April 27, 2017

By Richard Pichler, Special Representative for External Affairs and Resources at SOS Children’s Villages International. Richard Pichler led the global organization as the CEO from 1995 to 2015, broadened portfolio and impact for most vulnerable children, engaged with his peers in shaping the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Richard Pichler shares how SOS Children’s Villages aligns its strategy with the Sustainable Development Goals and works with other civil society organisations to ensure they operate in an accountable manner.

As civil society organisations (CSOs) we have argued for and utilised to a large extent our space for advocating for the interests of our constituencies in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This went as far as the declared understanding that development and implementation of the SDGs as a global agenda is a project of governments, private sector, CSOs and the concerned people. As CSOs we better deliver effectively. Our role is to support implementation AND hold governments accountable.

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If we do what is part of our mandate, “holding governments accountable,” we ourselves need to have an impeccable accountability record. This must be our firm point of departure – I call for an even higher sense of responsibility in particular for all CSOs who engaged in the development of the SDGs. We are soon entering the third year of SDG implementation and all of us should have by now concluded the mainstreaming of the SDGs in our strategies.

Let me share two actions which also relate to aligning the strategy of SOS Children’s Villages with the SDGs:

  • Internally we are assessing all our programmes in over 130 countries to be fit for purpose matching our SDG aligned strategy.
  • Externally we teamed up as child focused international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) – ChildFund, Plan, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, Terre des Hommes, World Vision. We mutually review our strategies and seek areas of cooperation (as per Goal 17) where only together we can make major progress.

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Both actions I consider most relevant from the accountability perspective. Aligning one’s own strategy is more of an ornamental factor. Reaching out to others to achieve the needed impact, which one organisation will not be able to successfully achieve alone, I expect will us bring closer in accountability.

As child focused INGOs we are primarily accountable to the children, for having acted in their best interest. We all know that despite any amount of empowerment of children, only when they grow up do they move into a real position of power to question our impact. Our secondary accountability, which is also the one which is normally practiced, goes to the funding partners and governments.

In between there is an important corrective which shall also be seen as complementary to our primary accountability and which we still need to leverage more strongly – our mutual accountability amongst CSOs as experts working to challenge each other.

If we live the spirit of mutual responsibility, we will strengthen our legitimacy and be prepared for the questions regarding our own accountability, which will naturally arise as we hold governments to account. We should all expect that uncomfortable questions are often not answered, but rather countered with equally uncomfortable questions.

Here you can find SOS Children’s Villages’ Strategy 2030.