Community action essential to deliver the SDGs

The Alliance, together with other partners, is organising a side event at the upcoming UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) to showcase the critical role of communities in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Many of the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs are interlinked and thus call for integrated solutions. Decades of experience in the global AIDS response has demonstrated how communities affected by HIV have a whole range of needs that cannot be addressed by providing HIV services alone. We also need to tackle the structural, social and economic drivers of the epidemic, taking a holistic and integrated people-centred approach.

Community© Ollivier Girard for IPC, Burkina Faso 

Communities bridge silos and reach the most vulnerable

The community response on HIV and other critical health and humanitarian issues, such as Ebola, yellow fever and tuberculosis among others, has been doing exactly that: providing comprehensive services beyond health that bridge silos, reach the most vulnerable and contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of the individual served.

Community actors have also played important roles in the broader health and development agenda as resourceful agents of change, advocating for the rights of marginalized and stigmatized groups in society, fighting inequality, injustice and human rights violations, and holding governments to account.

Shriking space for community action

However, despite a growing body of evidence and wide recognition of the critical role of communities in health and development, the space in which they operate is shrinking. Limited funding and complex legal and policy barriers impact on their reach and sustainability. According to the 2016 Global Humanitarian Assistance Report, around two-thirds of funding from government donors was channelled through multilateral organizations in 2014, and funding provided directly to local civil society organizations was just 0.4% of international humanitarian assistance.

We need a paradigm shift in how governments and donor agencies think about, plan, and finance community-led service delivery and advocacy in order to create resilient and sustainable systems for health and development. We need to remove the barriers that prevent global and domestic funding from reaching community actors, organizations and networks.

Community action has to be meaningfully and systematically integrated into global and national development and health strategies and financing plans, and in the implementation of the overall 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This should be a priority at all levels and under all SDG goals, in particular goal 1 on poverty, goal 3 on health, goal 5 on gender, goal 10 on addressing inequality, and goal 17 on partnerships.

We call for more investment in local communities

The HLPF is a critical moment to bring community action to the attention of political leaders gathered in New York to take stock of progress achieved towards the SDGs.

The Alliance, Aidsfonds, UNAIDS, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Free Space Process, AIDS-Fondet and other partners are providing a platform for community actors during the 2017 HLPF to showcase lessons learned from community action across the 2030 Agenda, and to make the argument that none of the SDGs can be achieved without full engagement of, investment in, and support to local communities.

The side event, Communities speak out: the role of communities in delivering the SDGs, will take place on Monday 17 July. 

See also a Call To Action to UN Member States to support community action to achieve the SDGs, endorsed by more than 120 civil society organisations.