By Alexandra Cairns, External Affairs Manager, Kupona Foundation

The Sustainable Development Goals, now referred to as the Global Goals, are finally here. Seventeen goals established to achieve three extraordinary things in the next fifteen years: end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change. We’ve spent the last two weeks at events in New York City, all of which centered around one question: how do we accomplish these goals? Here, I summarize Kupona Foundation’s three key takeaways from UNGA week.

“Integrated Development is not a panacea” UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

The importance of integrated development, the concept of bringing together stakeholders from a range of policy areas and disciplines in order to foster sustainable change, is undeniable. How can you encourage positive health-seeking behavior without considering education? Or promote equality without addressing access to employment, education and healthcare? As Gregory Beck, Director of Integrated Development at FHI360 put it at the event, ‘Does 1+1=3,’ “people don’t live their lives in silos…shouldn’t our work reflect that?” For the team at Kupona Foundation, our most important takeaway from this discussion came from UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who said, “Integrated development is not a panacea.” It should not be a substitute for specialism. It’s about bringing experts in singular fields together and encouraging collaboration, not about suddenly trying to become a jack-of-all-trades, and master of none.

Data is a vital tool, but it shouldn’t hinder progress

Data driven decision-making is effective. In an industry where resources are limited, and competition for those resources is fierce, data helps direct our support to the most effective programs where the need is greatest. Data keeps donor dollars from falling into a black hole, and it helps us, as development actors, to evaluate our progress towards ambitious goals. But we were privy to some very interesting discussions over the last two weeks, in particular during the audience Q&A session of the Jhpiego, G4 Alliance and GE Foundation Safe Surgery event. Will we ever feel like we have enough data? Should we keep waiting for more? We know millions of people are dying or developing impairments because they lack access to healthcare and sanitation. How much more data do we need to convince us to take action? It’s an important discussion, and one that we look forward to being a part of.

Partnership is Key

Photo Credit: Kupona Foundation
Photo Credit: Kupona Foundation

No matter where your personal affinity lies, whether you choose to focus your efforts on health, the environment, or peace and justice, shouldn’t Global Goal 17, ‘Partnerships for the Goals’ be at the top of everyone’s agenda? Through partnerships we both maintain the integrity of our expertise, and break down silos. We can share data to inform decision making, without being shackled by the demands of collecting and analyzing information alone. We can work together to divide and conquer seventeen Herculean tasks. Fifteen years is not a long time to achieve goals of this magnitude. As Joy Marini, Executive Director, Maternal and Child Health, Women and Girls at Johnson & Johnson said at their ‘Walking Together for Women and Children’ event last Sunday, “the [Global Goals] are bold and unforgiving. Nobody can do this alone.”

Now it’s time to ‘walk the talk’

This was a momentous few weeks for global development, triggering fascinating discussions, forging new partnerships and triggering a renewed focus on sustainable change. Now all that’s left for us to do is take a deep breath, and start taking action. We’ve talked the talk. Now we need to walk the walk.

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