The principle behind the SDGs is ‘No One Left Behind’. But are communities themselves being left behind?
With regards to SDG and evaluation, many influential actors—the UN and governments—are talking a lot about equity and equality issues and pushing to design evaluations with these lenses.
In line with this, these actors highlight the importance of multi-stakeholder involvement in evaluation process including the process for setting up a national monitoring and evaluation system for SDG.
It sounds very convincing but in reality, the genuine involvement of multiple stakeholders is really difficult. The involvement of community and civil society organizations, private sectors, government, donors, the UN and other stakeholders is not easy.
It is because of the nature of power dynamic issues that exist between different stakeholders.
For example, traditionall, the communities (and CSOs) are being treated as the beneficiaries with lesser power, while the governments who has the authority, the international policy players like the UN and the money holders like donors and investors are holding a lot of power in their hand.
If these powerful actors come together (with their specific political agenda) and play a collaborative exercise together, then there is limited place for the community to shape SDG evaluation process along with their development destiny.
Although people are talking a lot about community participation, what frequently happens in reality is that when community is invited to the table, someone from community with better language or power (who does not necessarily represent and have in-depth knowledge about the whole community) are there. As a consequence, it becomes a showcasing exercise of so-called community participation.
To genuinely achieve SDG, this power imbalance issue should be addressed seriously. For instance, in case of addressing peace and national reconciliation issues, the more powerful actors are being pushed to make more compromise.
In a similar way, when coming to the development agenda in the SDG era, the powerful actors need to make a lot of compromises and to promote more genuine participation of the community in the process.
An important thing to highlight here is that while civil society groups are likely to be sustainable, the government- MPs and Bureaucracy may not be sustainable under the very nature of the democracy.
Thus, for sustainable development, the community should be the primary driver (who powerfully push the government and other actors) behind the process.