How do we communicate development goals?
08 Sep 2015 by Sangita Khadka, Communications Specialist, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP
In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on working with the Millennium Development Goals.
As a communicator, it has been both extremely exciting and a challenging journey to be a part of the Millennium Development Goals era at UNDP. Things were not that simple back in 2001 when we had to explain to our country partners what MDGs were all about and what our role was in it.
At the time, I had just started working as the Communications Officer for UNDP in Nepal, where we desperately tried to introduce the MDGs to the NGOs, media, and the general public.
To most, the MDGs sounded vague and alien, as if they had come from a different planet. The development goals were hard to explain just by calling them ‘MDGs'. To our dismay, many people called them the 'UN Goals’. As communicators, we had to go through each goal and relate them to our own national issues and development priorities.
We pushed the local media to talk about the goals, to explain that they were not UN-imposed, but rather about basic targets that our own country had set to reduce poverty and hunger, to improve education and our environment.
We made an effort never to use the abbreviation ‘MDGs’, as it was beyond the ordinary person’s comprehension. The sports sector, media, and NGOs played a huge role in simplifying the terminology, and UNDP played its role as ‘campaign manager’.
After a series of sensitization workshops, we finally had the local media reporting on issues with reference to the goals.
Nepal was one of the first few countries to publish a national MDGs report, which was a matter of commitment and pride for both the government and UNDP. I remember how the country office team beamed with joy when the NGO Federation of Nepal in 2003 incorporated advocacy of MDGs in their Charter and started its campaigns and movements.
When I look back, I realize the introduction of the MDGs was so tedious because the whole process was not participatory, starting from the identification of the goals themselves.
Today, things look much different. Global campaigns and the Post-2015 national level consultations made it possible to bring in the voices of people from all walks of society.
As the UN Member States adopt the new Global Goals in September, a major shift is anticipated in the development world. This set of goals is expected to be translated into action with clear vision, understanding, and (hopefully) adequate resources.
How differently will it be for us communicators to talk about the successes of global goals over the next 15 years?
As communicators, we may only succeed in explaining the level of success when an average man in a rural village is able to describe the technicalities of how an early warning system helped protect his community. When a survivor from a deadly disease thanks the existence of good health systems. Or when we are able to give substantial examples of urbanization taking place without harming the environment.
We have now indeed come a long way from the time we started on MDGs in 2001. A huge credit goes to all the communicators and development practitioners who have made it possible to keep the momentum going. Hopefully, we will continue the discourse even more aggressively for the next 15 years, to ensure that our utopian world is indeed becoming a reality.
As we approach the end of 2015, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on working with the Millennium Development Goals over the last 15 years, and reflect on the transition to the new Sustainable Development Goals.