Katell Le Goulven and Eva Kaplan

11 April, 2017

Our current blog series looks into the ways different organisations use foresight and Horizon Scanning within their current projects. To learn about the International Civil Society Centre’s foresight platform, visit the Scanning the Horizon page.


In early 2015, as Ebola was still ravaging West Africa, and markets experienced high volatility, our unit at UNICEF began our annual predications blog by announcing an end to predictability.  At least in this we were correct: volatility has only amplified since and, in retrospect, 2015 seems like a more stable time.

In reaction to this context of rapid change, UNICEF’s Policy Planning Unit sought to systematise our use of methodologies to anticipate emerging trends—both those with negative and positive potential. One such methodology is Horizon Scanning, which involves scanning a wide variety of information sources for trends and clustering them according to predefined categories.  At UNICEF, we use STEEP + H categories (Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic, Political + Humanitarian). Horizon Scanning allows us to pick up on so-called weak signals that might be pointing to the next mega-trend. However, identification of emerging trends is not the same as taking action.  Indeed, a classic bottleneck of Horizon Scanning work in large organisations is the “and-then-what?” phase. Using concrete illustrations where our scanning exercises had impact and helped spur innovation, here are a few lessons that we hope can initiate a discussion with other organisations developing similar functions: MORE

Alexia Skok

7 June, 2016

How leaders from some of the world’s most prominent civil society organisations (CSOs) ensure that poor and vulnerable people benefit from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Girls must be more effectively supported, people with disabilities better included, and civil society partnerships reinforced if we want to make significant headway towards fair and sustainable development, our experts say.

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The announcement of the SDGs has sparked stirring dialogue across the development sector; the agreement of comprehensive, inclusive goals that ‘leave no one behind’ has put forward a new challenge, and inspired organisations and governments across the globe to commit to achieving a sustainable, equitable world.

But what does this mean for the implementation process? How does the sector ensure that the inspiring, people-oriented rhetoric is converted into concrete actions that actually achieve sustainable progress? Our blog theme for the last seven weeks featured leaders working within the new global framework sharing their experiences, concerns, and calls to action on the topic of SDG implementation. MORE

Mitchell Toomey

24 May, 2016

MY_WORLD_GOALSIn September of last year the world witnessed an historic moment – leaders from every member state of the United Nations unanimously ratified a bold and comprehensive 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This agreement emerged not only from the negotiating chambers at the UN but also from a radical and far reaching global conversation that eventually included more than ten million people and thousands of civil society organisations (CSOs), largely through the MY World 2015 survey. The mix of new and old techniques opened the negotiation process to a vivid display of the variety of experiences, knowledge and organisational forms which populate the civic space and left member states buoyed by the energy and enthusiasm of people worldwide, ultimately resulting in a far reaching, complex and ambitious agenda for action.

Thus, the new Goals carry in their DNA openness and inclusiveness, and it is this same spirit that will be required in order for member states to achieve them. The shared vision of the SDGs will be tested as governments lead the process for their implementation: It is critical that space is created for a broad range of actors beyond those traditionally involved in development-related decision processes, if the scale and ambition of the agenda – to leave no one behind – is to be realised. Through the MY World survey initiative for example we saw a massive engagement from young people worldwide (over 70% of survey respondents were under 30 years of age) we must continue to harness this energy to not just debate what the agenda should be but to drive the agenda forward, foster innovation and mobilise new actors. MORE

Patrick Watt

17 May, 2016

Asha* was just 13 when she was forced to move in with her aunts because her parents had to move away for work. Despite the change, she was optimistic. She was looking forward to starting secondary school – and felt lucky in a country, Tanzania, where three-quarters of girls don’t get more than a primary education.

But when Asha moved, her aunts broke the news that they could not pay for her school fees. Devastated, Asha had to drop out of school and put her future hopes on hold.

That same year, aged 13, she was forced to marry. Her husband quickly became abusive, beating her daily and often withholding food. Soon she was pregnant and felt like she lost all hope to continue her education.

It’s the situation of children like Asha, denied the right to survive and learn through a combination of poverty and discrimination, which has driven Save the Children to launch its new global campaign, Every Last Child.

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We know the world has made unprecedented progress for children. Since 1990, the world has halved child mortality and the number of out-of-school children. But it’s also the case that there’s a huge unfinished agenda. Each year, over six million children die from preventable causes. Almost 60 million children remain out of primary school, and four times that number are in school but failing to learn. Increasingly, these children are being denied the opportunity to survive and learn because of who they are and where they live. We need new and innovative approaches to reach the most excluded children and deliver on the ambition set out in the Global Goals. MORE

Richard Pichler

10 May, 2016

What a joy it was last September for the international civil society sector: Pope Francis’ address touching many of today’s challenges; Presidents  of small and big nations giving their supportive views to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); Malala conveying essential voices of young people; and the plenary of the General Assembly endorsing and applauding the SDGs.

UNSustainableDevelopmentGoals_w_logo-e1442391056454As civil society organisations (CSOs) we have come a long way in the development process of the SDGs; at the beginning, we were not at all sure if our arguments would be considered. Thanks to our joint efforts, and the clear message that we must have a seat at the table, we have harvested fruits. Many of the needs and the rights of the people we represent have become a priority. Just in time, we – smaller and bigger organisations alike – understood how much was at stake if we didn’t work together. We realised that our responsibility had to go beyond our organisational interests. This put healthy pressure on us, and we managed well under strict time constraints. But can we maintain this spirit in the implementation?

Even more energy is needed during the implementation process; now it’s about action. We know the goals, but what is the right approach to achieving them? We can’t allow ourselves to run off with great intensity into different – or even opposite – directions. We can’t think that we are faster alone, and that we can achieve quick, sustainable results without collaboration. My wish is to see us act in the spirit of cooperation that made us succeed in the advocacy phase.  MORE

Thomas Gass

3 May, 2016

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its set of interlinked Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets resulted from the most inclusive policy dialogue the United Nations has ever organised, one in which civil society organisations (CSOs) fully participated.  This established a new benchmark for dialogue and inclusiveness at the UN. As the Secretary-General noted recently, there can be no going back.

The 17 SDGs address – in an integrated way – the most pressing economic, social and environmental challenges of our time. They are a universal and shared vision of humanity for transforming our society and projecting our planet. They form a social contract between the world’s leaders and ‘We the peoples’.

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Implementing this comprehensive and far-reaching Agenda will require all governments and decision-makers to commit to leave no one behind. It calls for adopting new approaches and breaking down silos. To begin such a transformation and place humanity on a more sustainable course, we need all hands on deck to work across borders and sectors, and move from the ‘what’ to the ‘how’.

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Diane Kingston

26 April, 2016

There has been much cause to celebrate the new 2030 Agenda; the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a huge step forward when compared to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in many ways. We at CBM are delighted that disability is explicitly named within the 2030 Agenda, as persons with disabilities were excluded and invisible in the MDGs. However, there is always room for improvement – persons with disabilities continue to be referred to as one of the ‘marginalised’ or ‘vulnerable’ groups. Decision-makers must continuously name us explicitly; if you do not name persons with disabilities, then our specific human rights will not be addressed.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon rightly points out, ‘the true test of commitment to Agenda 2030 will be implementation’. The implementation of the new development agenda must be firmly anchored in human rights if we are to achieve its goals. Why? Because the SDGs are political goals and represent a strong political commitment, but they are voluntary, not legally binding. Human rights treaties can be used as key instruments in advancing human rights and when combined with the SDGs they provide tools to hold government accountable for both poverty elimination and upholding rights.

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