Volunteerism is driving SDG Action

By Hilary Ogbonna, UN SDG Action Campaign 

In the smouldering tropical heat in downtown Bamako, he has convened a group of volunteers to perform the daunting tasks of transmitting over 60,000 paper survey responses received from across Mali from citizens who have just informed their Government and the United Nations about their development priorities through MY World 2030 survey. For Sory Monekata, Executive Secretary of Forum of International NGOs in Mali, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in September 2015 is a major opportunity to advance transformative and inclusive development in which every Malian will have a voice and their priorities accommodated in national development planning.

Since the adoption of the SDGs, the UN SDG Action Campaign has worked with partners across the globe to inspire actions and multi-stakeholder engagement with the SDGs. Mr. Monekata belongs to a growing movement of partners nurtured by the UN SDG Action Campaign to mobilize citizens and volunteers at local levels to take SDG action through MY World survey. MY World is a unique framework which provides a platform for multi-level actors to interface to ensure inclusivity, participation and accountability in SDGs implementation, reporting and review.

When the Government of Mali and the UN Country Team agreed on the implementation of the MY World Survey as a citizen engagement tool in the report and review process for the SDGs in Mali, Mr. Monekata and other civil society actors seized the opportunity to mobilise hundreds of volunteers across the 10 regions to identify the priorities of the citizens and assess progress on SDGs implementation. The survey was aimed at generating citizens’ data which will bring peoples’ perspectives to the Voluntary National Review (VNR) for which Mali was a candidate country in 2018. The VNR is a process of self-appraisal by Member States in the implementation of the SDGs and presented at the annual High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York.

The MY World survey is an intensive exercise requiring huge human resources, commitment and passion. Volunteerism is at the heart of MY World survey. For instance, the first edition implemented between 2013-2015 saw over 5,000 volunteers working in Nigeria alone to reach 2.7 million people on what their priorities for a post MDGs agenda will be. The survey in Mali was not going to be any different. For two weeks, over 500 young volunteers were mobilized across the country to engage with communities, schools and markets, creating awareness on the SDGs and asking questions about their impact on the quality of life. The work of volunteers did not stop after the field work. For the first time in the implementation of the survey in any country, the UN SDG Action Campaign engaged online volunteers outside the project country to assist in the data entry of the responses from the survey. With the UN reporting deadline for fast approaching, the UN SDG Action Campaign put out a call to local volunteers in Bonn, Germany and to the Online UN Volunteers platform. More than 100 volunteers took up the call. Over 20 came in person and 35 more volunteered online to assist with the data entry over the next 5 days. From Nigeria alone, the Campaign and its local partners mobilized 50 volunteers from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) for the MY World Mali data entry. In all there were volunteers from more than 24 countries from all the regions of the world.

The MY Wold survey in Mali is no doubt a best practice on the deployment of volunteers using online facilities. It is a clear indication that volunteerism is a huge asset in mobilizing for the SDGs as well as in building a global movement of actors holding governments accountable on their commitments to the SDGs through MY World survey. In the words of Marina Ponti, Acting Director of the SDG Action Campaign: “in MY World Survey, everyone is a volunteer – trainers, enumerators, respondents, data analysts, reporters, visualizers and many more. In all our work, from Nigeria to Morocco, Mexico to Bhutan, Cameroon to the Philippines nothing more expresses the cardinal role of volunteerism in driving campaigns and social change, than the MY World survey”.

As more Member States participate in the Voluntary National Review (VNR), the Campaign will be offering MY World 2030 survey as a ready tool and mechanism to create awareness, mobilise citizens’ participation in implementation and review and generate data for measuring progress and accountability.

Note:

The MY World survey was implemented in May and June 2018 in all the regions of Mali. The field work coordination and collation were conducted by the following Malian civil society organisations and coalitions: Conseil National de la Société Civile, Forum des ONG Internationales au Mali and Forum des Organisations de la Société Civile au Mali. The survey was supported by the UN Country Team and the Government of Mali. Technical assistance was provided by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the UN SDG Action Campaign.