Friday, 21 October 2016

BAAG social media campaign and upcoming exhibition

This autumn, BAAG has been busy working on two exciting initiatives as part of the Media4Development programme. In September, we ran a successful social media campaign aimed at combating myths about overseas development aid. In November and December we are looking forward to launching exhibitions in both London and Dublin, featuring the winners of our journalism competition last year.

In early October, the Afghan government and international community met in Brussels to re-affirm long-term commitment and financial support to the country for the next four years. As official partners with the EC for coordinating the participation and voice of civil society at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan, we wanted to use the event as an opportunity to combat a common public myth about overseas development aid – namely, that aid makes people ‘lazy’ or dependent. Our social media campaign therefore was created on the basis of a core positive message that development aid empowers Afghans and enables them to take control of their own futures.

We collaborated closely with many of our member and partner organisations currently running projects in Afghanistan, bringing together 13 eye-catching photos and videos to show a side of the country you don’t often get to see in the media. We were also happy to see engagement from one of our M4D partners, Mondo, who translated several of our Facebook posts into Estonian for their own audiences.

On Twitter – where we have our largest audience – our posts were seen over 18,000 times during the course of the week. In fact, the average reach per #M4Dproject tweet was an impressive 48% increase on our regular content. It was great to see so much interaction with the campaign, with many of our posts being retweeted and shared widely with others. The whole campaign helped create great momentum in the lead-up to the Brussels Conference, where we were also pleased to see greater than expected aid pledges to a country still so in need of such international support.

Here are two of the images we posted

To see the campaign in full, check out our Storify page: or follow us over on Twitter/Facebook (@AfghanAgencies).

Alongside the social media campaign we have been working on plans for our photojournalism exhibition.  Based on the work of our Afghanistan Journalism Competition winner, Magda Rakita, ‘My liver is bleeding’ will help raise public awareness of the impact of conflict and violence on the mental health of the Afghan population.  It also highlights the impressive work of dedicated Afghan medical staff at two clinics in Mazar-e-Sharif.
We have secured exhibition space in the London School of Economics, a public space through which over 9,600 students and 3,000 staff pass each month. The exhibition will run from November 28th to December 9th 2016, before we relocate it to the European Public Space in Dublin, within the EC Representatives Office in the centre of the city.  The Ireland exhibition will run until 6th January.

We’ve been working hard with Magda and an experienced exhibition designer to prepare the materials and design the layout.  We’re developing a guest list for receptions at both venues and will be contacting the local media and listings sites to ensure coverage and promotion of the exhibition. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Experts were discussing Sustainable Development Goals at national levels

We as Slovak NGDO Platform are glad to announce that Bratislava International Roundtable: Sustainable Development Goals - Opportunities and Challenges was successfully realised in the beginning of September 2016 after several months of preparations. It has been one of the important activities of Media4Development project, and we believe it will contribute to more effective and efficient implementation of SDGs mostly at the national, but also at the international levels.

Bratislava Roundtable conference was organised by the Slovak NGDO Platform under the auspice of the Slovak Presidency in the Council of the European Union. It took place in Bratislava on September 5th 2016. Altogether 58 participants, including policy makers, media representatives, civil society representatives, private sector representatives and academics from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia,  United Kingdome and other countries were discussing the very actual agenda related to drafting and implementation of the Agenda 2030 at national levels overlapping to global area.
The core idea behind the roundtable was related to the fact that the current UN global development agenda can only be reached if it is adapted to the country policies. Ultimately, action must come from the country level. But what is the situation in project countries? What are the best practices and what lessons can be learned from each other?

Structure of the roundtable was as follows:

Welcoming address to the participants was given by Mr. Matej Dostal, the First Secretary of the Permanent Delegation of the Slovak Republic to the OECD in Paris. He spoke about the importance and specificity of the new Agenda 2030 and the need to build intersectoral partnerships both locally and globally in order to reach sustainable development of the world and to make SDGs the centre of gravity.

Afterwards the roundtable was divided into three discussion rounds:

  1. Reducing inequalities between countries (Linking sustainable development with ODA).
  2. How can we shape SDGs coordination systems that are effective and participatory?
  3. Thinking about policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD): What mechanisms and abilities do we have at the national level?
 1. Reducing inequalities between countries (Linking sustainable development with ODA)

Ending extreme poverty requires world leaders to tackle the growing gap between the richest and the rest which has trapped hundreds of millions of people in a life of poverty, hunger and sickness. Although ODA remains a crucial part of fighting against poverty and countries should fulfil their ODA obligation, to use ODA effectively and ensure that it is aligned with national priorities and policies, more needs to be done.

