Building public awareness and engaging national, sub-national and local stakeholders in The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDGs is a critical initial and ongoing step in successful implementation. Beyond awareness, achieving a similar level of understanding among governmental and non-governmental stakeholders is critical. This means reaching out to all levels and sectors with information that is tailored to their specific functions, roles, and responsibilities.
A clear understanding of the benefits of aligning national and sub-national plans and policy-making processes with The 2030 Agenda and SDGs as well as building ownership for it among people, including the marginalised, provides the foundation for its real and lasting delivery. Done well, this step can enhance the impact of all other guidance areas in this note (B2 through B9), and ultimately, the impact of the agenda itself. Given that the SDGs are a global agenda, it is critical to support national audiences in linking them to local concerns, thus helping to ensure sustainable public support for the SDGs.
Member States can begin building public awareness on The 2030 Agenda and SDGs as an opportunity to promote an existing or forthcoming national development strategy or plan and to display its intentions to be part of the global partnership to make progress toward the SDGs in their national, sub-national and local contexts.
A foundation for any effort in raising the public awareness of The 2030 Agenda is its universal and integrated nature – connecting the global and local, leaving no one behind, promoting human rights and gender equality, and addressing economic, social and environmental sustainability.
To assist Member States in building awareness of the profound importance of The 2030 Agenda and SDGs, a parallel and multi-pronged approach can be facilitated by UNCTs, possibly led by their country communications groups, including:
- An introductory workshop series: to sensitize government officials and stakeholders to The 2030 Agenda and SDGs (and to review national development plans for their alignment with the SDGs – see Section B3);
- A public awareness campaign: to communicate The 2030 Agenda and SDGs to the general public, including women, children, youth, and others as applicable, such as internally displaced persons, and non-nationals such as refugees and stateless persons; and
- Opportunity management: to leverage other government and UN-sponsored meetings and forums to sensitize government officials and stakeholders to The 2030 Agenda and SDGs.
MDG Lessons Learned in Advocacy and Awareness Raising
- Advocacy and awareness raising is a strategic activity that needs to be adapted to the country context, well planned, and adequately resourced. Countries such as Bangladesh, Albania, Honduras, and Kenya (amongst many others) have developed detailed advocacy strategies that consider carefully who to reach, why they are important to communicate with, and various means to do it. As such, they have been particularly effective in mobilizing communities around the MDGs and informing them about the Goals. Furthermore, these efforts have usually been done through the UN Resident Coordinator’s office in partnership with members of the UNCT. This is a particularly effective way to draw upon the expertise of the entire UNCT, and distribute the cost and effort of organizing the advocacy initiatives.
- Sub-national advocacy and awareness campaigns in a particular area are a powerful means for engaging communities in Localization processes. Albania provides a unique example whereby local landmarks, renowned personalities, songs, imagery, and other aspects of the region were used in advocacy materials to make the MDGs relevant to the local reality in order to promote participation in the formulation of an MDG-based local development strategy.
- Marginalized communities such as women, youth, internally displaced persons, non-nationals such as refugees and stateless persons, and minorities may need unique advocacy approaches to ensure that the messages reach them and are relevant.
- Evaluating the results of advocacy campaigns is essential, though not frequently done. Activities should be evaluated to see if they are successful in providing information or changing behavior.
- Choosing the medium for the message is crucial to ensure that the target audiences can receive the information. Exclusive means such as the Internet are often not conducive to usage at the sub-national level, whereas live events, printed material (with imagery and text), and radio may be more useful.
- The private sector can assist with promotion and advocacy through their product and service distribution channels.
Source: UNDP (2007).
Building public awareness should be understood as a first step towards a participatory process in implementing the 2030 Agenda. Genuine participation and access to information are cornerstones of empowerment; participation having many instrumental gains as a result of using local knowledge, exposing local preferences, raising resource allocation efficiency, and maximizing ownership and sustainability of development. Consequently, awareness raising efforts should be participatory processes, which are critically assessed, to see whether they:
- Reflect minimum standards for the process, which should be agreed on by all participants;
- Operate at all stages, including the design, implementation and monitoring of development strategies;
- Include women and marginalized groups and develop specific channels of participation if this is necessary;
- Prevent elite capture and reinforcement of existing social hierarchies and power relations;
- Are transparent and provide sufficient and accessible information;
- Provide accountability mechanisms to ensure that the participatory process is held to these standards. (OHCHR 2008)
Introductory Workshop Series on The 2030 Agenda and SDGs
UNITAR has prepared a Post-2015 National Briefing Package entitled ‘Preparing for Action’. This package consists of a series of interactive workshop training modules and is ideal for sensitizing national government officials and stakeholders to The 2030 Agenda and SDGs.
