Let local governments and small-scale organizations lead us towards Sustainable Development

Source: Haein Shin, Radhika Iyengar, Tara Stafford Ocansey, Joaquin Aviles Lopez, Patricia Oviedo: UNDER ONE ROOF, BRINGING DIGITAL SKILLS, SOLAR ENERGY & HOPE FOR FUTURE EMPLOYMENT

Sachs et. al. (2016) released the first ever SDG Index and Dashboards report in July 2016. The report did not present any surprises, but did illuminate the promising hope for many countries in terms meeting the SDGs. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals era had ended and the UN, along with its 193 member countries, pledged to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. There is a total of 17 SDGs that were ratified by the UN and its member countries. Three years down the line, what have we learned about the progress of countries attempting to meet the SDGs?

Since there are 17 SDGs and 230 indicators, creating a cumulative index by combining the indicators makes the progress chart easier to digest. Sachs et. al. (2016) take available data from 149 countries and rank them based on the SDG Index. There are no surprises to which countries are winning the SDG race. Sweden tops the list with a score of 84.5 followed by Denmark (83.9), Norway (82.3), Finland (81.0) followed by others. Further down the list, United States ranks at 25th place with a score of 72.7 and India ranks at 110th place with a score of 48.6. In case you are questioning the SDG Index, it passes the robustness test as it is highly correlated to the Human Development Index.

Using the same methodology, the published SDG dashboard uses color coding, from green >yellow>orange>red to illustrate the SDG status for each country. The color-coded dashboard shows that South Asia and sub-Saharan have shown important advances, but across the board, falls behind in indicators for poverty (SDG1), hunger (SDG2), health (SDG3), education (SDG4) and infrastructure (SDGs6–9). The report calls out for an “urgent action” to meet the SDGs.

With this backdrop, countries should plan for local-level interventions that specifically gear towards meeting multiple SDGs under one framework and design. One such intervention is being planned in Telangana state of India and Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. The project will run a solar-powered “Computer Center for Women” with re-imagined vocational courses. Solar power will help to re-enforce eco awareness and to meet the environment SDGs. The project’s main solution is to provide a “brave space” where women are encouraged to challenge their engrained biases and assumptions, particularly those that serve to repress themselves, using digital tools enabled by renewable energy, to access new information, share ideas and communicate with women who have faced similar challenges. The training sessions will be held at the Center equipped with computers and connectivity, during hours that best fit the participants’ daily schedules, most likely in the evenings. Given the backdrop of local community preference and issues identified during a needs assessment, programs will be open only to women in the community.

Women will become confident citizens aware of their rights. They will be able grow their businesses and engage in civic-life for improved life quality. This transformational change will be slow on the up-take, but seeds of change must be sown now to close the gender-divide within the current generation.

The world does not have the luxury of working in sector–based silos any longer. Since SDGs are inter-sectoral by concept and design, the interventions need to be multi-pronged as well. Focusing on local-level interventions that meet multiple SDGs will help to initiate a cumulative effect at the district and regional levels. Therefore, a bottom-up strategy that is community-driven, has more chances of creating an impact at the national level as opposed to a top-down approach. Local NGOs, small-scale enterprises and district governments should lead the path towards sustainable development.


Sachs, J., Schmidt-Traub, G., Kroll, C., Durand-Delacre, D. and Teksoz, K (2016) SDG Index and Dashboards- Global Report. New York. Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)

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