Why is Multi-stakeholder Cooperation Essential for Sustainable Development?

In the field of development, there is a multitude of actors that promote the SDGs and work towards improving the world on many different levels. These levels can go from grassroots movements, to local government action, to International cooperation. Each level of development has its own methodology, its own approach to resolving the Grand Challenges that we face, and each development actor presents different tools and knowledge for resolving the issues.

At the grassroots level where NGOs and other developmental organizations that are locally based perform hands on development work, they operate directly with the target population and do most of the developmental field work necessary to help local communities grow. These organizations collect over time the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work on a local scale, and it allows them to understand the needs of the population, making the development work as efficient as possible. However, grassroots organizations often lack the funding and resources to expand the scale of operations to affect more people, and because of this, the impact of their development work remains local.

Governments also play an essential role in development work as they manage the resources of the country and therefore have more power to fund development projects. The government also has a large extent of knowledge on the needs of the population. However, what the government has in resources and knowledge, it lacks in efficiency. Governmental development is often criticized for its bureaucratic red tape that makes it very difficult to efficiently manage and run development projects, and this lack of efficiency results in development operations that become much more expensive and yield lesser results.

Finally, international developmental organizations such as the World Bank, the IDB, the United Nations, the HLPF, and many others offer a macro approach to development through international cooperation. The advantages to this approach are that it allows to create a conversation surrounding specific developmental issues and brings them to light, making governments realize the importance of development work in the grand scheme of the SDGs. It is also a good place for different governments to propose ways to implement development with the purpose of meeting a particular criteria and through treaties, binds countries to meet the goals. Unfortunately, there is not a strong enforcement mechanism that forces countries to implement the development work they signed off to.

At each level of development there are partial solutions to meeting the SDGs but still encounter specific difficulties at each layer. The difficulties that the different levels of development encounter however can be solved using the tools and knowledge that other actors operating at different scales have to offer. No single actor possesses the solution to development, but by putting actors together, the optimal combination of knowledge and resources would be met, allowing for the maximum amount of progress to be made. This is fundamental to understanding the importance of multi-stakeholder operations in development and why it is essential to have platforms where the different actors operating at different levels of development can share ideas and knowledge to all resolve Grand Challenges.