CVSA's Report  on Our Contributions to the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Commission on Voluntary Service & Action
In Special NGO Consultative Status to ECOSOC since 2013


Report to the HLPF on Our Contributions to the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
July 10, 2016


(See PDF version for download of whole report below)


    Commission on Voluntary Service & Action (CVSA) is an all-volunteer, coordinating and consultative body of nongovernmental volunteer service organizations with over 200 member organizations that serve communities in need and are organizing for change and systemic solutions to problems. Founded in 1945, CVSA enjoyed NGO status with DPI beginning in 1946 and has had NGO Special Consultative Status to the Economic and Social Council since 2013.


    In the framework of paragraph 35, 39, 45, 47, 60, and 89 of “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and consistent with the “Voluntary Common Guidelines for Major Groups and other Stakeholders to Report to the HLPF on their Implementation of the 2030 Agenda” we submit this report to the HLPF meeting of July 11 through 20 under the auspices of ECOSOC for the purpose of providing input from the experience of hundreds of organizations CVSA works with in the United States to:  encourage our government to carry out these goals and engage all stakeholders; and to offer other NGOs and stakeholders a methodology for involving people at the community level in taking ownership of the 2030 Goals, so that together we ensure “no one is left behind.”  


    In specific, this is a report on CVSA’s nation-wide Community Education Campaign for the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the U.S., which we launched in February 2016. The report brings to our membership of U.S.-based non-profit, nongovernmental volunteer-involving organizations, as well as small business organizations, religious leaders, colleges and universities, information, tools and training they can use to mobilize and educate their communities about the SDGs; and how to advocate to local, state, and federal govern-ment bodies for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.


1. Summary

    CVSA launched a nationwide Community Education Campaign for the Implementation of the SDGs in the U.S. in February 2016, run entirely by volunteers, with a phone campaign to inform over 200 community-based, nongovernmental volunteer-involving organizations across the country of the unanimous adoption of all 193 UN member states — including the U.S.— of the SDGs, and began scheduling meetings and group presentations about the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the need for their participation toward its implementation.


    The organizations that CVSA represents involve volunteers in their work on the front lines of the social and economic problems stemming from growing poverty, hunger, lack of access to health care, lack of access to legal justice, as well as workers’ rights, problems with access to affordable clean water or affordable heat and electricity, and who work with local environmental issues, overall environmental protection, obstacles to sustainable agriculture development, and more. These organizations are located in urban and rural areas throughout the United States; CVSA also works with international volunteer organizations and works in solidarity with volunteer organizations throughout the world. Our Community Education Campaign for the SDGs is focused on the hundreds of organizations throughout the U.S. who seek sustainable development solutions here in the U.S. in solidarity with the people of developing nations and the people of other developed countries.

    Through CVSA’s Community Education Campaign for the Implementation of the SDGs, we are working with these groups to provide the tools, information and training in organizing methodology needed to enable them to mobilize their constituencies in support of the SDGs and to participate in monitoring the progress. We have asked them to begin providing reports with current data from their direct experience on current conditions that people in their community face in relation to the SDGs, as their contribution to an overview of where the U.S. stands currently compared to what is defined in the SDGs, and therefore have a material, evidence-based picture of what work needs to be done. We provide in this report the data from the initial reports we have received.


    CVSA’s objective is to involve community-based nongovernmental volunteer-involving organizations throughout the country that are already engaged in serving people in need which are addressing problems of poverty, hunger, health care, housing, water, environmental destruction and other areas, and to utilize their experience, knowledge, expertise and leadership in building a groundswell of interest and involvement — from local level up — for the SDGs to be seriously planned for and carried out. We are building ownership by “the people” in the U.S. for implementation of the SDGs in the U.S. and in solidarity and cooperation with the people of all nations.


    In the months of February through May, 2016, CVSA volunteers made in-person and in-depth presentations about the SDGs to community and church groups in the New York City metropolitan area, northern New Jersey, Boston and Lynn, Massachusetts and has more presentations scheduled throughout the Summer and Fall of 2016.  CVSA volunteers have spoken on the phone with over 100 additional organizations about the SDGs and sent them basic materials about the 17 Goals and how the 2030 Agenda was written over the past three years.  We are mailing over 2,000 copies of our newsletter with full-length articles about our Community Education Campaign for the SDGs and a copy of the 17 Goals to people across the U.S. this month, explaining the role they can play in advancing these goals.  Over 30 other volunteer-based community organizations across the country have now published articles on the Sustainable Development Goals in their own newsletters with their endorsement of the 2030 Agenda, as a result of CVSA’s contact with them. We are broadly publicizing the commitment made by the U.S. government, along with the other 192 member states, to the achievement of the SDGs in this country and around the world by 2030.


    As we began the Community Education Campaign, we learned that 19 out of every 20 nonprofit or community-based organizations we contacted knew nothing about the SDGs until we called and explained it to them. None of the church leaders we spoke to and enlisted in the campaign knew of the SDGs previously, and none of the civic engagement counselors on college campuses we spoke to had heard of them. There has been no publicity in media and no promulgation by the U.S. government.    

