The Time is Now: Delivering on the SDG Agenda

By Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children


TheGlobalGoals_Logo_and_IconsThere’s no way around feelings of euphoria today.

World Leaders at the United Nations are ringing in a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that promise to end extreme poverty and the scourge of hunger and preventable deaths of infants and children around the world.

At the same time, the Pope is calling for solidarity with the most deprived and those displaced by conflict and climate change.

Over the coming days, millions of people globally – from youth in Ghana to Shakira — are taking part in the “world’s largest” prayers, lessons, and ceremonies to light the way for the SDGs. It’s one of those rare moments in which governments, faith institutions, everyday citizens and popular idols unite around a common cause to forge a historic moment.

Three years of debate among UN diplomats and millions of citizens voicing their priorities has culminated in the approval today by 193 nations of new Sustainable Development Goals, to replace the Millennium Development Goals established in 2000. Negotiations on the SDG agenda have been among the most collaborative in UN history. It is truly a global vision for a better world.

Furthermore, the SDGs comprise a holistic agenda – 17 goals rather than 8 – with ending extreme poverty at its core supported by a healthy planet in a peaceful world.


The goals are bold and ambitious. The trick will be maintaining the momentum once the speeches end, the crowds disperse, and the cameras turn their focus elsewhere.

It will take a collective effort to achieve this, but the most defining players will be governments who will bring political will and resources to deliver a better future for their people.

Here are six actions that all governments can take to make the SDGs real for their countries:


1) Create national action plans to implement the SDGs. Each government should take the SDGs back home, consult widely with local actors, and make policy and programmatic decisions to put the goals into practice in their country. The entire SDG agenda of 17 goals and 169 targets may not be applicable to every country but there are a core set – namely, the “unfinished business of the MDGs”– like health, education and poverty, which do apply to every country and can be acted upon starting today.


2) Commit financing to the SDGs. Countries should align their budgets to achieve these outcomes. For the United States, this may mean more investments to reduce deaths caused by obesity, heart disease, or automobile accidents, while for poor countries global health dollars could be invested in community health workers to reduce deaths associated with childbirth and malnutrition.


3) Assign a high-level government lead on the SDGs. To ensure rigorous monitoring and accountability, it is important to put in place a focal point on the SDGs who can reach across ministries and carry political weight to ensure action and coordination.


4) Communicate a clear commitment to the SDGs. Heads of state can take these goals home and share them with Parliament or Congress and speak to citizens, private companies, and others to contribute financing, technical know-how, and new ideas and innovations to deliver on the SDGs. Citizens should also play a role holding governments’ “feet to the fire” to be accountable for achieving this agenda over the next 15 years.


5) Prioritize action to “leave no one behind.” Many times on large agendas such as this one, people try to attain the easy solutions and quick wins. This time, however, the world pledged to achieve progress for the poorest and most vulnerable groups first. This requires investments in gathering and disaggregating data to ensure that all groups benefit from progress and no one is being “left behind,” such as girls living in poverty.


6) Publish an annual whole of government report on the SDGs and participate fully in the global follow up and review process. Every country should create progress reports on the SDGs and encourage citizen participation to leverage all resources and people-power in fulfilling the 2030 agenda. This will demand that we work together to strengthen our systems for evaluation and learning in order to scale projects that work and end those that don’t.


With the new SDGs, we can build a world in which no child lives in poverty, and where each child has a fair start and is healthy, educated, and safe. But progress toward meeting these goals in each country will depend on more government investment, open and transparent country institutions, participation by a diverse cross-section of civil society, and effective partnerships between government, civil society, private sector, and donors.

In 2030 we will judge success by what has been delivered, rather than by our declarations today. Let’s use this historic moment to pave the way for concrete action for children around the world.

How Save the Children Can #UpgradeYourWorld

Huong headshot

Phan Thi Thu Huong

Sponsorship Manager

Save the Children Vietnam

September 25, 2015


Nothing compares to seeing the impact a supportive learning environment can have on a child.

When I first started working for Save the Children a few years ago, I was introduced to a girl attending a primary school in Lao Cai Province in northern Vietnam who was so tremendously shy and, as an ethnic minority, did not know the national language – Vietnamese.

The girl, named Ly, was just starting first grade at the Save the Children supported school, and it was her first time stepping into a classroom. She had not been given the opportunity to attend preschool or kindergarten, having instead joined her mother in the field as her mother tended to the family’s rice and corn fields. 

Vietnam staff 1

Save the Children Vietnam staff members, from left: Tran Thi Hoai Thu, Pham Thu Trang and Phan Thi Thu Huong, with students at a Save the Children-supported preschool in Lao Cai Province in northern Vietnam. Photo by Jeremy Soulliere.

Ly felt isolated in the classroom, initially unable to communicate with her classmates and teacher. When I approached her, she said nothing and just stared at me, visibly anxious about how she fit in.

Fast forward two years, and I had the opportunity to meet Ly once again during a visit at the school.

