Source: VANI, Voluntary Action Network India, Forus Member in India
Being a country with second largest population and socio-economic diversity, India faces a herculean task of achieving SDGs. It is commonly said that India’s success in achieving the SDGs can change the face of the world. Voluntary Action Network India (VANI) in collaboration with Forus has been undertaking various initiatives to access and strengthen this challenging path of Indian Voluntary Development Organizations. Since SDGs promote inclusivity, Indian VOs are also working towards developing holistic approach under the slogan of “Leave No One Behind”.
We all know that cherry picking of SDGs are being done worldwide and same is the case in India. Whether VOs or Government, there is selective focus on some as per the expectation and vision. Under this initiative, VANI is working on a threefold strategy. Firstly, analyze the multi-stakeholder partnership; secondly, gauging the level of awareness among CSOs about SDGs; and thirdly, levelling the knowledge and localizing the SDGs among the grassroots.
India presented its first Voluntary National Review (VNR) report in 2017 at the HLPF. Although, VOs and government had been working hand in hand at the national level, the contribution of VOs was overlooked. The VOs felt heart-broken, because they were part of various consultations organized during the preparation of the report. Hence, the first lesson for VOs was to empower grass-roots to national level VOs, so that they can actively participate and act as an equal player in the preparation of second VNR report of India, which is scheduled in 2020. In order to understand the status, gap and level of awareness about the SDGs, VANI undertook an online survey among its members, that ranges from grass-roots to national level and out of 566, 113 responded. The number of responses reflected the motivation and attachment with SDGs. Moreover, the spectrum of SDGs is so wide that almost all the VOs are working on one or another goal. However, there are knowledge gaps among VOs about the interlinkages. 85% have heard about it, but only 44% could link it with welfare schemes which is in line with SDGs. Quite substantial number (74%) felt the absence of platform to engage with government, and 88% were unaware about the process of reporting.
Apart from online survey, VANI also organized three face to face consultations at regional (provincial) levels in Western, Eastern and Southern India. 90 representatives from 80 VOs covering 13 states reinforced the findings of online survey. A strong voice of desire to participate in SDG related processes was expressed. The challenge to empower VOs, getting them out of their silos and need for intensive awareness campaign was expressed. Considering the diversity of language, decentralized model of governance and focus on all 17 goals, various strategies to tackle were suggested.
As a follow up of the above, VANI has started working with NITI Aayog, the nodal agency for Government of India for SDGs to promote engagement of VDOs. Various networks of VDOs at state level have started dialogues with local governments to develop platforms for sharing and learning on an ongoing basis.
As a step in this direction, VANI is planning to organise a round table multi-stakeholder dialogue with sector experts, CSOs, Academia, Donors, Corporate and Government Officials to promote the cause of VOs and stakeholder engagement in achieving the SDGs.
A policy document is also being prepared highlighting the issues and suggested pathways by VANI.