and providing a platform for business, investors and others to explore pathways for enhancing business contributions to sustainable development, including through public-private partnerships. It is now imperative for the government to create the conducive environment, which would attract private investors into the economy to partner government in achieving the SDGs. The private sector is willing and ready but if the economic conditions and investment climate are not conducive, the private sector may not invest and this will affect development.
The SDGs the Media
The media play a critical role in influencing opinions, individual actions, and holding policy/decision-makers to account. They convey information and knowledge, which contribute to educating and sensitising the general public. But they can also serve as watchdogs by bringing attention to problems and holding those responsible accountable. The media have an important role in taking the voices of people and civil society to governments. The role of the media may be to raise the volume - shock and inspire, educate and inform. Make government at all levels more in touch with ordinary people; those who face the daily challenges.
The role of the media and communicators as information multipliers is paramount to public advocacy and awareness-raising. Based on this recognizable and prominent role played by the media, it is important for them to be 100% committed and proactive on effective reporting of the SDGs in Nigeria since this will go a long way in increasing awareness and knowledge of stakeholders on the national processes on the SDGs and the steps in implementing the goals and monitoring progress with the realization in Nigeria.
By raising awareness about the development agenda, challenges and stimulating debate on solutions, the media is making a valuable contribution to the development of Nigeria and is therefore a crucial partner in ensuring a successful start and implementation of the SDGs.
It is, however, important for the media to domesticate and link the SDGs in their program activities, both in electronic and print media, as virtually all programs or event coverage of the media, is directly linked to at least one or more SDGs. Taking for example, Health and educational programs on TV, Radio, Newspapers are linked directly to goal Goal 3 and 4 respectively. The Media should work closely with the civil society to get more evidence-based information in aligning their strategies towards the post-2015 development agenda.
The SDGs and the Youths
Young people are crucial civil society actors, the future lies in the hands of today’s youth, who will pass the torch to future generations, even the word “sustainable development” is highly directional to the youths, even from its simple definition as “the development that caters for the need of today and also make provisions for the need of the future generation”. Who is the future generation? The answer is the Youth.
The current young people will mature in the next 15 years, the period covered by the SDGs. They will be the generation that will experience the impact of the success or failure of the SDGs. Therefore, SDG implementation should be inclusive and responsive to the needs of the youth - get them educated, help them develop sustainable livelihoods, and empower them to contribute more fully to a better society.
Calling on youth to join forces, The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, “More than 3 billion people — nearly half of the world’s population — are under the age of 25, and almost 90 percent of young people live in developing countries. I believe that this population is the future for promoting sustainable development, particularly economic development.”
Young people must also be active in holding the government to account, this collective journey calls for greater awareness of the contribution of civil society as we endeavor to see the SDGs met for all nations and peoples, and for all segments of society.
The SDGs are a universal agenda for “transforming our world.” To achieve this transformation, we must rethink the approaches of the MDG era that left youth out of the process. Governments that recognise the value of collaborating with young people as partners and establish clear and explicit pathways for their meaningful participation from the outset will be much better positioned to achieve the 17 SDGs and related targets.
SDGs and Science, Academia
Science is crucial in achieving sustainable development. The academic and education community will have a major role to play in the implementation of the SDGs. Science provides the basis for new and sustainable approaches, solutions and technologies to meet the challenges of sustainable development. The role of science in the implementation of the SDG on water, renewable energy, climate change, biodiversity, life below water, poverty reduction etc., will be particularly important, as tackling all SDGs challenges requires both sound policies, supported with adequate resources, and new scientific approaches to deploy sustainable solutions and appropriate technologies.
Hence, the academic community has an important role to play in the implementation of the SDGs. The scientific community has already provided significant contributions to the setting meaningful and feasible goals, supported by scientific evidence, during the consultations processes leading to the formal negotiations on the SDGs. The contribution of the academic community is central in developing sustainable solutions to address SDGs challenges through advancing sciences, research, and knowledge and applying them in the preparation, establishment and testing of the appropriate frameworks and tools that would be needed to address the challenges of the new SDGs targets and indicators in Nigeria.
SDGs and the Local Communities
Highlighting the importance of the localization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a key dimension and a strategic approach in achieving all the proposed goals. By localizing the SDGs in the communities, women and girls, youth and the poorest, most marginalized and excluded people will no-longer be left behind.
The objectives of the sustainable development agenda relies on rural development. Development of agriculture as an economic activity an age-old activity - is something where the State must play a role. There must be quality education and health in rural areas so as create opportunities for the coming generation which will lead to transformational Change.
The local Government has been often recognized for its added-value, being the closest layer to citizens, where actions can be developed using the local context, engaging citizens & the community. There is need for government to recognize the needs to strengthen the promotion of Local Economic Development initiatives across all local government in Nigeria as this will facilitate the actualization of SDGs among the Local Communities.
Way forward and Conclusion
The need for a multi-stakeholder partnership approach For the new post-2015 development agenda to be transformational cannot be over emphasized, and strategies and implementation plans will need to be put into place that are truly integrative and participatory, engaging all relevant groups and stakeholders at all levels. Governments including state, and at local, need to work together with international organizations, business, academia, media and civil society toward the implementation of national strategies for sustainable development. Parliaments, as oversight and legislative bodies representing all people, have a key role to play in enabling actors to work together. As highlighted by the UN Secretary-General, this calls for a new culture of “shared responsibility” based on agreed universal norms, global commitments, shared rules and evidence, collective action, accountability and benchmarking for progress.
To ensure the SDGs can achieve transformative results, a multi-stakeholder "mutual accountability" mechanism should be launched that will catalyze work across governmental and non-governmental boundaries in Nigeria through commitment-based initiatives, a robust open-source data platform, citizen accountability, and an independent peer review system.
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