Opening presentation named Widening gap between the richest and the rest was given by Mrs. Stanislava Buchowska, Oxfam International.

While speaking about rising inequality and its social and economic impacts - “62 richest people own as much as the poorest half of the population, which is 3,6 billion people. And those people are mostly living in developing countries. The richest 1% of the people is now wealthier than the rest of the world… There is something wrong in the way our economies work.” - she has also strongly criticized global tax practices and tax havens as one of the undermining obstacles in reaching sustainable development. At the same time Buchowska has expressed her stand that in order to allow for reaching sustainable development, civil society has to be deeply involved into the process, along with the whole variety of cross-sectoral stakeholders, including private sector and academia.

Following this presentation, the round of stakeholders presented their positions and tried to bring answer to the set of suggested questions:

  • What is the role of ODA in reducing inequalities between and within countries?
  • What is your country´s role in reducing global inequality through SDGs?
  • How should the EU revise its development policy to address global inequalities in line with the 2030 Agenda?

Mr. Michal Kaplan (CZ), Director of Czech Development Agency (CzDA)

The Czech Republic is now in process of preparing the new strategy for official development assistance and also new generation of country strategic papers (that will be done jointly with partner countries and in coordination with other donors) so we will already integrate SDGs into this process, we will reduce the number our partner countries from our 10 partner countries at the moment to just 6 partner countries. Half of these partner countries are LDCs: Ethiopia, Zambia and Cambodia, the other half are middle income countries in Europe where we feel that we have special added value. We have also set 5 broad thematic priorities for our ODA that broadly follow the pillars of sustainable development.

The most interesting question about developing the new EU consensus on development will be whether the EU will move from considering development cooperation as a technical policy to a more political tool. We all understand bilaterally that the development assistance is a tool of our foreign policy. Is the EU development policy part of the EU foreign policy? Does the EU even have a common foreign policy and if so, is the EU willing to shape the developing cooperation as a tool of its foreign policy?

Ms. Kaili Terras (EE), Director, Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid Division at Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

We are a small country but we do our best share. We have a development cooperation strategy, our main partners are mostly eastern-partnership countries, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and then the only LDC Afghanistan. The main character of our development cooperation is technical support. SDGS are universal and also in Estonia we have quite many challenges, we see inequality to tackle also at home.

Talking about tax evasions and tax heavens, somehow the governments of poor countries are missing in the picture. Governments must be accountable to the people also in the poor countries.

Mr. Saulins Kalvelis (LT), Counsellor, Development Cooperation Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania

ODA used in the smart way could mobilize additional resources and that way finance sustainable development. We can fulfil the ambitious Agenda 2030 and reduce the inequality between countries if we put our joined efforts and common responsibility of developing countries.

The Agenda 2030 should be based on real partnerships, avoiding of the old North/South or donor/recipient divisions.

Ms. Madara Silina (LV), Third Secretary of Development Cooperation Policy Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia

We have been working already for really long time to develop a new development cooperation strategy for the next 5 years which basically stresses that all development cooperation is aimed at implementing the 2030 Agenda and particularly focusing on our 6 partner countries. The particular priority is that we see we have a comparative advantage to work effectively together with other donors. So this is what we are focusing on now and the main priority is we work on good governance and justice, participatory democracy and entrepreneurship and export, conflict prevention and peace and security. we have put information of the society in Latvia on, because the new agenda is also about new sustainable consumption, it is not about North and South but also about individuals being responsible and being able to affect change.

Ms. Inese Vaivare (LV), Director of Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation (LAPAS)

SDGs are not national that they are global. We should open the civil society space for people to help people to work and we have to be very much aware of what we do in our countries influences the situation in the whole world.

Ms. Zuzana Letková (SK), Director, Slovak Agency for International Development Cooperation

Starting from this year we have adopted a new law on official development assistance allowing us to create more demand driven activities, projects and programs, and to use new financial and mechanism tools for providing official development assistance. In my opinion a big problem is that among 10 countries where we provide our help, only one is in the list of the least developed countries, it is Afghanistan. All the others are middle income countries. So for the next period we started to prepare a new mid-term strategy, which will start I guess next year 2017. We should also look at this challenge and maybe reduce the number of middle income countries and increase the number of the least developed countries.

2. How can we shape SDGs coordination systems that are effective and participatory?

For the SDGs to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society and common people. Ultimately, action must come from the country level and needs to be well-coordinated and monitored. How far we have come to build up the structures to ensure effective implementation?

