On a sunny day in 2015, global leaders gathered at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, to review and adopt a more comprehensive and transformational development agenda that outlines a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at eradicating poverty in all its forms and ensuring that no one is left behind in the quest to improve the overall well being of humans.
In simple terms, the Sustainable Development Goals were set out to achieve a world where people have access to basic human rights, good jobs, access to nutritious foods, standard healthcare facilities, affordable education, access to clean water, freedom of speech, where economies grow exponentially, and develop the ability to design innovative technologies while safeguarding the environment.
The SDGs seek to build on and complete the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were; to realize the human rights of all; achieve gender equality in all sectors and spheres of life; and importantly, strike a balance between economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. A review of the MDGs revealed that Nigeria was unable to achieve a considerable level of success in its implementation of the goals, more so, the progress made were rather slow and largely unquantifiable.
Since the unveiling of the SDGs 4 years ago, Nigeria has made conscious efforts towards achieving these goals — the pace of progress, however, is slow. Some of these success stories include; reviewing the Universal Basic Education Act to address the issue of out-of-school children, signing into law the Not Too Young to Run Bill, combating corruption in the deployment of public service delivery — in primary health care , improved infrastructure and working to build stronger institutions.
The Nigerian Youths are largely at the forefront of these achievements — especially in the implementation of public service delivery tied to the SDGs. Young people in Nigeria, through the Follow The Money (FTM) movement, are amplifying the voices of the marginalised, driving socio-economic development in far-to-reach grassroots communities, demanding open and transparent government, holding their elected representatives accountable for better delivery of public services and working to ensure no Nigerian is left behind in the attainment of the SDGs by 2030.
Follow The Money, a social accountability network of over 5000 anti-corruption activists — data wranglers, academics, youths, researchers — represented at different States and Communities in Nigeria, is telling the stories of citizens, promoting good governance, and empowering citizens with the knowledge and capacity to demand for the provision of quality public services in the country. Using mobile and web technologies to drive this change, FTM is committed to not only making public funds work for the people but also shrinking the widening inequality gap and ultimately lifting millions of people out of poverty.
For instance, it has aided the provision of primary healthcare centres in rural areas — significantly reducing child and maternal deaths; advocated for access to clean water in communities that otherwise would have had to travel miles and miles to access water — reducing the number of children (girls especially) who miss out on school or could be exposed to safety hazards. Follow The Money has also championed the cause of school building projects in these communities, resulting in the enrolment of more children in primary school, particularly girls; and also advocated for the increase in representation and participation of women in grassroots and national parliaments.
Consequently, essential public projects, previously abandoned or which otherwise would not have been implemented, are being restarted and completed, directly impacting over 2 million lives.
Building on this success , several countries are taking steps to replicate the Follow The Money model into their governance system — some African countries like Malawi, The Gambia, Kenya, Liberia have begun Following the Money to promote social accountability and ensure that public funds work for public good.
It was no wonder it won the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Global Mobilizer award for 2019. According to the SDGs Action Awards Global Project Leader, Laura Hildebrandt, “the 2019 winners are the most impactful, transformative and creative SDG Action drivers.” At the presentation of the UN SDG awards in Bonn, Germany, representatives from Bangladesh, Canada, South Africa and Turkey expressed interest in replicating the model in their countries and sought consultation from the Follow The Money Nigeria team.
Winning this award is important to Nigeria because it projects a powerful advocacy message that recognises Nigeria’s progress in implementing the SDGs. Although, progress is slow, it is interesting to note that Policy influencers, and government service delivery agencies are integrating the SDGs into their implementation plans and budgets. For example, the Ministry of Water Resources began a nationwide campaign to end open defecation, provide clean toilets and access to clean water in rural communities. The Federal Ministry of Education is tackling the increasing number of out-of-school children through partnerships and policy reviews. We are optimistic that the Ministry of Health will accelerate its efforts to repair damaged Primary healthcare centres and improve the standard of healthcare delivery across the country. The ease of doing business has always been a sore spot for many Nigerians, the Government must intensify efforts to boost the Nigerian economy and provide ease for Small and Medium Enterprises.
Nigeria can see the SDGs as strategic plans that aim to improve the overall wellbeing of the country — simply put; the goals are ways to think about how we can create a more inclusive, equitable, prosperous society, and shifting the world onto a sustainable and resilient development pathway. That a home-grown Nigerian initiative won the UN SDGs award, is a commendable feat that puts Nigeria on an anti-corruption fight pedestal and serves as a face-lift of its failing reputation in the International Community.
With this award, Nigeria must begin to rethink its strategies, plans, projects, and focus on building its reputation as a country where quality of life is valued, corruption is greatly tackled, inequality is challenged and the economy is boosting with higher productivity.