Local level capacity building for achieving SDG
The primary accountability for the SDGs belongs to nations. It is important that the SDGs are monitored through a bottom-up approach, as this will ensure sustainability and local ownership. In order for SDGs to be successful there is a need for "localising" the agenda. In other words, the strategies must be defined, implemented and monitored at a local level to ensure that the sustainable development targets are achieved at a global, national and sub-national level.
The implantation of SDG can be accessed through local data collection only. Reliable and disaggregated data is imperative at the national and local level to allow for the monitoring, tracking, evaluation and reporting on SDG indicators, and to also support the other "core enablers" to use data in fulfilling their functions. The follow up action are always in the basis of statistics on the house and society. The data collection and interpretation is local action of stakeholders and there is no other option.
It is important to not only focus on the thematic areas, but to apply a territorial approach in implementing the goals, also taking into account the specificities of the territories while at the same time ensuring political coherence through appropriate monitoring of the implementation of all SDGs on the ground. Localisation of SDGs is how local and regional governments and other local governance actors can critically contribute towards the overall achievement of the SDGs and how the SDGs can provide a framework for local development policies. Localization is the process of making something local in character or restricting it to a particular place.
Localization will entail multi-stakeholder engagement at national level as well as local-level adaption, implementation and monitoring of SDGs. At least 12 of the 17 SDGs--excepting 9, 12, 13, 14 and 17-require integrated strategies for involvement of the community level to overcome the interlinked challenges. Those SDG goals are basic and secondary education, basic health and sanitation, agriculture, cooperatives, local infrastructure, water supply and sanitation, environment and biodiversity, social protection, and disaster management fall under Local governments.
Bangladesh is divided in east-west'' in terms of access to growth centres. This divide is defined in terms of location of the divisions with reference to the three rivers: the Jamuna, the Padma and the Meghna. Four divisions are on the western side of the rivers. The three other divisions are on the eastern side. Concerning regional disparities, Dhaka, Chattogram and Sylhet seem to do better in terms of both growth and poverty reduction compared with Rajshahi, Rangpur, Khulna and Barishal.
The historic document the Delta Plan 2100 has identified six hotpots in Bangladesh that divided a broad grouping of districts and areas facing similar natural hazards and climate change risks. These are: 1) Coastal Zone (27,738 sq. km); 2) Barind and Drought Prone Areas (22,848 sq. km); 3) Haor and Flash Flood Areas (16,574 sq. km); 4) Chattogram Hill Tracts (13,295 sq. km); 5) River System and Estuaries (35,204 sq. km); and 6) Urban Areas (19,823 sq. km).
The socio-economic, political and cultural problems and prospects of the six "hotspots" are completely different. But it is important that every sub-district of the six "hotspots" has a localised plan for SDGs. It should be based on local problems and solutions. The localisation process may take into account the local resource mapping, sub-district development plan.
The role of non-government organization is remarkable in Bangladesh. Strategy has been prepared by The Hanger Project (THP), an NGO calling for a partnership between: (a) the people; (b) their elected representatives at the local level; (c) a civil society created from the ground up; and (d) the government functionaries responsible for delivering services to the grassroots. These stakeholders are proposed to bring together by a shared vision to achieve the SDGs at the union level. THP has been demonstrating the function of this innovative model in 185 unions, 61 of which are supported by BRAC, as a low-cost solution and sustainable means of achieving the SDGs.
People in 'SDG Unions', including the women and the youth, are awakened and mobilised to make them active as citizens and take action to achieve SDGs. Mobilisation of people create 'social capital', which can make up for lack of 'financial capital', and can be used for solving many social problems through social movements and social resistance.
The local SDG Union is consisted of about 150 or so volunteers for good governance and peace ambassadors. The members of the civil society, on the one hand, act as watchdog over the UPs, and at the same time, works in partnership with the UP representatives. They also empower and mobilise the community members to ensure inclusive decision-making and arrange skills training to help them become authors of their own future.
Local-level government functionaries work with the community members to give them 'accesses' to the available government services, make those services 'affordable', and deliver those with accountability, so that an 'enabling environment' is created for people to succeed.
The poorest of the poor are also mobilised to become 'barefoot researchers' to identify the causes of their poverty, form 'self-help groups (SHGs)', and take other actions necessary to end their own hunger and poverty. This mobilisation of the poor is designed to ensure that "no one is left behind."
Exercising citizen's voice is a collective process. The active citizens from each segment of the society (women, youth, the ultra-poor) are encouraged to form community-based SHGs to make their voices heard, and work together to put forward a concise set of shared priorities. In addition to the body of animators, the SDG Union Strategy trains women leaders, youth leaders, champions of good governance and girls' rights, and PAR facilitators who create groups among the ultra-poor. The leaders of each of these village groups meet together as a Village Development Committee (VDC) to coordinate their activities.
Countries that have actually implemented bottom-up planning and social accountability successfully, have found that the implementation process must begin with a profound shift in the mindset of both functionaries and citizens, from 'benefactor/beneficiary' to 'public servant/active citizen'. The four categories of stakeholders--community members, local government representatives and local level government functionaries working together, create a community-led development approach to achieve the SDGs.
Bangladesh's constitution has given the key responsibilities for social and economic development, including "the preparation and implementation of plans relating to public services and economic development" at the level closest to the people, with the local government bodies, particularly the union parishad (UP), the grass root level local body at the doorstep of the people.
The Local Government (UP) Act of 2009 also strengthens the local government by incorporating the global best practices for direct participation of active citizens in planning and social accountability, through ward meetings for participatory planning, citizen charter, open budget meetings and annual reporting.
The key barrier to effective localization is often found in weak institutions and systems of governance. And while countries face different governance constraints at different stages of their development, the importance of responsive, inclusive and accountable governance systems cannot be understated for SDG localization. In particular, the successful localization of the SDGs requires certain "core enablers" or institutional backing to create the conditions necessary for meaningful development.
The citizens of Bangladesh who live in poverty, meaningful participation in decision-making seems like a far-fetched dream. The politicians and bureaucrats are used to work within highly centralised top-down ministries, where the concept of direct accountability to citizens is a day dream. The work of creating an SDG Union begins through transforming the mindset.
The existing law and rule make the local public representative accountable to law makers and government officials. In order to localize, the SDGs will need to accelerate the necessary progress on SDG implementation. Full alignment of the SDGs at all levels of government requires strong commitment to main stream localization into SDG implementation, coordination, and legal frameworks.
The Constitution of Nepal 2015 envisages a3 tiered, devolved and decentralized architecture of governance, comprising of the Federal, Provincial and Local governments. The aim is clearly to bring the government closer to the people and to enhance the speed and quality of development by providing space for peoples' participation in development governance. As the Constitution aims to actualize its vision of building an inclusive nation, it ensures that key government services are accessible to all citizens and are delivered in a transparent and accountable fashion at all tiers of the government. Nepal may take the Bangladesh experience of SDG union prepared by a NGO to work at grass root level with all the stakeholders.
M S Siddiqui is a Legal Economist