Rainer Gude, Chargé de Mission of IofC for International Geneva, recently spoke (remotely) at a Yale University Graduate level class entitled, 'Sustainable Development Goals & Implementation'.
The organizer of the class was particularly interested in knowing what IofC was doing in 'capacity building' for the achievement of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/), and felt that IofC had something unique to contribute. The recently approved goals are what will guide UN's global efforts till 2030 in fields such as poverty reduction, health, nutrition, education, gender equality, the environment and even peace and justice. They are replacing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which though they were not fully successful, did provide substantial advances in many fields.
As IofC's goal is to inspire, equip, and connect people to address world needs starting with their own, then in a certain sense, we work on all of the 17 SDGs. Rainer's talk focused on where our expertise lies: gender equality (#5), climate change (13.3), deforestation (15.1,15.2, 15.3) and lastly a large focus on peace justice and strong institutions, which also includes fighting corruption (#16). There are many things that IofC does to build capacity in these domains and Rainer gave the examples of three IofC projects: Creators of Peace, Heart of Effective Leadership (HEL), and Initiatives for Land, Lives and Peace (ILLP).
Creators of Peace works towards gender equality by empowering thousands of women to take ownership of their roles in conflict and to take ownership of their roles for peace. HEL has been a powerful builder of new institutions from the bottom up because primarily it has been building new individuals helping them lead more ethical lives. ILLP and its Caux Dialogue on Land and Security, have been at the forefront of uniting approaches and efforts from various (often opposing) sectors of development, security and business around the issue of land degradation.
While the students of this course, and most likely many people working on these SDGs, may be looking for technical answers and guidelines for policy, the talk focused on IofC's unique approach to capacity building. The first capacity that we build is the capacity to change, to look into one's deepest motivations and beliefs, and work from there. To do so, an important step is to build on a person's capacity to listen. To listen first of all to themselves, and then to others. Once those key capacities are integrated into one’s work, then the other main points of IofC capacity building can be summed up in these key points: the importance of local and shared ownership over projects and in implementation; a bottom-up approach; the importance of breaking silos between organizations and sectors; the need for things to be person-centered; and the importance of connecting heart, head and hands.
Rainer Gude ended the presentation by saying, 'If it is true as Frank Buchman said, that peace is people becoming different, then I believe that that same focus on people will be needed for the SDGs to be a success. Surely, new institutions and technical solutions will be necessary, but they will also require changes in human attitudes and behavior. For these goals to be reached, people will also have to become different.'