“We know more than you think we do”: Raising citizens’ voices on the Sustainable Development Goals

The world’s most marginalised people must participate in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) process if they are not to be left behind forever. But this is not yet happening enough. This report puts the principle of participation into practice – sharing the voices of some of these people, showing that they know they are left behind and have solutions and demands – and makes some proposals on how their right to democratic participation can become a reality.

During 2017 and 2018, ActionAid and our partners in Bangladesh, Denmark, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zambia undertook a research and accountability project to listen to the voices of marginalised communities on the implementation of SDG 5 on gender equality, SDG 8 on youth employment and decent work, and SDG 16 on accountability and participation, corruption and non-discrimination.

Citizens engaged in the research called for stronger institutional responses to violence against women, and greater investment in violence prevention initiatives such as safer transport or addressing alcohol and drug abuse. They called for initiatives to recognise, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work, and to address harmful practices. They also want to see initiatives that help to ensure more and better jobs for women and young people – including more targeted and inclusive vocational training, investment in entrepreneurs or cooperatives, and enforcement of quotas and targets in existing laws – as well as initiatives to reduce corruption and engage citizens in policymaking.

This report highlights the need to dramatically strengthen measures to include the most marginalised people in implementation and monitoring of the SDGs, and the need to fulfil the promise of the SDGs through publicly financed services that are publicly delivered.