The starting point for UNCTs is to meet with the Member State government ministry that participated directly in the Post-2015 process to determine how much awareness raising has already occurred. A series of Introductory Workshops can then be planned accordingly. A comprehensive Introductory Workshop Series to sensitize government officials, civil society organizations, including women’s organizations, businesses and other stakeholder groups to the structure and content of The 2030 Agenda and SDGs could include the following phases:
Phase 1: Introductory workshop with the government agency(s) responsible for national development planning and national statistics. Working with these agencies, other workshops can be planned, including:
Phase 2: Introductory workshop with remaining national government departments and other national stakeholders. To foster increased national ownership, the participants of the first phase might be facilitators or presenters for the second and third phases; and
Phase 3: Introductory workshops in the capital cities of the sub-national governments (inviting the sub-national government, city government, local businesses, civil society organizations, indigenous peoples groups, and persons affected by displacement, statelessness or living through complex emergencies).
The introductory workshop process will also allow for stakeholders to define the context and how they envision the SDGs being realised within their country. This is particularly important within a humanitarian or conflict/post-conflict context. The selection of stakeholders in all instances must be carefully managed to ensure real representation of all sectors of the population and government, not just the line ministries and favored individuals (see Section B2 on Applying Multi-stakeholder Approaches).
Innovative Case Example: UNITAR’s National Post-2015 Development Agenda Briefing Package in Uganda
The Ugandan government was the first in piloting this briefing package in Kampala, together with the UN Country Team and two training experts from UNITAR. The event unfolded over two days and was led by the government and facilitated by representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development; and the National Planning Authority. Experts from UNDP and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) also contributed to facilitation by presenting a global perspective on the evolving issues of global partnership, financing for development, review, follow-up, and SDG synergies.
The exercise highlighted how the government of Uganda has already made significant progress in integrating the proposed SDGs into national planning. Specifically, the proposed National Development Plan II (NDPII) already includes many of the SDGs and a significant portion of the proposed targets have been adjusted to the national context.
Public Awareness Campaign on The 2030 Agenda and SDGs
The mass outreach and marketing of sustainable development concepts and agendas has been one of the critical weaknesses of efforts since the 1992 Earth Summit. While sustainable development has entered the vocabulary of experts and the interested public, the terminology and concept has yet to fully permeate the general public and political discourse. Given today’s Internet and social media platforms, combined with traditional media, as well as the outreach capacity of civil society organizations and volunteer groups, there are more avenues than ever to reach the general public. These are particularly relevant to reach younger audiences, whose members will be both key actors as well as the inheritors of the world the SDGs seek to create.
Awareness-raising is a continuous process. Specific outreach initiatives should occur with the scope, frequency, and objective varying from country to country. A first wave can sensitise the public regarding the SDGs overall, and what they mean for the nation in the context of its existing development vision and plan. It is important to note that public awareness of the SDGs within a country should be done in the context of the country’s national development vision and plan, so as to be clear that it is a nationally-owned process. A second wave could be more specifically linked to the nationally adapted SDGs with national targets and timelines (see Section B3).
MDG Lessons: Brazil’s Experience with the MDGs
Capacity to understand the goals should be added to the capacities necessary to effectively localize an international agenda. This is also supported by UNDP’s engagement on the MDGs in Brazil. In Brazil, the MDGs were used as a framework to form a pro-MDG movement by unifying diverse CSOs, private companies, Government officials and citizens around a common goal. For this to succeed, awareness was raised on how the MDGs apply to Brazil and the fact that their outcome depends on local, not international, action.
The experience in Brazil reveals a few important lessons on awareness raising for the MDGs, such as: early engagement of partners can increase commitment and meaningful collaboration; an MDG campaign may require distinct phases of education and advocacy to build the necessary foundations for action; and monitoring development progress can fuel MDG advocacy by providing evidence of needs, inequalities and successful policies.
