Striving for the SDGs: How civic engagement is going to be key

Full Text Sharing

Who might imagine that countries like Singapore and Kuwait are slow performers in terms of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, the road map set up by the United Nations and all its member states to measures countries ‘progress towards a better, fairer, more resilient world?

According to the Sustainable Development Report 2019, recently published by Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a brainchild of Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, the renowned professor at Columbia University and by Bertelsmann Foundation, Singapore is only at 66th position in a scorecard that measures countries ‘progress towards the SDGs while Kuwait is only at 106th place out of 162 countries assessed.

The top 9 countries are all European Union Members with the usual Scandinavian scoring the best, first Denmark, followed by Sweden and third Finland while within the South Asia region the first position goes to Maldives, 47th globally.

Nepal achieved the 103rd position while Bhutan is at the 84th , Sri Lanka 93th, India is 115th  followed by Bangladesh, 116th and Pakistan with a dismal 130th place.

The scoreboard, while is not an official UN sanctioned chart, is still relevant because it looks at the actions being taken in the last year by countries around the world.

Clearly enough, Nepal is not exactly doing great with only “moderately improving” in most of the indicators attached to the 17 SDGs with the major worries related to Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG. No. 11) and Life on the Land (SDG No. 15) were the efforts undertaken are stagnating.

Interestingly in the indicators related living in the cities, the trends are getting better with more people satisfied with public transportation and my guess here is that we should all thanks the green buses of Sajha Yatayat who recently got the backing of the government to purchase 300 electric buses.

On a most promising side, the report shows that Nepal is making positive efforts in the field of climate change and while we are aware of the daunting challenges ahead in this field, it is encouraging to know that steps being taken by the country to turn local communities more climate resilient are regarded positively internationally.

Overall, while results extrapolated through data and policy analysis might not totally reflect the reality on the ground, the findings show that Nepal must and can do much more to achieve the SDGs.

At the same time the reports shows that even some much more developed nations, duly held responsible by the report for their negative spillover effects especially in terms of pollution and environment degradation caused by their economic activities, are also having their struggles to become more sustainable and resilient especially when the global economic indicators are not so supportive of a massive economic growth especially in trade centered countries like Singapore.

In short in Nepal like all over the world, there is no room for complacency in matter of SDGs and big steps must be taken.

Prof. Sachs and his team of researches highlight the role of “transformational changes” that are needed by countries all over the world to make a quantum leap towards the fulfillment of the goals, because even the most progressive nations are not any closer to meet the goals.

The report highlights six areas where governments in partnership with civil society and private sector must undertake such profound changes: Education, Gender, and Inequality; Health, Wellbeing, and Demography; Energy Decarbonization and Sustainable Industry; Sustainable Food, Land, Water, Oceans; Sustainable Cities and Communities; Digital Revolution for Sustainable Development.

The past month of July was also busy with the 2019 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development held in the United Nations in New York under the theme “Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality”.

The Forum is the premier platform to discuss about the implementation of SDGs and it is an interplay of civil society led events and a ministerial forum where nations present the so called Voluntary National Reviews or VNR, a mild effort to keep countries accountable to their pledges.

The July Forum could be seen as a warm up session of the SDG Summit to be held in New York on the 24th and 25th of September, the first time where the Heads of State will meet to review the implementation of the global goals since their adoption in 2015.

As now Nepal is experiencing a transitional institutional phase marred by confusion and competition between the federal and local governments.

From education to security issues, there is lack of farsightedness in solving the major challenges faced by the nation cooperatively.

Working on the sustainable development goals should not be seen as something abstract or parallel to tasks and actions already being undertaken or being planned.

At the end of the day everything we plan and we do in terms of national development is related to the sustainable development goals.

It is also a great opportunity to promote civic engagement as every single citizen should commit to take small doable actions to implement the goals at personal level.

Maybe each classroom or each family should come up with its own mini scorecard related to some of the goals as it might be daunting focusing on all seventeen.

Companies also should seriously get involved in achieving goals even if some like Yeti Airlines have already embarked on a serious work towards that end.

The national business associations like the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry and all the Chambers of Commerce should be the catalyst for action.

They can start small and get bolder by securing small and scalable achievements.

We should not forget change starts at personal level and everybody is responsible to ensure that Nepal can getter a better score in the Sustainable Development Report 2020.

On a closing note there was news that Prime Minister Oli might not feel the need to travel to New York for the UN General Assembly,  the institutional  framework through which the SDGs Summit will be organized from.

Maybe he is right because he wants to focus on solving local problems and get things done on the grounds but the summit would be not only a very important showcase for a country like Nepal but also an opportunity to learn from others and show the country’s resolve to be among the pioneer nations in matter of poverty reduction, creation of opportunities for all and reduction of climate change.

Nepal could also step forward and punch above his weigh and be one of the few countries that planning and moving forward with a second Voluntary National Review, something that could put some positive pressure on all the stakeholders to roll up their sleeves for the SDGs.

Perhaps this trip is really worthy to be undertaken by the Prime Minister….

Galimberti is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities. He can be reached at


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.