THE BLOG

Too Narrow a Focus on Finance, Not Enough on People

21/04/2015 11:24 BST | Updated 20/06/2015 10:59 BST

I'm in New York this week to engage in the Post 2015 development process first hand. I know I'm not alone when I say that the process to agree a new agenda for the fight on global poverty is confusing and impenetrable. This week's focus is on financing and implementation. It's the "who's-going-to-pay?" and "how's-it-going-to-happen?" parts of the puzzle.

Transformative change

Financing will be crucial in implementing this brave new agenda, but it cannot be allowed to become the entire story. If the conversation focuses too narrowly on money, we risk turning a blind eye to the very thing that makes development successful and sustainable. This is the people-to-people aspect. We've seen too much development cooperation in recent years that focuses simply on finance and aid. Such an approach fails to build peoples' own capacity to define and solve the challenge of poverty themselves and to question the structures that perpetuate poverty.

If the Post-2015 agenda is to be truly transformative, its implementation must be based on people-centred approaches and solutions that are devised from the ground up; solutions that tackle the root causes of poverty from the perspective of the people living in it.

People use technology

Similarly, technology has enormous potential to create real change in people's lives. But no matter how good the technology, the real impact comes from building people's capacity to engage with it. We've all heard the stories about rusting tractors or brand new computers locked away in cupboards for fear of damage or misuse.

It is only through sharing skills and knowledge that we can make the best use of the incredible developments and innovations happening across the world. Volunteers can and should play a critical role in this.

In Ethiopia, for example, volunteers worked alongside national health professionals to develop critical front-line services including the country's first neonatal intensive care units installed with the right equipment to reduce infant and maternal mortality. These have been so successful, they have been rolled out nationally and are being replicated by other African countries.

People helped us meet Millennium Development Goals

Every single day millions of volunteers the world over have a positive impact on the development of their communities. They make a contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Seven different organisations in this sector have been documenting the ways in which volunteers contributed towards the MDGs. The photos and stories from this 500 Days 500 Ways project show volunteers making a real and lasting difference in how these goals are implemented. It shows that approaches which build human and social capital rather than relying simply on finance, will be critical for delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

People will deliver the Sustainable Development Goals

The volunteer resource is not small. The Johns Hopkins Comparative Non-Profit Sector Project found that in the 36 countries studied, 44% of the workforce of civil society organisations was made up of volunteers, and would be worth US$400 billion annually if accounted for. If the world's volunteers were a country, it would be the ninth largest in the world (150 million people). Make no mistake; this is an enormous resource, one with huge potential and one that needs to be harnessed to tackle global poverty.

I am proud to be here in New York with Elisabeth Kisakye, an inspiring young Ugandan VSO volunteer currently working in Mozambique raising awareness of girls' education needs. She will be speaking at Thursday's interactive dialogue on behalf of volunteer groups. Together, Elizabeth and I will call on the UN Member State delegations to listen to the voices of their people and to recognize that it is people-to-people development that will ultimately work. We want them to agree to be held accountable by their own people for both the financing and the implementation of this brave new agenda for ending poverty.