September 25th, 2020 marks the 5th anniversary of the introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals by world leaders. The change in nomenclature of the goals which transmuted from the Millennium Development Goals after it was observed that the attainment of the goals for the millennium targets did not materialize. With 5 years already spent, countries of the world, especially those in the developing world, have a decade more to achieve the goals. However, records, observations and perceptions in Nigeria showed that there is more to do if some of the global goals are to be attained by the set target year. What then are the obstacles to be fixed if the global goals are to be attained in the country by 2030?
Experts have identified different issues that the country needs to address before the targets of the goals could be met in the next one decade. In an interview granted by an SDG advocate, Nurah Jimoh, one of the major reasons why the country may not achieve the goals is the country’s leadership’s non-commitment to the achievement of the goals. In other words, the leadership has not been able to walk the talk as far as the goals are concerned. This is coupled with selective attention paid to some of the goals at the expense of the others. This implies that achieving all goals might not be possible.
In addition to the issues of selective attention, another review reveals, is lack of planning and coordination between businesses, academic settings and other concerned stakeholders. If this is considered alongside lack of concrete and specific plans, it could be said that the odds are high against the attainment of the goals by the deadline set for the goals’ achievement. This is aided by low research on the progress of the achievement of the goals from the ivory towers.
Awareness among the populace about the Sustainable Development Goals is low. For instance, a study conducted in Osogbo, southwest Nigeria indicated that the people for whom the goals are meant are not even aware about any of the goals. Of the 404 respondents sampled, a larger percentage of the respondents stated that they were not aware of the global goals (See Exhibit below).
Level of Awareness of the SDGs among Residents of Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria (Source: Adebiyi, 2019)
In all of these, what roles are faith-based organizations expected to play in fast tracking the attainment of the SDGs within the stipulated time? As organizations that are closer to the people, the faith based organizations have critical roles to play in achieving the global goals. Owning the global goals at the community level is critical. The religious organizations could assist in opening the eyes of the community to the importance of the global goals by opening up conversations, raising awareness and mobilizing the adherents of the faith towards the actualization of the goals.
One major faith based organisation that illustrates the idea espoused above is Nasrullahi-l-Fathi Society Worldwide, a Muslim organization with members located across the world. The youth wing of the society had its first edition of a summit dedicated to the Sustainable Development Goals. With the theme “Factivism”, drawn from the United Nations’ theme for 2020, the programme paraded a number of speakers and panellists who are advocates of the SDGs across religious lines.
The keynote given by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Isa Pantami, laid the foundation for the programme. Focusing on Young People’s Role in Driving Digital Trends to Achieving SDGs, the minister, represented by Dr. Dahiru Abubakar, Head of Operations, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), emphasized the need to involve the youths in the attainment of the global goals. He identified the Nigerian youths’ digital nativity, boundless energies and innovative traits as key features that make them indispensable in the country’s quest to achieve the goals. He then identified different Federal Government’s efforts aimed at ensuring the youths are empowered to contribute meaningfully to the development of the country on a sustainable basis. He charged the youths to invest more in skills acquisition, digital innovation and entrepreneurship. He advised the youths to also embrace mentorship and extensive reading as ways of improving themselves in the task of driving the attainment of the SDGs.
Before the keynote, a session with the title Unleashing the Full Potentials of Youth -Going Extra Mile to Achieve SDG during and Post COVID 19 crisis was facilitated by Mrs Aderinsola Adio-Adepoju, Founder, I-Train Africa. She preached personality development as one of the major ways for youths to unleash their potentials. She encouraged the teeming audience to adopt SWOT analysis of their personalities so that they could fit it in to push the goals.
In the first panellist session titled Examining and Localising the Sustainable Development Goals; Inception, Opportunities, Experiences and Future Challenges, the two panellists, Rasheed Adebiyi of the Department of Mass Communication and Hammed Kayode Alabi, Executive Director, Kayode Alabi Leadership and Career Initiative agreed that though there are areas the country has done well in the movement towards the achievements of the goals, there are still more to be done in some other areas. For instance, the panellists stated that Nigeria has been able to capture its efforts in infant mortality reduction, increase in literacy rate and access to clean water. Yet, they identified shortcomings such as the need to actively involve the young people in the drive towards more success in attaining the goals. This, according to the panellists could be achieved through creating general studies courses on Sustainable Development Goals in the Nigerian tertiary education curriculum. This would go a long way in creating awareness and providing information about how the youths could tap the opportunities presented by the global goals. Adebiyi advocated for a national strategy to coordinate the attainment of the SDGs.
The first panellist session was followed by a technical workshop session on volunteerism. The session was handled by Mrs Sarah Anlade Dantosho, the Executive Director of Sarahtrishpany Limited, Abuja. She highlighted the different types of volunteerism, its purpose and the qualities of a volunteer. She harps on the need for participants to start their volunteerism from the local in order to grow experience, learn the dynamics and system needed for future international commitments. She concluded by emphasizing that volunteerism is an integral part of attaining the SDGs.
The summit was out to a close with the second and final panel session. The session which focused on Accelerating the Achievement of the SDGs: Critical Entry Points for Muslim Youth had Ismail Sogbade, co-founder Strategy Innovations Hub and Aderinsola Adio-Adepoju, Founder I Train Africa on board. Both panellists advocated for personal development first before venturing into community development. While Aderinsola Adio-Adepoju stated that environmental scanning, identifying problems and opportunities are important to addressing global problems. Sogbade advised self development and acquisition of both hard and soft skills to be able to push for the global goals.
Faith based organizations have important roles to play if the global goals have to be attained in the next ten years. The roles are far beyond the talks such as the one we had reported. It must extend to increasing awareness and partnership with other organisations to advocate for a sustainable world.