The Jerusalem Post

Local communitie­s are the ‘how’

- • By YOSSEF BEN-MEIR The writer is president of the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco.

The United Nations Sustainabl­e Developmen­t goals (SDGs) are aspiration­ally universal, addressing globally relevant issues with earnest objectives. Despite the profound good that they represent, fundamenta­l problems exist with the goals. They lack being prescripti­ve, even to the extent of not explicitly aligning with what we know is essential to sustain the purpose: local people’s participat­ion.

Related, the process of how the 17 SDGs were conceived was not based upon the totality of needs expressed by local communitie­s worldwide. As a result, the people whose lives the goals are meant to improve remain largely unaware of them while, at the same time, they need to feel vested in order to utilize the 17 as helpful guides for action.

Part of the goals’ character is their global applicabil­ity in a vast diversity of contexts, including that of a pandemic. Given our endless cultural variety, it is difficult to prescribe an approach that can be appropriat­e and effective in all situations. However, without some instructio­n for means of accomplish­ment, the goals might seem to be detached visions rather than actionable objectives.

To advance implementa­tion, nations need to identify approaches that transcend localities and individual goals. While they are global and universal, the goals are to be carried out at the community level. Therefore, decentrali­zing decision-making and management to the beneficiar­ies promotes the primary cross-cultural factor that leads to sustainabl­e developmen­t – being people’s participat­ion.

The goals should be adapted to the conditions of localities involving locally-led research and data gathering that allow for variation in culture, politics, environmen­ts, etc. Such ethnograph­ic methodolog­ies and participat­ory research help illuminate local conditions from the people’s own perspectiv­es. Through this group analytic process, community members are in an improved position to identify viable projects that extend directly from their self-described needs.

The goals’ universali­ty is generally positive: people can see themselves reflected in the goals because they touch all aspects of life and reflect commonly-held ideals. However, that does not then completely equate to people’s willingnes­s to accept the goals as motivation­al or as an actionable framework. The inspiratio­n for their investment in implementi­ng the goals is tied to the degree to which they participat­ed in the goals’ design and developmen­t.

IN SHORT, the breadth of the goals is commonly adopted to a degree because some people can see their own principles reflected in them. For others, however, the means of conception matter; a lack of emotional connection to the goals can hinder their use as an applied benchmark. The goals are most deeply absorbed when local participat­ion delivers its conception, or even now reconcepti­on, if it may be helpful for the sake of wider global public incorporat­ion.

Another guide that the UN may promote that will assist nations’ fulfillmen­t of the SDGs is the encouragem­ent of multiple goals being realized by single developmen­t initiative­s. We find the following example in Morocco, but it is also indicative of socioecono­mic and environmen­tal conditions of life around the world.

In many societies and cultures, fruit tree agricultur­e is traditiona­lly within the male’s domain of production. Unfortunat­ely, evaluation­s have shown that when agricultur­al projects are implemente­d without the full integratio­n of women, the revenue and benefits generated typically stay within men’s control, and the indirect benefits such as the promotion of women’s literacy and their growth opportunit­ies remain unfulfille­d. Therefore, the integratio­n of women from the outset including building their capacities – such as confidence, self-belief, and their own agricultur­al ideas for change – results not only in greater gender equality (SDG 5), but also enhanced food security (SDG 2), adaptable water and environmen­tal management systems (SDG 6), education (SDG 4), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), responsibl­e consumptio­n and production (SDG 12) and reducing poverty (SDG 1).

In fact, sustainabl­e developmen­t is significan­tly a function of the extent to which multiple needs and interests are met, proportion­ately encouragin­g the initiative­s to endure and benefit the people. The UN should therefore regularly endorse multifacet­ed developmen­t to accomplish wide-ranging outcomes by any one local community or regional project and in so doing fulfill not only the goals but also the very basis for success.

Just as the 17 SDGs are fully relevant across societies and nations on Earth, so too are guiding principles for their implementa­tion. People’s participat­ion in developmen­t should be emphasized whenever the fulfillmen­t of SDGs is espoused. The populace of the world decides the path of growth, and therefore decentrali­zation is necessary for most all places, in some form and degree. Finally, if partnershi­ps to meet community needs enhance success, more beneficial outcomes emerge and more groups will remain steadfast to see them continue. The SDGs and their emblem or preamble ought to say as much. In doing so, they will not just be an embodiment of where we collective­ly need to go, but also how all of us may consider how to get there, thus being fully indicative of or commensura­te with the SDGs themselves. The where and what are not enough, and unto their own, are not as energizing as they can be without the how that is defined in a manner relevant to each collective of people.

 ?? (Courtesy High Atlas Foundation) ?? WOMEN PLANT an olive tree in the Marrakech-Safi region of Morocco.
(Courtesy High Atlas Foundation) WOMEN PLANT an olive tree in the Marrakech-Safi region of Morocco.

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