Many heard of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but how to deal with them and how to apply them in own activities was not clear. That was the reason why the NGO Development Centre, a Forum member organisation, organised on 29-30 January 2019 the International Workshop “Sustainable Development Goals in the NGO Work” in St. Petersburg. Its major aim was to try out the Agenda 2030 and SDGs for NGO activities in Russia, as well as to share experiences of implementation of SDGs among nonprofit organisations in the EU and Russia.
The format of the first day was a training for trainers, which was conducted by Rilli Lappalainen, Head of the FINGO Association (Finland), Inese Vaivare, Director at the LAPAS Association (Latvia), Martin Fielko and Alina Gruen of the Collective Leadership Institute (Germany). On the second day, the seminar participants – heads of resource centres and community foundations from eight Russian regions, as well as experts, researchers, representatives of environmental and social NGOs from four countries – shared their opinions and attitudes to how the SDGs are applied in the NGO work. In the focus, there were four goals – gender equality (Goal 5); peace, justice and strong institutions (Goal 16); sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11) and partnership for the goals (Goal 17).
The main conclusion is: The goals might indeed be an all-humanitarian platform for cooperations among organisations, which are distinctive in their fields of work, as well as for search for new partners and new viewpoints in the NGO work.
A feature of the goals is that we perceive them not only rationally, but also emotionally. As we associate them, for instance, with hopes for a better future, for sustainable development and preserving life on our planet, as well as with a sense of belonging to something greater. Goals apply to all countries without exception, rich and poor, economically developed and developing.
An important task is to create a situation, where implementation of single goals wouldn’t impede progress in other fields. To enable sustainable development by policy-makers, the politics should be aimed at the development “right here right now”, “wherever it is” and – simultaneously – at the future. NGOs should think globally and act locally, to talk goals in a way they would be understood not only by experts but also by ordinary citizens.
A very interesting practice has been in operation in Finland since 2016 – a tool for voluntary commitment. Anyone – a person, a ministry, a school, an NGO – can publicly commit to achieve a specific goal within a year. A year later, they report on the results, and those commitments are published on a special website “The Finland we want by 2050”.
The workshop participants noted that the Sustainable Development Goals help to overcome disunity, thematic divisions within NGO sector, to adjust the interaction of NGOs working in different areas – gender equality and the struggle for peace, human rights, ecology and urban development, and others.
Marina Mikhailova, Garant, Arkhangelsk:
“The problem that Russian NGOs face is that we have no communities. People do not identify themselves with communities, and our task is to help them understand that they have common issues. We do this by supporting micro-projects, initiatives of the most enterprising people. The step-by-step mechanism that all resource centers use is to help people articulate those problems they want to solve and tasks they want to achieve, in order to show them that there are resources to leverage.”
Inese Vaivare, LAPAS, Latvia:
“We need to uphold our values, but at the same time we need to cooperate constructively with each other. We in Latvia chose this approach: not to criticise people for doing something wrong, whether they do not do waste sorting or eat the wrong food, but to show those people some positive examples. Therefore, we talk about NGOs work that contribute to sustainable development, although themselves they sometimes do not call it that way.”
The workshop participants agreed to fix the results of the meeting within the online course “Sustainable Development Goals in the NGO Work” targeted at representatives of NGOs, local communities, initiative groups, as well as activists from Russia and the EU. The course will be launched in spring at the NGO Development Centre. Besides, the Reference Book “Global Goals with Local Agendas – Improvement of Cooperation between Finnish and Russian NGOs” – will be published, which will be presenting ten best practices from the EU and Russia on development of civic participation in sustainable development of regions and displaying information on cooperation between Russian and Finnish NGOs. The Reference Book will be presented at the 9th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in Bratislava in early May.
The workshop was held in cooperation with partners, also member organisations of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum – “Most” and FINGO (Finland), the GRANI Centre (Perm), the Agency for Social Information (Moscow), the “Civil Union” Foundation (Penza), the “Sluzhenie” Association (Nizhny Novgorod), the Community Foundation of Tiumen (Tiumen), supported by the Collective Leadership Institute (Germany) and the LAPAS Association (Latvia). The past workshop is a part of the Project “Global Goals with Local Agendas: Sustainable Development Principles in the NGO Work in the EU and Russia”,
The Project has been financially supported within the framework of the Forum Partnership Projects.