Challenging perspective – a reflection from a Northern NGO

By Andrew Griffiths, Head of Advocacy – Sightsavers, Co-chair, Beyond 2015 and member of Together 2030 Core Group

IMG_1440As a Northern NGO with a specific mandate, how should we best respond to the 2030 Agenda – does it actually change anything for us?

I would love to answer this with a simple and emphatic “yes!”; however, whilst we recognise and accept that this is a universal agenda, this is actually a much more complicated question than it might seem. For one, Sightsavers’ mandate is pretty specific – we work with our partners to prevent avoidable blindness, promote the rights of people with disabilities and support inclusive education. We’re pretty good at these things, and we are delighted when we see these priorities reflected in the SDGs. Nevertheless, we do not have anything in our mandate on clean oceans or climate change, and we know that we can have a greater impact if we focus our resources and work on our priority areas.

So, how does an NGO like Sightsavers better reflect the universality of the 2030 Agenda?

Firstly, we can learn about the impact of our work on different areas of the SDGs, including on the environment. Protecting the environment will never be the main objective of Sightsavers, just like preventing avoidable blindness will never be the mandate of environmental NGOs; but we can look at the impact that our work has across the agenda, even if we have to take it one step at a time. Understanding the impact of our work across the agenda will be the first step in better aligning with the SDGs.

Secondly, we can learn from the experience of other civil society organisations. It is essential that we get better at building on each other’s work, rather than constantly re-learning the same lessons again and again. As an example, we are aiming to work with others through the Together 2030 initiative to see how indicators can be translated from the global to the national-level. We’ll look for examples in a couple of countries with a couple of indicators, and would love it if others do the same, and then commit to share their experiences.

And thirdly, we can support wide-ranging initiatives like Together 2030, which build the collective capacity of civil society on implementation and accountability.

We see Together 2030 as an important part of a wider eco-system that will help civil society organisations to implement the SDGs and hold governments to account. Sightsavers knows it has a lot it can give to this initiative, so we are committed to working with others to build it – and will devote resources and capacity to make it work.

These are just some of the things we think we can do to reflect the universality of the 2030 Agenda. I am sure it is not all, and would be very interested in hearing the perspective of others. We are all taking small steps into the realms of SDG implementation and it’s always better to do that together.

Contact the author:; Twitter: @griffithsar


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