In 2015, the United Nations developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future” to be achieve by 2030. The SDGs were preceded by the eight Millennium Development Goals, which directed the world’s governments and development institutions toward equality in meeting the world’s needs. Global Volunteers is committed to the vision and volition of the SDGs, and the MDGs before them, and measure our outcomes accordingly. In this blog series, we share the work of companion organizations toward achieving the SDGs. In this interview with Policy Advisor Filipa Schmitz Guinote, we learn how the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) integrates the SDGs into their long-term humanitarian work worldwide.
How does the ICRC respond to the UN SDGs?
In areas affected by conflict and violence, many of the SDGs reflect humanitarian needs to which the ICRC responds. This is a crucial point: the extent to which ICRC activities can help to bring populations closer to the SDGs, depends on the behavior and choices made by authorities and arms bearers. That is why for us a pre-condition for achieving the SDGs is the protection of people affected by conflict and violence.
Twelve out of the 17 SDGs, and well over a third of the targets and indicators, are relevant to ICRC’s work. The prevention of conflict-related deaths – SDG 16.1.2 – runs across all our core activities and several areas of our work share common ground with SDG 16. As a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization, our response is based solely on the needs of affected people, some do not relate to the SDGs but many do. For instance:
- We work with communities and a variety of local actors to safeguard and restore people’s safe access to health care, education, water and sanitation in rural and urban areas affected by armed conflict and violence (SDGs 3, 4, 6, 11)
- We support affected communities to maintain and recover their livelihoods including through food production and income generation activities (SDGs 1, 2, 8), and we look to strengthen people’s resilience to the combined impact of armed conflict and the climate and environment crisis, in addition to reducing the environmental footprint of our own activity (SDGs 13);
- Our support to women and children who may be at risk or have experienced sexual violence and forced recruitment in areas affected by armed conflict and violence, as well as our legal work and dialogue with arms bearers to prevent this type of violations relate to the issues highlighted in SDG 5 and 16.
How have the SDGs (and/or the precursor MDGs) informed your organizational vision?
Our organizational vision is shaped by the situation of people living in armed conflict and in other situations of violence and by the mandate that has been given to us by the Geneva Conventions and the Statutes of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
While the SDGs do not directly inform our institutional vision, there is a lot of common ground between what we do and the SDG agenda when you see how much it intersects with humanitarian needs, as I highlighted before. The ICRC reports annually on its activities and outcomes related to the protection and assistance to populations affected by armed conflict and violence and to the promotion of International Humanitarian Law. We do not report against the SDGs per se, but the information in our annual reports can be used by donors and governments to measure their own progress towards the SDGs, together with data from other sources.
In addition, most of the times we operate in protracted conflicts for decades and so our work with affected populations inevitably has a longer-term horizon and relies on broader large-scale investments being made by governments and their donors. In this regard, I would say the SDG agenda helps us connect with actors outside the traditional humanitarian sphere who can help us build more sustainable humanitarian impact with affected people, from multilateral development banks to the private sector, or the peace-building community.
Because the SDGs focus on issues that matter to populations – health, education, water, climate change, peace – they naturally foster a “community of concern” that transcends mandates to focus on helping people rebuild their lives.
What collaborations help you accomplish your SDG outcomes?
The ICRC has a wide range of partnerships starting from the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement but also with other entities. These partnerships aim to accomplish more sustainable and durable humanitarian outcomes as part of our work with populations affected by armed conflict and violence.
For instance, partnerships with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and with health authorities are key in our work to strengthen access to and continuity of healthcare for hard to reach populations. Partnerships with municipalities and utilities are at the heart of our efforts to strengthen the resilience of water and sanitation systems and thus reduce public health risks. Actors such as UNICEF, GIZ, the World Bank are also key partners for us in the water sector, both in terms of expertise and operational collaboration. Private companies or foundations, vocational training centres and local financial institutions have been important partners to facilitate income generation opportunities for vulnerable individuals.
Working with others is a key strategic orientation for the ICRC’s ambition to build sustainable humanitarian impact. As I mentioned earlier, the SDG framework helps us to connect with actors outside our traditional sphere and draw their attention to areas or populations would might otherwise be left behind.
Global Volunteers respects and supports the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) work to bring the benefit of the SDGs to struggling communities around the world. We share their vision to defend all persons without compromising the potential of future generations to meet their needs, and invite opportunities for NGO partnerships in these areas. Read on to learn how Global Volunteers’ impacts address the United Nations SDGs and how our Reaching Children’s Potential Program is helping to end stunting in Tanzanian villages.