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Reaching the furthest behind first is the answer to leaving no one behind

This article was originally published by the UN on July 14th 2017

Addressing the critical needs of indigenous peoples, the elderly, people with disabilities and other marginalized groups is the best way of ensuring that no one is left behind by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This was one of the key messages of an animated SDG Live interview held on the sidelines of the High‑Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which featured some of the most prominent civil society activists, global experts and local leaders attending the event.

The panelists called on governments and other stakeholders to resist the temptation of helping those that are easiest to reach first in order to boost their statistics. Instead, they proposed allocating more resources to the most excluded and hardest to reach groups.

Inclusiveness, sense of ownership and adequate funding were identified in the debate as the issues that will make or break the SDGs implementation.

“I believe that in 2030, if we succeed, we’re going to celebrate [together], if we fail, we’re going to fail together,” said Nigussie Yetnebersh, Senior Inclusion Advisor at Light for the World – an international development and disability organization.

“We cannot say that [the] goals are met without making sure that everybody, despite all the human diversity, is included. The indigenous [people], women, men, [people with] disabilities (…) – unless it’s met for everybody, it cannot be met in 2030,” Ms. Yetnebersh added.

The debate participants stressed the need to treat the furthest behind as development actors, not beneficiaries of charity. Joan Carling, co-convenor of the indigenous peoples major group on sustainable development, highlighted their potential to contribute to the SDGs implementation.

“They’re not just marginalized, they are contributing,” she said. “They have skills, they have talents and that counts. (…) Even if they are marginalized, they are people with dignity.”

“The issues of marginalized groups – those who are left behind – they are not just charity (…),” added Ms. Yetnebersh. “Poverty is not a [question of] charity, it’s a [question of] of justice. So they really need to be resourced for what they really need to be.”

In other SDG Live interviews, mayors and municipal representatives reflected on cities as the frontlines of SDGs implementation and on the role of local authorities in translating a global development agenda into a package of specific day-to-day services for their citizens.

Two of the architects of the 2030 Agenda – Kenya’s Ambassador to the UN Macharia Kamau and the Executive Director of UNITAR Nikhil Seth – discussed how SDGs allow countries to deliver an integrated development package that answers their peoples’ fundamental needs.

A panel on citizen participation concluded that the main challenge the SDGs face is maintaining the enthusiasm and the energy over 15 years and with no easy wins on the way. “This will be a generation-long fight,” said Judith Rowland, Head of Advocacy at Global Citizen.

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