There were two opening presentations at the beginning of second discussion round. They were given by Mrs. Annika Lindblom from Ministry of the Environment of Finland and head of multi-stakeholder Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development, and by Mrs. Eili Lepik, Chief Adviser and National Contact for Sustainable Development, Estonian Government Office, Strategy Unit.

Annika Lindblom was in her presentation named The Finnish example: Making the SDG implementation a truly participatory process with a bottom-up approach speaking about Finnish “efforts to involve, to inspire and to include the broad range of different actors into the national effort to implement the global agenda.” She has presented, and using video also exemplified ways how do various stakeholders coordinate and build partnerships in order to reach common goals. She has also mentioned the fact that Finland is one of 22 countries which has already presented its SDGs national voluntary review to the UN and High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2016.

But Finland was not the only representative of 22 more successful countries present in Bratislava. Another presentation, named Estonia among first nations reported to the UN High Level Panel: Kick-start in SDGs implementation, lessons from monitoring the SDGs, given by Eili Lepik, has introduced to participants Estonian good example. Lepik has shown the approach which Estonia has taken, leading to its early adoption of its own national voluntary review, at the same time as Finland, in July 2016. “So we decided to begin by the gap analysis to see what we already have, what the government is already doing and compare it to 17 SDGs. Based on that we brought our national voluntary review,” she explained to the auditorium.

Following these two presentations, another round of stakeholders presented their positions and tried to bring answer to the set of these questions:

  • Are our systems ready for implementing SDGs and reporting on the implementation?
  • What is the role of civil society, municipalities and private sector in implementing and monitoring the 2030 Agenda?
  • Where are our biggest achievements and challenges in getting everyone involved?

Mr. Jakub Rudy (CZ), Policy Officer, Gvt Council for Sustainable Development
Basically, we try to involve NGOs, academia and public, private sectors but the problem is that we are somehow pioneering the way which has not broad support through the institutions, we have some strong political support from PM but there’s not broad political support from other parties and from all the institutions and public sector.
There’s the question if our systems are ready for implementing SDGs and maybe I would say that they are not ready because the design of the public sector, of the institutions was made somewhere in 19th century in the time of the single-issue problems and at that time maybe it was possible to have single-issue problem and single-issue solution. 
Ms. Eili Lepik (EE), Chief Adviser & National Contact for Sustainable Development, Estonian Government Office, Strategy Unit
Yu can have the systems in place, government officials who are ready to implement but if you don’t have the political will or if the decision-makers are not aware of the SDGs in a wider sense that every action counts and it’s really difficult to see the actions to happen, whatever you are doing for policy reasons.
Ms. Anna-Stiina Lundqvist (FI), Policy Adviser, External Environment Analysis and Agenda 2030, NGO network Kepa
Finland has a long history of SDG work and we also have a whole hierarchy so we work together – civil society and government. We asked the Finnish society – I represent development cooperation organizations but we work together with organizations like church and trade unions, sports and also health organizations. And we are planning, for example, to do this shadow reporting yearly and use these shadow reports as tools for advocacy. We have also written local national global level recommendations to Finland’s national implementation plan. The thing is that the advocacy work is definitely needed because there are very clear challenges when it comes to this implementation.
Ms. Marija Kazlauskaite (LT), Chief Officer,  Strategic planning division, Department of  Economics and International Relations, Ministry of Environment of Lithuania
We don’t want to have many national SDGs to be priorities. We decided to have as less as possible because when you have a lot, you basically don’t have any priority. So to achieve this, to come up to this conclusion, we had to have some work in working group where all the representatives of different ministries took part. I am also happy to say that also representatives from NGOs were involved, our other stakeholders from business environment also took part and also they got a chance to participate at the meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Ms. Ruta Avulyte Jelage (LT),  Executive Director, Lithuanian Non-Governmental Development Cooperation Organisation´s Platform (NDGO Platform)
That’s a very good question whether the civil society should get involved and I think the first part has been already answered at the conference that yes, we have to be involved. And yes, we have to be involved actively and not only with the policy papers kind of proposals, but actually sitting in the commissions. Now, are we involved? In Lithuanian case no. So, out of 17 goals Lithuania chose to have 6, not even the education is there or sustainable development partnerships. It’s a big big lose for the NGO sector in Lithuania, not only NGOs, but some of the ministerial agencies as well. 
Ms. Mara Simane (LV), Adviser, Department of Development Planning, Cross-Sectoral Coordination Centre
In Latvia, it’s very important for us to have the performance indicators as a backbone in everything we're doing.
It’s not a sustainable development goal to decrease inequality or reduce poverty it’s a Latvian national development goal, so one of our big risks is for people - because the more we talk about something being a very international process, the more we lose people.
Each of the ministries works and cooperates with all the NGO sectors. We don’t need this separate process for cooperating of NGOs; it has to go naturally through that.
Mr. Ladislav Simko (SK), Director of the Department for Cross-Sectional Priorities, Government Office of the Slovak Republic
The implementation has to comply with the principle of partnership, communication, participative preparation approval, implementation monitoring and also evaluation of results of all strategies. It is necessarily harmonized with common co-working strategy with strong involvement of direct and indirect stakeholders. We have prepared a basic study as the baseline work for analytic communication, sustainable development strategy 2016+ based on the SDGs.
Mrs. Moizza Binat Sarwar (UK), Research Officer, Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
I think one of the problems with the country like the UK which spends 0,7% of its ODA abroad is that the entire focus on global goals has thus far been on low and middle-income countries. So, the department that focuses is engaged with the global goals is outward-looking. But for domestic implementation, it needs to happen in the completely different sector, in the Department of Works and Pensions so it seems that there is this little gap in conversation between the departments that has been internationally engaged with these goals and the ones that need to actually do it domestically. 

