This is a guest post by Ambassador Yehuda Yaakov, Senior Director of Social Impact Policy at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Crystal Baransi, Advisor to Israel’s Permanent Delegation to the OECD.
The Social Impact Israel blog has an important goal: to demonstrate how innovators across the public and private sectors are helping make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality in Israel and beyond.
The blog introduces each of the 17 SDGs alongside the government policies designed to help achieve them. It also includes stories of organisations putting each SDG into practice. These range from the Israeli Volunteer Association promoting peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16) to the public and private initiatives working to tackle COVID-19 and achieve SDG 3 on good health and wellbeing.
The website features a series of inspiring personal interviews with SDG Changemakers from the Israeli public and private sectors. In each interview, these hardworking individuals – most of whom are far from being household names in Israel – describe how their innovative work is having an impact. They also explain what values drive their work, and what motivates them to make a difference. To name but three of the changemakers:
- Yulia Eitan, Head of the Diversity in Employment Administration at the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services, works to better integrate diverse Israeli groups—particularly minorities and women—that face challenges when entering the mainstream job market.
- Fadi Swidan, Director of Nazareth Business Center and Accelerator (pictured above), uses his platform to promote equality by working with the Israeli government on projects that promote Arab tech entrepreneurship. Swidan supports start-ups with at least one Arab co-founder and connects them with a Tel Aviv-based network.
- Yael Siman-Tov Cohen tackles inequalities through higher education and seeks to include all population groups in the education system. She is driven by a firm belief that academia is key in creating social mobility, which in turn leads to reducing inequality and enabling social change.
In the wake of COVID-19, the SDG Changemakers also explain how the crisis has affected their work. For example, Mor Barazani, Director of the Diversity Department at the Israel Civil Service Commission, recounts how her Department’s familiarity with diverse communities helped save lives. Aweke Kobi Zena, Coordinator of the National Anti-Racism Unit in the Ministry of Justice, states that racism-based complaints to the Department increased threefold from 15 March to 12 May.
The Social Impact Israel is just one of many initiatives seeking to engage citizens for sustainable development in times of COVID-19. For example, MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, is conducting an online lecture series on challenges like preventing domestic violence during quarantine, promoting distance learning in special education, and preventing disease through water-sanitation-hygiene (WASH).
Meanwhile, Zavit, Israel’s Science and Environment News Agency is providing journalists and the public with science news using simple and accessible language. Every month, more than 50 interactive news stories reach over 400,000 readers. Tackling fake news has been a particularly high priority for communicators ever since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Engaging citizens is also an SDG priority. Israel’s first progress report on the SDGs (July 2019) places particular emphasis on the role of the education system in promoting sustainable development, human rights and gender equality (see section on SDG 4.7 on pages 85-99). In line with this aim, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has announced NIS 18 million (about EUR 4.5 million) in funding to support the Ministry of Education and local municipalities in bringing sustainable development into schools and communities.
At the same time, Israel’s Government also decided to integrate the SDGs into the country’s strategic planning. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environmental Protection are leading ongoing efforts to implement this decision.
In 2020, the COVID19 crisis has shaken up the world. Despite the challenges, Israel continues to promote action for sustainable development. With our growing number of SDG Changemakers, and by sharing experiences and learning from one another, we can turn the crisis into an opportunity.