SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals
Finally, we reach the last SDG ‐ number 17. The other 16 SDGs risk remaining simply hopes and dreams of a few unless the final goal is achieved.
I once attended a stimulating forum on the status of women in Geneva. Valuable ideas came out of the workshops and open discussions. However, at the end of the day, I remember hearing that not only the laws, signed agreements, funding and frameworks were important, but in order to make concrete transformation happen, the fundamental requirement was ‘implementation, implementation, implementation!’ This is still true today.
For real lasting impact, sustainable development requires inspired action. We cannot do it all ourselves. Partnerships change things. Also, remember, partnerships change us as individuals!
Sometimes the blockage to entering into any partnership is being willing to take risks. A partnership involves at least two parties. That means all parties are likely to change in the process of interacting with one another. For those fixed in their own way of reasoning and doing things, that can be seen as a threat, rather than a beautiful opportunity to learn.
By pooling resources, partners become much richer than they were beforehand: a ripple effect takes place that tends to enthuse others, even outside the original partnership. Others desire to work for the same goal. We discover that the partners who we perhaps previously viewed as ‘poor’ have, in fact, great lessons to teach us. They bring a keen knowledge of the local environment and practical ideas on how to create a better and more just world, even without ‘official’ expertise. Good partnerships will strengthen the hope of reaching the goals – together. Good partnerships give new energy and remind each one of their value – a value that is not simply economic. Partnerships are at their best when there is an environment of mutual respect and where listening (more than expressing our own opinions) is valued. Our world is increasingly interconnected and we pray that we can make a valid contribution to accomplishing the SDGs by strengthening the means of implementing and revitalizing our global partnerships. That may be with the public or private sectors of society, or it may also come about by collaborating with other faith‐based communities. May we have open eyes and hearts for the opportunities that present themselves to us.
God intended for humankind to be dependent on him as well as interdependent with our neighbours. The Bible places great emphasis on community rather than individualism, yet each person has a responsibility to work for the good of the world that God created. Together, we are stronger. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians states that we are ‘God’s co‐workers’ (2 Corinthians 6:1). This is a high calling to carry out on a daily basis. We receive our mandate from the Creator and sustainer of all life. He created us as social beings. His way of bringing about justice has been through partnerships: through people and individuals found at various levels of society, speaking out, becoming actors, often being countercultural. It is his world, and we are connected to others, responsible for one another’s well‐being.
Kathleen Darby Ray has suggested: ‘We need to be motivated by empathy, not empire; mercy, not mastery; vulnerability, not violence. Humility comes from humus, the word for earth, becoming earth, becoming incarnate.’1
1 An interview with Kathleen Darby Ray, American Academy of Religion annual conference, Chicago, Illinois, 19 November 2012. (Source: Salvatierra and Heltzel, 2014, p90)
Paul writes in Philippians 1:4‐6: 'In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.'
In Philippians 2:5‐8, this book continues: ‘In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!'
When we begin working in partnership with others, we experience a strengthening of our talents and skills. Proverbs 18:16 teaches us: 'A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.'
The success of individuals, NGOs and other organisations as they work towards the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals. May partnerships between these parties be strong and successful.
The Salvation Army as it seeks to develop good partnerships with other agencies and groups around the world. May we be willing to work with others to achieve God’s purposes on earth. May we also be willing to say no to partnerships if they divert or distract us from participating in God’s mission on Earth.
A sense of understanding on the part of all those who seek justice ‐ that we may be willing to listen to those around us and to grow, and where we disagree to do so respectfully.
Make an effort to understand somebody that you do not naturally get on with. Perhaps you disagree with them about an issue ‐ but you can still respect their viewpoint and try to find some common ground. Read Luke 6:27‐28. Jesus wants us to be willing to get along with others around us and value the contribution that others make to our lives and community. If this is not something that comes easily to you, perhaps you can set it as a personal goal.
Work in partnership with others. It may seem that SDG 17 will play out internationally between high‐level organisations, politicans and companies, but we all have a role to play. New intiatives will get off the ground through individuals partnering with friends, family and colleagues, as well as others in their church. Look around you for people with the skills to develop and advance your efforts in fund‐raising, volunteering and other ways.