With assistance from UNCTs, Member states could work to increase public awareness of their existing national development strategy/plan, while at the same time marketing The 2030 Agenda and SDGs to the general public and how local and regional governments (LRGs), businesses and civil society organizations (CSOs) can be part of a national and global partnership.
A work plan could be developed for a sustained media outreach campaign utilizing traditional avenues (i.e., TV, Radio, newsprint) and Internet and social media platforms to communicate the salient aspects of the country’s national development plan and how, through achieving and improving its own plan, it will contribute towards progress of The 2030 Agenda globally.
This aspect provides a space for considerable creativity and innovation. For example, Uganda has ‘goal ambassadors’ to raise public awareness, with a Nobel Laureate representing Goal #16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Other examples of creativity in Uganda include illustrating the alignment of the SDGs to the Ugandan national anthem, use of the UNICEF U-report process and an SDG-Journey publication, and asking the president to wear a Goal#16 t-shirt on peace, justice and strong institutions. Also, training of local media on reporting on SDGs was undertaken and in this regard, reporters will be supported to open a media platform on SDGs, but also to prepare investigative pieces on relevant topics.
As a further illustration, consider the case of Colombia where a Mayors online training course was developed in collaboration with UNITAR. This course was inundated by 2000 applications, providing leaders with the opportunity to talk about the relevance of the various SDGs. Also, in Belarus the UN70 Express Train for SDGs provided a unique exercise to engage broad groups of people from different backgrounds into an open conversation about their priorities and specific challenges (see Innovative Case Example below).
Innovative Case Example: The UN70 Belarus Express Train for SDGs
The UN in Belarus, in collaboration with the Government has recently organized an initiative called the UN70 Belarus Express for SDGs – a train that traveled around the country in October 2015 visiting seven regional cities with a goal to raise awareness about SDGs and foster a dialogue at the local level on the priorities, challenges and opportunities within the new development agenda. The UN70 Belarus Express for SDGs involved more than 150,000 persons in its activities all over the country.
The train itself was not just a means of transportation, but also a platform for numerous discussions and events focused on SDGs. Ministers, Government officials, parliamentarians, all the regional Governors, more than 100 NGOs, more than 25 private sector partners, more than 30 embassies, students, journalists, religious leaders from all faiths, artists and celebrities, representatives of vulnerable groups such as people living with disabilities, people living with HIV, victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, youth at risk, refugees and displaced persons and more than 240 UN staff from both resident and non-resident agencies took part in the Initiative.
Source: UN Belarus (2015), UNDG and UNDP (2015)
The UN Millennium Campaign has been mobilizing citizen support for the MDGs since 2002. It has contributed to the global outreach efforts to increase people’s engagement in the global conversation around The 2030 Agenda including through the MY World survey.
Continuing the work of the UN Millennium Campaign, the new UN Sustainable Development Goals Campaign will concentrate its efforts on:
- Popularising the goals in every country through action-oriented engagement activities and training for key groups such as parliamentarians, municipal leaders, and civil society;
- Bringing stakeholders together to support implementation efforts led by governments, particularly from civil society; and
- Sponsoring people-driven processes to track progress on the agenda through crowdsourcing and grass-roots mobilization, including through MY World 2030, which is an evolution of the MY World platform and enhanced volunteer efforts at local level.
‘Project Everyone’ is part of the global outreach campaign for The 2030 Agenda and SDGs. It includes multiple traditional and social media assets and tools to reach a maximum number of people. Such a campaign could be emulated at a national level, with an objective to reach every citizen in the country to share information about the existing or forthcoming national plan and how it will endeavour to integrate the SDGs at the national level and how sub-national and local governments could follow suit.
A key element of the Project Everyone global outreach campaign is building awareness of the world’s youth. For example, The World’s Largest Lesson is designed to be the biggest ever collaborative education project inviting teachers from around the world to submit exciting lesson plans, with the winning ideas published as a “global set of learning resources on The World’s Largest Lesson website, to enable teachers to craft a relevant lesson on the SDGs for the children that they teach.”
Additionally, the Education 2030 Framework for Action was prepared by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and global stakeholders in 2015. This framework advances a common understanding of SDG #4 and related targets and provides a foundation not only for the future of education, but also for sustained public awareness on sustainable development and systems thinking through education.
