Realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in practice, means overcoming several types of challenges our countries are confronted to, in terms of aging society, food waste, sanitation, vulnerability to disaster, education, poverty and inequality. Solutions to these national or global challenges, perhaps unexpectedly, often start at the most local level.
Officials, private sector and development actors participating to the SDGs Global Festival of Action from Japan held on 25-26 March 2021, agreed that achieving the 17 SDGs requires combined efforts from the public and private sectors to consider the unique characteristics of the local communities where they operate.
“We cannot create a society where nobody dies, nor one where no diseases exist, but we can try to create what we call ‘Vibrant INOCHI’ which encompasses good community environment and engagement; purpose in life; healthy well-being and longevity, and a positive spirit and laughter that will contribute to a much healthier aging society,” stressed Governor of Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan Yuji Kuroiwa, speaking at the UNDP and UN-Habitat virtual session “Localizing the SDGs: Bring a change through local actions”.
The President of the Local Food Cycling company in Japan, Yuiko Taira, conveyed her determination to promote environmentally safe and sustainable lifestyles through composting and organic farming at the community level. “Food waste [collected] over one to three months from each household [within a 2km radius] is assembled and then used as compost for locally grown vegetables in community gardens.” Through this localized action rooftop vegetable gardens become sites where SDGs 2 and 12 are brought into action. Indeed these activities help improving mental and physical health; establishing a successful resource cycle; providing appropriate training for community members; producing fresh and safe vegetables; and creating a sustainable “grow, eat and learn” community.
Mukudzeishe Kasukusa, a champion in the use of technology as a tool to solve development challenges and Operations Coordinator of the Impact Hub in Harare, Zimbabwe, specifically addressed the need to bridge the gender gap in the IT sector and to further educate youth and women. “The key is to offer continuous and relevant training and engagement, and by working with the media to reach youth and women it’ll help ensure sustainable development of IT skills on a mass scale,” underlined Kasukusa.
Highlighting a local creek improvement project in the Philippines, Eldo Casiño, Captain of Barangay 22, in Cagayan de Oro City, in the Philippines, explained how the project reduced the community’s vulnerability to disaster and increased people’s resilience and the sustainability of the community. “Years of neglect and bad management had turned Barangay creek into a dump site … we talked to the community living next to the creek and explained to them the importance of a clean and plague-free area.” By educating and involving the community, the Hapsay Sapa project, which focused on cleaning the creek, not only met four SDGs – good health and well-being; clean water and sanitation; sustainable cities and communities, and climate action – but also won the 2018 Asian Townscape Award.
In her closing remarks of the session Akiko Takatou TV Contents Production Manager of RKB Mainichi Broadcasting Corp highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the four projects that were discussed during the session. “Despite COVID-19 hampering free movement, we still see how people seized the opportunities presented to them to change behaviour. These examples should be expanded and replicated throughout the rest of the world.”
Building on the lessons learnt from the session, UNDP envisages to implement the following actions to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs:
- Advocate for programmatic support to unleash the potential of communities by maximizing the opportunities for the vulnerable population through inclusion, participation, and empowerment.
- Support innovation in the action driven by the community against the SDGs challenges, by utilizing the expertise and networks to identify and to scale-up the best solutions within the local context.
- Engage multi-sectoral stakeholders including government, NGOs, private sector, entrepreneurs, academia, media, and individuals to discuss the lessons learnt to achieve SDGs and to encourage their actions and partnerships.
- Utilize Tokyo International Conference on Africa (TICAD), which UNDP co-organizes with the Government of Japan, as a platform for multi-sectoral engagement and partnership to advance the SDGs in Africa.