A Netherlands-based research and advocacy organization called Advocacy Unified Network has recently announced plans to launch its very first chapter in Africa. The aim of promoting South-South cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is something that they have taken upon themselves, with a team visiting Durban in June. It is not just an NGO in South Africa but across all Africa. So, it will probably be one of South Africa’s best International NGOs in public policy research and advocacy. In addition to engaging directly with Members of Parliament and Government Officials, it will also conduct public policy research using public opinion surveys, focus groups, and surveys. However, it lacks members from some local communities but wishes to work with these people to assist them by providing them with information on how to lobby for their interests. It is hoped that many more African countries will follow suit and soon join forces to offer a South-South collaboration for sustainability goals. They are not stopping at just getting more countries involved; existing organizations are being encouraged to become members, including CSOs who wish to do similar work. The Africa chapter will consist of the stakeholders from all the countries of Africa. The aim is to promote South-South cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by linking Non-Governmental Organizations in South Africa and developing countries on a more formal basis.
When asked about their line of action, the Secretary of AUN Priyasa Banerjee said, “we will use our networks to support SDG realization through research, advocacy, and public education work at the national level and support each other concerning international policy dialogue, influencing decision-makers, and development assistance agencies. At AUN, it is also essential that we share knowledge about UN processes; how does it work? The purpose of AUN is simply to enhance international relations through South-South Cooperation to support national development”.
What we came to know from the team, that they plan to bring together international and Africa-based organizations, NGOs, universities, students, and governments through regular workshops and conferences, as well as online training courses aimed at educating their participants on how to promote socially inclusive policies and mobilize constituencies to drive policy change on the local level. Their work focuses on scaling up advocacy for SDGs using civic space created by NGO activity by promoting South-South cooperation through capacity building and sharing knowledge between South African CSOs and those from other developing countries. They also facilitate exchange visits between South Africa based CSOs with similar counterparts in other developing countries so as to share experiences, lessons learned and best practices related to advocacy initiatives around Sustainable Development Goals.
Officially incorporated in March 2022, Advocacy Unified Network is an international organization with a grassroots vision: to create and support decentralized, grassroots networks of advocates working together on issues of public policy. The organization’s name reflects its ideals; each Advocate within its members is said to be unified under one common cause—to see that United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are met. Advocates within its member organizations commit themselves to unity not only among their members but also within their own governments, where they push for domestic changes within their states. This often includes bringing awareness to environmental problems, such as climate change and deforestation. There is an interesting story about the organization that we came to know from one of the founders. In 2016, AUN was unofficially founded by a team of former policy makers, some businesses and civil society members of Turin (Italy), Nice (France), India, Tanzania, Bern (Switzerland) and Monaco, launched its first chapter at Europe Turin, Italy. The team continued to brainstorm and organize for five long years and finally decided to officially get the organization registered in the Hague, Netherlands - The City of Peace and Justice, with the SDGs at the heart of the organization.
The Secretary of AUN added, "The Advocacy Unified Network is launching its first chapter in Africa, because it is important to understand that South-South cooperation should be a driving force behind all of our actions. And if we want to work towards achieving sustainable development, then it is vital for us to strengthen these ties and create more opportunities for ourselves by working together with other countries on a global scale. This isn’t just about finding new markets; it’s about finding innovative ways of living that can spread positive change throughout an entire continent. This is just one way that South-South cooperation can change Africa for the better. The people of Africa deserve real opportunities to improve their lives and create a better future".
The Advocacy Unified Network is unique because they are so diverse. They're not just focused on one specific area of advocacy or one continent, but are instead working to create a global network of organizations that share information and support one another. Because their focus is on collaboration, there are clear advantages for individual chapters to seek out cross-border partnerships and work with different organizations in order to best serve those that they're trying to help. By coming together, these groups have found more success than they would on their own. With an eye towards supporting sustainable development goals, it's exciting to see how much can be accomplished when people come together.