The development sector needs to think and act differently if the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be truly transformative, says Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, the new CEO of Plan International.
“Tackling inequality and making development universal are at the heart of the SDGs. The question the development sector should be asking is if it is ready to meet the challenge of leaving no one behind,” said Ms Albrectsen on her first day at Plan International, the independent child rights organisation that works to end poverty among children.
It will mean working in new communities where inequalities are extreme, and exiting others
The 17 SDGs set sweeping ambitions to end poverty, promote gender equality, empower women and girls and end the denial of human rights by 2030. Due to be formally adopted at a summit at the United Nations in New York next month, the goals include explicit targets in vital areas like education for girls, child health and ending child and forced marriage.
“Never before has every country in the world signed up to a fully integrated set of goals, embracing social, economic, environmental and governance issues,” said Ms Albrectsen, a former senior UN official and Danish diplomat.
To ensure the targets are met, not only do governments need to rigorously track implementation, but the development sector needs a new approach too, she added.
Reaching the most marginalised children
“Aid agencies, along with governments, the private sector and community leaders, have to fully embrace the universal nature of the SDGs. We need to ensure that development addresses growing inequality within and between countries, is inclusive and reaches the most marginalised.”
In the case of Plan International, said Ms Albrectsen, the organisation will look at working more with the excluded, including children with disabilities, young mothers, young people living on the streets and those affected by disaster. “It will mean working in new communities where inequalities are extreme, and exiting others,” she said.
Ms Albrectsen called on the development sector to take the lead in changing the ways it supports and delivers change. This could mean decentralising decision making and being less northern. It would involve looking at all aspects of the aid sector from funding to programme delivery to create a lasting change that benefits those in most need.
“Development work needs to be more joined up, rooted in human rights, engaged with children and young people and based on strong local responses,” said Ms Albrectsen.