Ms. Ulrika Richardson opened the event speaking briefly about the history and importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She thanked the UN and media attendees, as well as members of the public, the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, UNS Kosovo and civic society representatives for their attendance. Ms. Richardson began by telling the audience about the history of the SDGs: in the year 2000, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan viewed the world as bleak and thought change was needed. There was a concerning amount of extreme poverty and inequality, and climate change was worsening. At a 2000 conference with other world leaders, the Millennium Development Goals were established, to be concluded in 2015. In 2012, at the Rio Summit, international leaders agreed that the world needed to focus on three dimensions of development: economic, social, and environmental. At that time, many believed that too much emphasis was placed on economic growth, such as indicators like GDP. For instance, as GDP grew, inequality remained the same or worsened.
Ms. Richardson then outlined the impact Kosovo had on the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2015, individuals from around the world completed a survey titled “The World We Want.” Over 9,000 Kosovars responded, many of them youth, giving significant input into what would become the 17 Goals called the “Sustainable Development Goals.” The new SDGs were universal: they weren’t just for developing areas, like the Millennium Development Goals. The new goals are interlinked, and as such, many have trade-offs. For instance, economic growth and environmental protection are often in opposition to one another.
Ms. Richardson then spoke about the focus of SDGs, stating that disaggregated data is essential. GDP per capita does not say much about the health of a society, and as such, individuals should look beyond statistics. Disaggregated data allows people to focus on other topics such as gender equality. There is also a clause titled “Leave No One Behind” which is a key covenant of the SDGs.
To close her speech, Ms. Richardson asserted that the role of journalists is essential. Journalists are privileged: they have the attention of society. There is also a great deal of responsibility placed on the shoulders of journalists. We must make SDGs relevant to Kosovo, and we need journalists to help us in this endeavour.
The second speaker was Mr. Petrit Çollaku, Director of Association of Journalists of Kosovo. Mr. Çollaku declared that the role of media is important. The first SDG “No Poverty” continues to be the biggest issue in the society of Kosovo. He began with the umbrella organization known as the Association of Journalists of Kosovo. Mr. Çollaku stressed that the media should be able to open public debates, forums and more, where they can discuss social issues in Kosovo.
The Director continued, admitting that poverty still exists in Kosovo, which is often discussed. Normally, the media informs and educates citizens. He suggested that media might have a broader approach with SDGs. There are proper strategies in place for economic growth in Kosovo, as GDP increases by two to three percent every year, but discussions focus around the society instead of around families. Mr. Çollaku said that the media should criticise the lack of individual and familial focus, and that the media can mobilize so that the voices of families are heard. With a bigger future engagement, the Association could possibly organize trainings.
The third speaker of the event, Mr. Buimir Ničić, Head of UNS Kosovo, declared that members of the media are the guardians of democracy. They fight nepotism, corruption, and more: all problems which destroy a society. Media has the right to financial stability and sustainable development funds, which includes Serbian media. Connecting to the SDGs, Mr. Ničić stated that poverty is a widespread phenomenon, and is comprised of many elements. Only a few days ago, the media released a story from the Gračanica/Graçanica municipality where some families are living without water and electricity, even though they are employed.
Mr. Ničić resumed, expressing that the fight against corruption is the work of donors and media. Unfortunately, media often does not have sustainable financial sources, as money comes from donors, which causes stress within the industry. When talking about cases regarding poverty and education, media have a significant role. Mr. Ničić concluded with the assertion: media should be a priority.
The penultimate speaker, Ms. Elisabetta Iurcev, spoke to the audience about the practical aspects of Sustainable Development Goals. She articulated that SDGs cannot be achieved without commitment from upper levels. Ms. Iurcev began speaking about the SDGs in the Kosovo context, beginning with the definition of “localization.” Localization describes the process of translating the global agenda into a local level, so that it is applicable to each unique region. Localization is partnered with alignment and integration, which is essential to ensure that SDGs align with local laws and policies.
Ms. Iurcev also emphasized the importance of disaggregated data, which is useful in understanding the impact of laws, policies and goals on the lives of individuals. She continued, maintaining that each of the 19 UN agencies in Kosovo has a mandate. When this knowledge is brought together, people can understand the progress of SDGs here. Recently, on January 25th 2018, the Assembly of Kosovo adopted the Resolution of the SDGs. This showed Kosovo’s commitment to sustainable development. To tie the government and UN agencies together, Ms. Iurcev argued that without working together, SDGs cannot be achieved. Furthermore, working with the media is a key element of SDG competition. Individuals do not act if they are unaware, and media can help with civic engagement by promoting the SDGs.
The final presenter was Mr. Dren Rexha, UNICEF Project Officer, who connected the SDGs to children and youth. He began with acknowledging the downfalls of the Millennium Development Goals, such as the fact that they were mainly catered toward developing regions. With the MDGs, inequality persisted and progress was uneven. The MDGs were measuring success at national levels, but were not focused on minorities, such as individuals with disabilities. Mr. Rexha posed a question to the audience: “Can the SDGs be achieved?” He said the answer is yes, but not through ‘business as usual’. The underlying principle of the SDGs is, of course, sustainability: to grow enough food for all but not destroying soil levels, to produce more electricity without increased rates of Carbon Dioxide, and more. The SDGs cannot leave anyone behind, which includes children and youth.
Mr. Rexha affirmed that child poverty is a multidimensional problem and that governments must make it a priority. Internationally and nationally, children are more likely to live in poverty. While 17% of the total Kosovo population lives in poverty, 20% of the child population of Kosovo live in poverty. He declared that childhood poverty is a violation of a child’s rights, and moreover, while adults can be in poverty temporarily, falling into poverty in childhood can result in a lifetime of poverty. Mr. Rexha concluded with highlighting the asset of Kosovo: its youth. Once the lives of children and youth are improved, the entire society will benefit.
The SDGs Brunch was a successful event which strengthened the relationship between media and UN agencies. Speakers presented and participants were given the opportunity to ask questions, highlighting the importance of cross-sectorial dialogue. Through joint collaboration, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Kosovo by 2030 is an attainable effort.
Written by Sarah Tenus, Communications and Parliamentary Intern