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EVENT


NO MORE NICHE It’s time to move from moral “The best


way to push to do an even better job on the SDGs


is via


citizen demand,


and we know from surveys and recent news cycles that that citizens


are demanding more action.”


Felix Zimmermannn


support for the SDGs to mobilization The OECD Development Communication Network (DevCom) is an international platform to help governments find better ways to engage with citizens for sustainable development. DevCom brings together communications and public affairs experts from the public, private and non-profit sectors to learn from one another and identify good practices. The OFID Quarterly speaks with DevCom Coordinator Felix Zimmermann.


OQ: What are the main issues relating to the SDGs and communication? FZ: Something that has been clear during this event is the urgency of the SDGs. This global agenda is not just a random set of bureaucratic goals. As a global community, we actually need to achieve them. We’re 10 years away from the deadline and we’re not on track.


In SDG-related communications, we


have to move from raising awareness of the goals and building moral support to mobilizing stakeholders and citizens. It’s a different strategy: to support individuals and businesses to play their part in achieving the goals. We need to mobilize government departments too: in too many countries, sustainable development remains a ‘niche’ agenda that doesn’t yet involve all government departments. The third issue after urgency and


mobilization is complexity. The SDG agenda can be overwhelming, but in reality, most aspects of it are really very relatable. Everybody can find their place in it and understand why particular goals are important. We need to communicate how tangible it is.


OQ: Is there a danger that some companies and businesses may use the SDGs for promotion purposes; to justify what is already being done? FZ: If an organization is doing great work, then publicly linking such work to a broader framework like the SDGs is a great thing to do; it makes SDG efforts – and the SDGs themselves – more visible and open to scrutiny. It can help to establish partnerships and bring more stakeholders on board. In this respect, the SDGs are a great way to start a conversation. However, the SDGs are about accountability. Different stakeholder groups are finding different mechanisms to measure and report what they are doing. Governments are submitting voluntary national reviews to the United Nations, but there’s no real standardized procedure for them yet. I think it’d be great if governments could push further and show they’re following a common set of principles when they report on the goals. We’re not there yet. For businesses, too, there’s a whole bunch of new initiatives emerging that enable them to measure their impact on the goals in a genuine way. Common reporting guidelines are being developed and interested businesses can demonstrate they’re making a real change. Here at the festival, I’ve also been inspired by some of the municipalities that have said they are taking on the SDGs – we’ve heard that New York City has delivered is own voluntary report to the UN, for example.


OQ: What more can be done? FZ: All the mechanisms I mention are voluntary. The best way to push governments, cities and businesses to do an even better job on the SDGs is via citizen demand, and we know from surveys and recent news cycles that


that citizens are now demanding more action. People are hitting the streets and changing decades-long voting patterns, suggesting they want change. More and more consumers are making purchasing decisions based on SDG- related criteria. The good thing is that we have a


mandate to engage citizens. SDG 4.7 is all about raising awareness for sustainable development and global citizenship. We need to use this mandate to become strategic about communications. We need to measure our progress in mobilizing citizens and figure out how to do an even better job in convincing citizens to join the effort.


OQ: How does your network help with the SDGs? FZ: DevCom is a platform for organizations that care about the SDGs to come together and share lessons about how to engage, communicate with and mobilize citizens. We bring together governments and international organizations and increasingly other stakeholder groups to share experiences.


See our blog at https://sdg- communicator.org


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