The Sustainable Development Goals is a set of 17 global goals set for attainment by 2030. The roadmap to the achievement of the goals was laid in 2015 with the intention to ensure the development of the most vulnerable parts of the world. This was to ensure a development that should leave no one behind. Consequently, everybody is expected to be carried along. No one should be without being aware of the goals as well as the knowledge of what they stand to gain from the implementation of the global goals. From No Poverty to Zero Hunger, Health & Well Being to Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, the issues captured with the goals represented some of the fundamental development challenges faced by developing and less developed countries. So, the attainment of the goals would translate into measurable development for the nations of the world.
However, one of the major problems confronting the achievement of the goals is lack of buy in among the local people on whose behalf the goals are advocated for. As a matter of fact, the absence of local acceptability of the goals led to the death of its predecessor, Millennium Development Goals, which was later transmuted to the Sustainable Development Goals. Acceptability by local people and policy makers would go a long way in enhancing attainment. In accepting the goals, there must first be awareness followed by knowledge. Awareness makes the goals visible while knowledge increases understanding. Both make the goals clearer. Understanding what each stakeholder knows and think about the SDGs makes mobilization toward the attainment of the goals easier. A report noted that awareness and knowledge of the goals are two different concepts. Awareness does not necessarily translate into knowledge. A compilation of results from a global survey in 2017 reveals that knowledge of the SDGs is not as high as it was expected two years after it was launched in 2015. For instance, only around 1 in 100 people know the SDGs very well while 25% say they know the name only. It is also reported that in Germany and France, 2 in 10 citizens admit they are not aware of the SDGs when compared with about 4 in 10 citizens in the United Kingdom and the United States. But, awareness of the global goals seems to be on the rise even better than that of its predecessor, the MDGs.
Another major problem confronting the achievement of the SDGs is data. Data is very important to the implementation of the goals. It will provide evidence for policy-making and assists in tracking the progress made since 2015. It also goes to show the gaps and challenges. At the global and national levels, there is available data which captures progress made so far. However, there is little or no data on the global goals at the sub-national levels. To have an understanding of how localized the goals are, there is a need to have data which will indicate the progress made and the grounds covered in the implementation of the goals. To get the needed data, the academia must not only be interested in conducting empirical studies that speak to the goals, but also be willing to share the outcomes with stakeholders in order to make sense of what the data is talking about. The language must be clear of academic jargons. The focus of this piece is a case of such done by students of Fountain University, Osogbo in Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria.
How did it all start?
It began from a Communication for Development class where there was a focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The discourse hovered around how much the people on whose behalf the global goals are advocated know about the goals and the intent behind them. The students were excited as an idea of the survey of the extent of the awareness and knowledge of the people was mooted in class. A Google document based survey questionnaire was designed and the students trooped out to selected streets in groups in search of information about the level of awareness and knowledge seeking habit of the people in Osogbo as far as the global goals were concerned.
SDGs are heavy on paper but light on the street
It was found that the awareness and knowledge of the SDGs was low in the metropolis. For instance, about 73% of the sampled residents reported that they had never sought information about the global goals. This also resonated with the knowledge seeking habits of the people concerning the SDGs. 75.3% of residents claimed that they had never sought any knowledge about the goals. So, on account of seeking information and knowledge about the goals, the survey revealed a poor outcome from the sampled respondents. The study also covered some other important variables surrounding knowledge seeking and dissemination of the SDGs. These include the ability to understand messages around the SDGs, language used to receive the messages and the most popular medium of dissemination. Of the residents that have heard messages about the goals, 70.3% claimed that the messages were understandable to them; that radio was their most popular medium and Yoruba topped the list of languages used in the dissemination of the messages. In specific terms about language used to understand the goals, Yoruba and English led the charge. For media, radio, television, newspaper and social media are the media through which information is consumed about the SDGs in Osogbo metropolis. Clearly, there was a need to explore other means of propagating the messages of the SDGs for people to get more familiar with them. The three, out of the 17 goals, that recorded a high interest among the residents included Goal 1 (No Poverty); Goal 2 (Good Health and Well being) and Goal 3 (Quality Education). This is understandable based on the fact that majority of the respondents were between the age bracket of 21-40 with an annual income of between N50,000 to N60,000.
Taking the campaign back to the streets
The students went back to reach the respondents who had earlier given them the data. Their mission was basically to tell them about the goals, the intent behind them and how they could go on to make the SDGs-related demands on their elected representatives. They chose to deploy a face-to-face, interpersonal means of explaining the global goals using the language the residents understand. This highlighted the fact that for the global goals to be localized, the ivory towers must be involved. The academia need to gather data that would speak to the void in the society and fashion out appropriate measures to enhance the attainment of the goals. The first 5 years out of the 15 years designated has already been frittered away. We need to double up if we must achieve substantially critical sustainable goals.
Picture 4 : Students back on the streets for campaign