Innovative Case Example: The Millennium Campaign
The Millennium Campaign was launched in 2002 two years after the Millennium Declaration was signed. The Campaign encourages young people worldwide to add their voice to the global fight against poverty. Through partnerships with various global youth networks and organizations, the Campaign supports youth-led movement across the world on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
As an example of one of its platforms, the Campaign partnered with the cable TV network Nickelodeon to broadcast across its 26 channels in the US, Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America a series of 30-second original animation shorts highlighting how the MDGs affect the lives of kids worldwide and what they can do to have a voice in their future. Each short in the Nick 2015 campaign encourages kids to pledge their support via the web site.
Other forms of engagement can be leveraged to sensitize government officials and to raise public awareness that are perhaps less formal (and less costly), but can also be effective and build on existing channels. These opportunities could include for example, dedicated sessions on SDGs at donor coordination meetings, press briefings or meetings with the press (on and off the record), UN-wide town hall meetings, opinion pieces in the local press, the use of existing social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and mobile phone messaging (e.g., UNICEF’s U-Report initiative7, see Innovative Case Example below).
Innovative Case Example: U-Report Initiative Reaching Millions of People
U-Report is an innovative communication technology developed by UNICEF and revolutionizes social mobilization, monitoring and response efforts: It equips mobile phone users with the tools to establish and enforce new standards of transparency and accountability in development programs and services.
“U-report is gaining popularity because it has given Ugandans the ability to inform other Ugandans and to take action…We can ask questions about issues throughout the country and get answers right away – by district, by gender, by age – and that helps us know where to concentrate our limited response resources and how best to advise our governments and aid partners.”
UNITAR National Briefing Package
The UNITAR Post-2015 National Briefings are “a self-explanatory integrated toolkit designed to support national facilitators in planning and delivering briefings at the country level.” The package includes:
- Detailed program, organized in six modules with guidance for facilitators;
- Discussion questions prepared with guidance from the UNDG Sustainable Development Working Group;
- Kit with presentations, quizzes, videos, participants’ manual and methodologies for discussion groups.
Modules 1 and 2 are particularly suited to the Introductory Workshop Series on the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. An easy 10-step process is outlined to help UNCTs organize a national briefing.
‘Project Everyone’ is part of the global outreach campaign for The 2030 Agenda and uses multiple outreach platforms, including online collaborations with Google/YouTube, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn and Wikipedia. A key aspect of the Project Everyone outreach campaign is The World’s Largest Lesson, a collaboration with UNICEF to get information on the SDGs in classrooms around the world.
Outreach potential today has a tremendous advantage compared to the post-1992 Earth Summit era. This is due primarily to the Internet and its social media platforms such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, to name a few. For example, UNICEF’s U-report initiative. These platforms could be used to their fullest advantage for reporting as well as for advocacy and consensus-building, in accordance with the national government’s guidelines on the use of social media.
Advanced Tool: Strategic Social Marketing
Commercial marketing and advertising has evolved over the decades into a hugely successful discipline for the private sector in promoting products and services. The use of similar approaches by the public and not-for-profit sectors for social change purposes is termed ‘social marketing’. The International Social Marketing Association notes that “Social Marketing seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviours that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good.” Some practitioners distinguish between ‘operational social marketing’ – addressing specific behavioral issues (i.e., anti-smoking campaigns), and ‘strategic social marketing’ – to inform policy and strategy development. For more information see ‘The Big Pocket Guide to Using Social Marketing for Behavioral Change’.
References and Links
OHCHR (2008). Claiming the Millennium Development Goals: A human rights approach. Available at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/Claiming_MDGs_en.pdf
UNDG and UNDP (2015). Retreat report on early Country Experiences in Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support (MAPS) for the 2030 Agenda. United Nations Development Program., New York, 1-3 December 2015. Available at: https://undg.org/main/undg_document/retreat-on-mainstreaming-the-2030-agenda-2425-november-2015/
UNDP (2007). Localizing the MDGs for Effective Integrated Local Development: An Overview of Practices and Lessons Learned. United Nations Development Program. Available at: http://web.iaincirebon.ac.id/ebook/moon/RegionalStudies/Localizing_the_MDGs.pdf