Tackling root causes key to reaching Sustainable Development Goals


Flanders is hosting a Stakeholders Consultation this week with international partners to make decisions concerning Sustainable Development Goals

‘Inspiration for action’

The government of Flanders is holding its biennial Stakeholders Consultation for development co-operation this week. It’s the second edition of the event, in which stakeholders in the development sector exchange knowledge and experiences.

The meeting, with speakers from South Africa and Malawi, among other countries, is taking place tomorrow at the government’s headquarters at Tour & Taxis in Brussels.

Since 1993, Flanders has had its own policy for development co-operation, co-ordinated by the foreign affairs department. The region focuses on three partner countries: South Africa, Malawi and Mozambique. The co-operation primarily revolves around agriculture and food security, health care and climate change.

Just as the first edition, this Stakeholders Consultation deals with the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs, which in 2015 succeeded the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), provide a framework for the political agendas of UN member states until 2030. 

Multifacted approach

“The first meeting was helpful in discussing the broad re-orientation process to adjust to the SDGs and the role of governments,” says Katrien de Pauw, head of international co-operation at the foreign affairs department. “We now want to focus more on concrete implementation, by showcasing existing good practices.” The meeting is therefore organised under the heading “Inspiration for action”.

A difference between the SDGs and the MDGs is that the SDGs aim to deal more with the root of problems through a multifaceted approach, while the MDGs more often tackled symptoms. The SDGs, for example, focus not just on remedies against environmental problems like drought or floods, but also on preventing them by battling climate change as a whole.

Among the participants of the Stakeholders Consultation are representatives of organisations in partner countries South Africa and Malawi, Flemish non-profits, research centres, private-sector organisations, municipalities and provinces, microfinance institutes, UN organisations and the European Commission.

While we are still discussing a ban on plastic bags in Flanders, Rwanda banned them more than a decade ago

- Katrien de Pauw

They will exchange views in four workshops – dealing with co-creation, innovation, the involvement of the private sector and innovative finance strategies. During each workshop, three good practices are highlighted.

One of the speakers in the private sector workshop is Tracey Chambers, founder of social enterprise The Clothing Bank in South Africa. The organisation set up partnerships with major retailers in South Africa, who donate their excess stock.

The Clothing Bank trains unemployed mothers to become entrepreneurs and set up a small business, in which they sell the merchandise – bought from the non-profit at discounted prices.

“This initiative has different aspects; it helps to create decent jobs but also works towards a more circular economy,” explains de Pauw. It’s a good example of how the private sector can be a driving force for productivity, inclusive economic growth and job creation – thus helping to make the transition towards more sustainable consumption and production processes.

Balanced partnerships

In the co-creation workshop, participants will debate how to set up balanced partnerships in which all actors collaborate on an equal footing and contribute with their own expertise. This involves breaking the pattern in which a partner organisation in the North decides autonomously how to help a partner in the South.

A good example of a collaboration on equal terms is the co-operation between the municipalities of Zoersel in Antwerp province and Bohicon in the African country Benin (pictured above). They signed a covenant in 2016, to develop a roadmap for action against climate change. Both partners exchange good practices and follow the same training programmes.

“We can learn a lot about countries in the South,” says de Pauw. “While we are still discussing a ban on plastic bags in Flanders, for instance, Rwanda banned them more than a decade ago.”

This article is the first in a three-part series on Flanders’ Stakeholders Consultation

Photo: Bohicon in Benin, which has signed an agreement to work with Zoersel on climate change
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