I didn’t have to look for her though. She ran up to me and greeted me in Vietnamese, excited to tell me about everything she had learned. She was no longer disconnected and disengaged with her classmates and teacher, and it shocked me how much she had changed.

In the two years I had not seen Ly, she had been given the fundamental educational tools to thrive at school and in life. At Save the Children, this is what we strive for with every child, and we are working hard to ensure kids have a much earlier start on their education than Ly — as 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before they reach kindergarten age.

All children deserve a strong start, but too many children around the world aren’t getting this chance.

Here in northern Vietnam, where I help to oversee early learning and education programs at 23 primary schools and 20 preschools, Save the Children is helping improve the quality of teaching by training teachers on bilingual education techniques and interactive learning methods. We’re also working to increase children’s access to preschool and primary education, and strengthening the support for early learning through parents and community leaders.

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Students play at a Save the Children-supported preschool in Lao Cai Province in northern Vietnam. Photo by Jeremy Soulliere.

Recently, Save the Children was honored to be recognized by Microsoft – through its #UpgradeYourWorld movement — as a global nonprofit that’s empowering and inspiring others. By featuring Save the Children’s early learning efforts throughout September, Microsoft is helping spread the word about the importance of investing in children all over the world.

I have seen first-hand how Save the Children’s collaboration with a school and a community has helped “upgrade” the future possibilities for Ly, and am excited to help be a part of upgrading the possibilities of many more bright children like her. 

Journey to Kosovo


Pina Jabbari

Associate Director, Corporate Partnerships

Save the Children US

September 24, 2015




I set out on a week long journey in April of this year to Kosovo to bring 6 IKEA staff to see programs supported by the Soft Toys for Education campaign through their iWitness program. But, before I even left the states, I found myself on the same flight with a colleague who was returning to Syria. Over coffee in Vienna, I got to ask her some questions about her experience there, and was so humbled by her dedication and willingness to put the well-being of others before her own, to support children and families in one of the most dangerous places in the world.

When I arrived in Kosovo, on the surface, the country looks like most other places I’ve visited in Europe. Despite the conflict being so recent, I felt a strong sense of peace, family and community. As we began to explore and learn about the beautiful countryside, we learned that in fact the challenges are still great, and constantly changing. My colleagues in Kosovo shared that huge investments have been made in infrastructure – but behind the façade, there were a wealth of problems.

Our journey took us to many different regions in Kosovo, and we had an opportunity to see many facets of our programs there – but what struck me the most is that still so many kids are living in the shadows, especially those with disabilities, and those from the minority Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. Our inclusive education program there aims to not only get kids into schools, but to integrate them with the main stream, ensure the schools have the training and resources to reach all children, and most importantly, to ensure all children know and realize their rights. The most beautiful part about it, the kids are so young, they weren’t judgmental of their peers with disabilities or from minority groups. Instead, they played, danced, drew, and laughed together.

Now, I don’t want to make it sound all wonderful – there are still huge challenges. One of the biggest issues I saw was, for the most part, the Serbian and Albanian people live in segregated communities from one another, and the schools systems follow different curriculums dependent upon the community you’re from – Serbian communities following that of Serbia, and Albanian communities following the Kosovar education system. For our team, who are primarily based out of the capital Pristina, it’s not easy to work in some of the isolated Serbian majority municipalities of Gracanica and Mitrovica North, both who reject the Kosovo government. To have any access to these communities, it’s important for our team to hire locally, and work with other community organizations, to both open doors, and ensure trust in our work. It’s this grassroots model that makes us the only international NGO working in these two regions, which is not an easy feat! Just like my colleague I bumped into on my flight, I began to realize that in fact, even in Kosovo, my colleagues put themselves in harm’s way in order to break barriers, change behaviors, and support the most vulnerable children.

Kosovo trip

Throughout the week, we took the IKEA colleagues to 6 different municipalities, a variety of schools, community based rehabilitation centers for children with disabilities, and held a meeting with the Municipal Children’s Assembly, but one particular meeting stood out the most and brought many to tears – a home visit to an Egyptian family’s home. See, earlier that day, we had visited a school and interacted with two little boys, not realizing we would visit their home in the afternoon. In the classroom, these two little boys didn’t appear any different than all the other children, but when we walked into the family’s home, it was immediately evident that the conditions were terrible. The father told us that his family of seven lives on a government stipend of 75 Euros a month, but unlike other families in the community whose children go out to beg or do odd jobs, he believes in the education of his children, and knows this is the only way out of poverty. Thankfully, this parent was easy to reach – he had an 8th grade education himself, and values it. Even the mother, who never attended school and is illiterate, ensures her children do their homework each day before going out to play. The father, despite his crutches, says each day when he sees his children off to school, wants to pick up all the children in the community and carry them to school too. Still too many children don’t attend.

This truly shook the group – even though clearly this family was struggling to survive and put food on the table, they believed in the value of education, and that was so powerful.

That week transformed us on so many levels. Not only were we touched by the people we met and programs we observed, but we recognized that Save the Children and IKEA have a number of shared values – making that trip was a great way to bring our two organizations closer together, and build momentum for this year’s Soft Toys Campaign.