This news item was originally published in the SDG Bulletin South Africa’s April 2018 edition

Nardos Bekele-Thomas

Described by the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a “to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success”, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal agenda to balance human prosperity with protecting the climate. These goals represent a universal commitment to end poverty, achieve shared prosperity, build peace and secure a life of dignity and a healthy planet for present and future generations. This is a quest I take personally as the UN Resident Coordinator as I firmly believe it holds the key to unlocking a future generation that is empowered and resilient. I therefore encourage everyone to claim a role in making the SDGs a reality for people around them.

Who is an SDG Advocate?
An SDG advocate is a person or a group who commits, stands up for and lives out the values that help advance and achieve the sustainable development goals. In January 2016, the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed a group of prominent SDG Advocates:

  • H.E. Mr. John Dramani Mahama – Former President of Ghana
  • H.E. Mrs. Erna Solberg – Prime Minister of Norway
  • Richard Curtis – Writer, Director and Comic Relief co-founder
  • Mr. Paul Polman – Chief Executive Officer, Unilever
  • Ms. Leymah Gbowee – Director, Gbowee Peace Foundation
  • Ms. Alaa Murabit – The Voice of Libyan Women
  • Mrs. Graça Machel – President of the Foundation of Community Development and the UNESCO National Commission in Mozambique
  • Professor Jeffrey Sachs – Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University
  • Ms. Shakira Mebarak – Artist, Advocate and Founder of Pies Descalzos Foundation, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
  • Ambassador Dho Young-Shim – Chairperson, United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Sustainable Tourism for Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) Foundation
  • Mr. Forest Whitaker – Founder and CEO, Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative

This is a group of UN SDG advocates and the concept aims to inspire a movement of action in government, civil society, private sector and communities to activate a movement that will help achieve these goals. Watch this space for more on local SDG Advocates!

Why is there a need to have SDG Advocates?

The SDGs are commitments that were made at a policy level, but should infiltrate and be implemented at a local level where the change is required. Advocates are needed to promote the universal character of the SDGs; to help mobilise resources for the implementation of these SDGs as well as to encourage partnerships to help achieve these goals. As such, advocates operate at different levels, both as individuals and as groups.

What does an SDG Advocate do?

An SDG advocate helps promote action to achieve the mandate of the SDGs – end poverty, tackle climate change and promote equality and peace. They make sure that people they interact with daily know about the SDGs and what they can do to help achieve them.
In my role as RC, I am constantly sharing messages about the SDGs and mainly trying to mobilise resources to help the South African Government to fast track the implementation of the SDG agenda to reach these goals by 2030 as per the commitment signed in 2015.
In my role as a mother, I make sure to provide equal opportunities for my children and provide a conducive environment for them to be able to express themselves.
As a citizen, I do my best to save electricity and recycle items that are reusable; I am an active member of women empowerment groups because I firmly believe in their empowerment as they are a group that is left behind.
As a friend, I encourage my friends to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute towards causes that can eradicate poverty.

When and where does the SDG Advocate do this?

SDG advocacy is ongoing and can be done in our homes e.g. everyone participates in doing house chores; in our community e.g. both men and women have an equal opportunity to share their ideas on how to improve the community; at one’s workplace e.g. both men and women get paid equally if performing the same duty; at policy level e.g. policies are favourable to all sectors of society and provide equal rights irrespective of race, sexual orientation or creed.

How does an SDG Advocate know when they are being successful?

There are different levels of success indicators that one can use to measure whether they are achieving these goals. To access a list of practical things you can do, please click here

Governments will develop their own national indicators to assist in monitoring progress made on the goals and targets – for South Africa, these should include Provincial, District, local and ward indicators.

At a global level, the global indicator framework will help track the progress through an annual SDG Progress Report.