More Badanya spirit needed to fund the ambitious global development agenda

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Kaday Mansaray Sibanda at the European Development Days conference [VSO]

This article is part of our special report Towards sustainable development goals.

Building up people’s capacity to earn an income is crucial to a successful Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) plan, writes Kaday Mansaray Sibanda.

Kaday Mansaray Sibanda is VSO’s Regional Director for Southern Africa and has over 17 years of extensive management experience in the local and international NGO sector. Among her previous roles are Director at the Lead Africa Fellowship Programme and also Regional Director at Habitat for Humanity International. Born in Sierra Leone, Kaday studied in Germany.

I was born in Sierra Leone where we were raised to have a sense of community and show kindness, and respect towards other people, we called it Badanya. I now live in South Africa where the same spirit prevails, known here as Ubuntu and I think it’s just considered to be a part of the African way of life. In the Philippines it’s Bayanihan, a spirit of communal unity and cooperation. It manifests especially at a local level in healthcare, where neighbours voluntarily help one another when they are sick, hungry, homeless, or are victims of violence.

My worry is that this spirit of pulling together to help take care of the worst off, which is based in a shared sense of humanity is lacking at a global level, certainly if everything I heard at the European Development Days in Brussels last week is true. While I was there it became clear to me that we face a big challenge in getting our leaders, and the private sector, to concretely share responsibility with ordinary people for tackling the problems of poverty, climate change and inequality.

Negotiations to agree on a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are in their hectic final stages. With only 3 months to go before UN General Assembly in New York in September when they expect to be signed off by Member States, there is not much time left. This development roadmap for the next 15 years is futile without unilateral buy-in from all our governments and citizens, rich and poor. So, the focus has rightly shifted to how they will be achieved, and critically how we will resource them, who’s responsibility they really are?

UN member states, including European countries, will be asked to make commitments to help deliver on this agenda at a huge Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa in mid July. A worrying signal that some might be starting to nudge their seats back from the negotiating table and looking for the exit came just two weeks ago when EU development ministers adopted conclusions on “A New Global Partnership for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development after 2015“.

While this ‘Partnership’ proposal mentions the EU’s ongoing commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas development aid, it doesn’t acknowledge that all but four countries have missed the 2015 deadline they agreed, and now there seems to be no real or binding pressure to make good on this much before 2030. In this regard, it feels a bit like the EU is one of the first to signal amber, to throw its hands in the air and I worry others will follow suit in Addis when the chips are down.

People all across the developing world want to be active partners in our own development, we want to share the burden, spread the costs and know that we are not just passive recipients of aid. We also want you to know we are already doing this and we will continue to do it whatever happens in September.

But just remember that many people work and volunteer at the community level are often poor themselves. They will still need basic things like gloves and sanitiser, aprons, gum boots and umbrellas as they walk long distances within communities to provide care. They might need a bicycle or the price of a bus ticket to be able to travel to remote areas, they often need psychological support to deal with the horrors they witness daily and to avoid burn out. Resourcing this kind of thing and building up people’s capacity to earn an income, as well as the large infrastructure challenges, is crucial to a successful SDG plan.

If ever there was a time to show solidarity and staying power it is now. I implore all the actors, including the EU, to stay at the table in Addis Ababa, to hammer out the details fairly and squarely so we all shoulder the responsibility collectively. Let’s all show some Badanya to make the world better for people and planet by 2030.

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