3. Thinking about policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD): What mechanisms and abilities do we have at the national level?

For the collective achievement of SDGs, a coherent strategy is crucial. It must ensure that the implementation of one goal reinforces, or at least does not undermine, the achievement of other goals on both, national and global levels. PCSD is a policy tool to systematically integrate the economic, social, environmental, and governance dimensions of sustainable development into policy-making, and ensuring that they are mutually supportive. Do we have mechanisms and ability to ensure policy coherence?

Also at the beginning of third discussion round there were two opening presentations. They were given by Mrs Ebba Dohlman, Mrs. Ebba Dohlman, Head of Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development Unit at OECD, and by Mrs. Tomas Balco from Slovak Ministry of Finance but given from the position independent international expert on development taxation in no way representing the opinion of ministry of finance.

Ebba Dohlman held her presentation, named Transitioning Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) to Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (PCSD). Are institutions fit for purpose? on evolution of concept of policy coherence for development (PCD) into concept of policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD). She has explained that it is important for two reasons “one is nature of new agenda which is very different, and second is because the global context has changed considerably.” The role of ODA, indeed still important, is changing and development approaches thus have to move to another understanding. She has explained that new development approach should not only be about financial contributions. As an example she has used, for example, reducing the climate footprint and domestic consumption as a part of the process, or about strengthening of good governance globally.

Tomas Balco dedicated his rather critical presentation named Global trade and tax: change of paradigm in favour of sustainable development to specific field of development policies - change of taxation infrastructure as an instrument conducive to successful efforts to reach Sustainable development goals. He was speaking about harmful tax regimes starting back in 30s of previous century persisting until today, criticising little effort of international institutions to come with real change. “It was an attempt of OECD to save current architecture, it is not a radical change,” he said when speaking about the latest international initiatives to bring change into tax system. “Less cracks. Less areas of shades. So, this (harmful practices) will be happening at lesser extent. But it is actually strengthening the existing rules.”

Following these two presentations, another round of stakeholders presented their positions and tried to bring answer to the set of following questions:

  • How is policy coherence for sustainable development reflected in our food and agriculture, trade, and climate policies?
  • What tools do we have for integrating the three pillars of sustainable development in the areas of trade, illicit financial flows and responsible green growth?
  • What are our biggest opportunities and challenges for policy coherence for sustainable development?
Mr. Peter Lebeda (CZ), Director, Glopolis (independent think tank)
Ms. Sigrid Solnik (EE), position Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation
Mr. Kestutis Navickas (LT), Sustainable Development Expert, Baltic Environmental Forum Lithuania
Ms. Sanita Kalnaca (LV), Adviser, Department of Development Policy Monitoring and Evaluation Cross-Sectoral Coordination Centre, Latvia
Mr. Aris Adlers (LV), Board Member of Latvian Green Movement/CEE Bankwatch
Mr. Jakub Simek (SK), Programme Manager, Pontis Foundation

Roundtable was moderated by Mr. Jussi Kanner, Advocacy Officer at Finnish NGDO Platform to the EU (Kehys).

See some media coverage (, Hospodarske noviny, TIVI (video), TASR, Slovak national radio coverage and press release).