Lending a hand, filling a gap

Government, philanthropists and business can forge partnerships and blend financial models to achieve sustainable development goals.

Written by Jaco Cilliers | Published:February 22, 2017 12:00 am
Sustainable Development Goals, SDG, world transformation, SDG 2030, Sustainable Development Goals 2030, agenda 2030, narendra modi, PM Modi, social development, India Philanthropy Report 2015, asia pacific wealth report, UNDP, KPF, indian express news, india news, indian express opinion India is pivotal to the eventual outcome of these SDGs. (Representational image)

The world’s governments have agreed on an ambitious agenda to transform our world by 2030, adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to ensure no one is left behind, and everyone benefits from development efforts. Agenda 2030 is unprecedented in scope and significance: The SDGs are multi-dimensional and interconnected, and the scale of the challenge at hand is vast. Realising these 17 goals will require deep commitment, trillions of dollars in investment, and innovative ideas and approaches. It will also require institutions and individuals to bring together the very best they have to offer in order to achieve this shared vision of prosperity for all.

India is pivotal to the eventual outcome of these SDGs. Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the declaration on behalf of the country, and the Government of India and state governments have taken full ownership of this ambitious agenda. Many of the central and state governments’ existing flagship schemes and policies, and their strategic vision for achieving prosperity for all, link clearly to the SDGs. Crucial to the world meeting the SDGs by 2030 will be our ability to build opportunities for meaningful collaboration between all stakeholders, including governments, businesses and community organisations. It is therefore important to develop creative models that can strategically harness financing for development, private capital and philanthropic funds to bridge the gap between the quantum of funds required and public funds.

Investment from the private sector into social development is an important piece for solving the financial puzzle, particularly when it comes to mobilising capital to maximise development spending in priority areas for the government. India’s philanthropic and business sectors can play a critical role in supporting and accelerating ongoing work in these areas. Renewed commitment, coordination and alignment between the government and the philanthropy sector could well bring much-needed funds to the table, as well as contribute technical knowledge, skills and energy for development programmes.

The India Philanthropy Report 2015, which tracks the growth of philanthropy in India, paints a very encouraging picture. Since 2009, India has added more than 100 million private donors, and they are contributing to a wide array of causes. According to the Asia-Pacific Wealth Report 2016, the number of high net worth individuals in India has grown faster than in other developing countries. This, and India’s impressive economic growth, suggest plenty of untapped potential to unlock funds for social development. Philanthropy can also complement efforts underway to forge more partnerships and blended financial models to achieve the SDGs. India has already adopted an innovative method of getting businesses to pitch in through the new Companies Act.

Earlier this year, I was privileged to be a part of discussions on an initiative that aims to make it easier for philanthropists, causes and partners to work together. The SDG Philanthropy Platform, soon to be launched in India, is an initiative of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Foundation Center and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Already operational in seven pilot countries (Colombia, the US, Indonesia, Kenya, China, Ghana and Zambia), it aims to bring the philanthropy sector into the partnership of those addressing the world’s grand challenges as identified by the SDGs. The platform stems from the notion that only a collective push and deeper partnerships can achieve lasting systemic change.

This means expanding and deepening strategic collaboration with the private sector across multiple SDGs while increasing awareness of the benefits of greater coordination among private and public donors, and between donors and grantees.

In Kenya, for instance, the platform facilitated the creation of the Kenya Philanthropy Forum (KPF). The KPF was instrumental to the Kenyan government’s recognition of the need for more and better data to be shared by development partners across sectors, which led to the creation of the Kenya Data Forum.

In Colombia, the platform fostered a collaboration between the government and other partners to create a database that tracks social initiatives led by foundations, community groups and other stakeholders. The map allows both foundations and governments to customise and manage projects, design and monitor indicators, and track in real-time the progress of projects. This effort is being deployed as a powerful and transformative tool in the peace-building process that is now at the core of the Colombian government’s agenda.

The platform could also work as a targeting mechanism at the national, state or city level and help build capacity, which can aid funders to make grants with greater confidence and impact. For India, this could help businesses identify credible development partners and ensure that their funds are properly utilised. By mapping intervention data, the platform will promote innovations and avoid duplication. It will also accelerate development spending, and target it where it is most needed, where it will have the maximum impact on the ground. The platform could similarly help India realise its enormous contribution to solving global development challenges and employing creative technological solutions.

Shepherding the achievements of the SDGs is an enormous task that requires the involvement of every sector and each level of society. The experiences of the pilot countries illustrate the opportunities the platform can create for India to build meaningful and lasting state-philanthropy partnerships to achieve the prime minister’s vision of “sabka saath, sabka vikas (collective effort, inclusive growth)”.

The writer is the country director for the United Nations Development Programme in India

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