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‘Sustainable development’ letter to UN’s Jeffrey Sachs

Last Aug. 4, we sent a letter to Jeffrey Sachs. He is a United Nations adviser on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which will end this year, as well as on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will be implemented in the next 15 years. The letter contains a recommendation supported by selected leaders, from farmers and fisherfolk to businessmen. It will hopefully help in the attainment of the SDGs.

There are 17 SDGs, out of which the following three goals are most relevant to farmers and fisherfolk:

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  • Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
  • Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
  • Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss.

SDSN. To better achieve these goals, a new structure not present in the MDGs is being set up: the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

In the Philippines, the SDSN currently has a council composed of representatives from the academe, civil society (including farmers and fisherfolk), business, and government. Globally, the SDSN members are mostly from the academe and research institutions. They are ideally equipped to give creative sustainable development solutions to the other three sectors, which will actually implement these solutions.

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Sachs said the SDSN can have partners from the other three sectors. He welcomed any suggestions on how to make the SDSN optimally effective. He added the Philippines could even be a model for the rest of the world to follow.

It is in this spirit that the following letter was submitted:

“I write this in response to your suggestion that we should feel free in giving you ideas on our SDSN.

I believe that to be optimally effective, the SDSN structure should be made flexible enough so that each country’s unique needs can best be addressed. As I mentioned last night, a key contribution that the SDSN in the Philippines can provide is that it be the catalyst for four sectors to work together and unite to address specific key sustainable development challenges in our country. This is sorely lacking today.

In the Philippines, we should continue with the important objective of having SDSN provide the forum for sustainable development solutions from ‘suppliers’ such as academia and other learning centers to ‘implementors’ such as business, civil society, and government. However, I believe that in the Philippines where ‘solution implementation’ is often more important to address than ‘solution formulation,’ SDSN should involve all four sectors equally. This is because the implementors know their needs best, have their own valuable sustainable development solutions to share, and can modify the solutions initially recommended by academia to suit their own unique constraints.

I suggest we have ‘Philippine SDSN Working Groups,’ known by that name, so that the three sectors [will] feel like equal partners [to the] academia, while at the same time recognize the catalytic knowledge role academia has in this Working Group.

I approached the large and respected organizations so that their presidents or chairs would personally join the Council. When I explained the SDSN as an opportunity to work with other heads in their sector on such an important issue as sustainable development, as well as engage the leaders from the three other sectors, they were enthusiastic in joining the Council. They also said they would influence their members to join the Working Groups and provide full organizational support.”

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The organization heads who are now SDSN Council members are Jesus Arranza (Federation of Philippine Industries), Alfred Yao (Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry), Francisco del Rosario (Management Association of the Philippines), Manuel Pangilinan (Philippine Business for Social Progress), and Edgar Chua (Philippine Business for the Environment).

Difference. The key difference in our recommendation is that academia from the official SDSN would not just be the provider of SD solutions to their “partners” from civil society, business, and government. Rather, in the proposed SDSN Working Groups, the SDSN members would be equal participants with the other three sectors.

Another suggestion is that there should be a coordinator for each of the 17 SDGs. The coordinators can come from any of the four sectors. And just as “it takes a village to raise a child,” it will also take the four sectors acting in unison to achieve the SDGs.

If approved at the next Philippine SDSN Council meeting, the SDSN Working Groups can focus on the top Philippine priorities, specify time tables, and identify the accountabilities of the different sectors.

(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, email [email protected] or telefax (02)

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TAGS: fisherfolk, Jeffrey Sachs, Jesus Arranza, MDGs, Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goals, Sustainable Development Solutions Network, United Nations
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