Upon learning what the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is, and reviewing the 17 Goals, and understanding how they are supposed to be carried out, we have received 100% agreement that the SDGs urgently need to be carried out in the U.S., are 100% relevant to unsolved and growing social, economic and environmental problems in the U.S. Those with global perspectives also understand that if the U.S. does not apply and implement the Goals here in the U.S., current U.S. economic, social and environmental policies will remain a major obstacle to the achievement of the SDGs around the world.  Everyone we met with expressed interest in participating at some level in the planning for achieving the SDGs and to assist in monitoring their progress; their interest was materialized initially in their contributions of reports on conditions in their community as they relate to the SDGs.  These reports can be used as a baseline measurement for what needs to change and for what action is needed.
     In Section 5 of this report you will find reports contributed by seven member organizations. Any nonprofit, nongovernmental, volunteer-involving organization based in the U.S. interested in contributing a report to CVSA about the conditions in your community and what your organizations is doing about it is welcome to contact us and we will provide the report format.


2. Introduction: Context and objectives:

    The reports submitted to CVSA to date from community-based nongovernmental organizations describing the conditions of people in communities across the United States in relation to the SDGs and what these community-based organizations are doing about these problems and to achieve the SDGs, are one initial step in their commitment to promote the SDGs in their area. These reports come from organizations that are working in communities and areas where tens of thousands of people have already been “left behind” in many ways, and seek to reverse this trend. We are working with organizations on how to incorporate the SDGs into their programs and how to promote the SDGs in their community and build a groundswell of involvement to hold the U.S. government responsible to their commitment for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda here in the U.S. as well as in cooperation with the peoples of all nations and to leave no one behind.


     A source of concern expressed in every presentation we have conducted so far, is the absence of proper public education and promotion about the SDGs to the people of the U.S. and the absence of an official call for their involvement in the planning and monitoring.  CVSA will continue to teach organizations how they can promote these goals in their communities and involve people to advocate for them from the local levels up.


     In Section 5 of this report you will find reports contributed by seven CVSA member organizations about their work and their assessment of existing conditions in relation to the 17 SDGs.


3. Methodology and process for preparation of the report

    CVSA carries out our work through involving volunteers who join us from the ranks of college students, non-profit professionals, religious leaders, working people, retired people and anyone who is interested. We break down the work into areas of responsibility and into tasks and processes so that people at all skill levels can learn, take as much responsibility as they want, and help coordinate any aspect of the campaign. Volunteers learn to make the presentations, put together the publications and fliers, set up speaking engagements and meetings around the SDGs, and process reports. We teach through on-the job-training methods so that anyone interested in conducting this Community Education Campaign in their own community or area of work, can pick up the tools and learn. We have created phone narratives, presentation narratives, flyers, posters, and more, and are teaching people how to use these tools in a systemic way so that they can do it themselves and teach it to others.
This process is integral to our plan of action for engaging communities and volunteer organizations across the country in taking ownership of the SDGs and playing an active role in their implementation.

4. Policy and enabling environment.
     4.(a) Creating Awareness and Ownership of the Sustainable Development Goals:

    A common response CVSA has heard each time we make our presentation about the SDGs or tell people about it on the phone is, “Why haven’t I heard about this before?” and once they had read the 2030 Agenda, “This is a very comprehensive plan, we need to get this going. What agency is coordinating the planning?”  However, the government of the United States has yet to promulgate the 2030 agenda and goals to its citizens.


    We did find an interview done by the Center for Global Development with Tony Pipa, the U.S Special Coordinator for the Post-2015 Development Agenda and Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID in August 2015. Pipa was asked what will the U.S. do differently domestically once the 2030 Agenda is adopted. He said the government’s policies are already in line with the SDGs. When asked again if the SDGs have been discussed within the U.S. government, he said that conversations have been held with a caucus (unnamed) in Congress about the SDGs.  CVSA volunteers have been unable to find any published outcome or minutes of that consultation; if they exist they were not made available to the public and participation from NGOs and all relevant stakeholders in the conversation was not then and has still not been solicited, as far as we have been able to find.

We note that it is USAID agents that have been assigned as the U.S. official spokespeople for the SDGs. CVSA has not been able to locate any documented track record of USAID’s successful achievement in attaining sustainable development as it is defined by the 2030 Agenda; however, USAID does have an unfortunate negative reputation for interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign nations. Further, USAID does not have any programs or experience addressing problems of poverty, hunger, inequality and environmental destruction in the U.S., as it is not a domestic program.


    Therefore, we advance the question that has been asked in each presentation we have made to grassroots organizations about the SDGs:  “Who is coordinating the implementation of the SDGS in the U.S.?” “What are the avenues for making proposals towards implementation of the SDGs?”

    In the meantime, we are mobilizing volunteers to participate at the grass roots level.


      4.(d) Goals and Targets:
            Summary and highlights of reports received:

    Below are excerpts from seven of the reports submitted by CVSA member organizations; these excerpts explain the material result of current government policy effecting social, economic and environmental conditions which these organizations have direct experience with, and convey what the organizations see needs to be done by the government to build solutions:  

Big Creek People in Action, formed in 1990 in McDowell County, West Virginia, with a population of 22,000, and is in the seventh poorest area of the U.S., whose mission is to “foster a community in which people learn, work, play, and grow together to prepare themselves for success.” In their report, they stated, “40% of the population lacks a high school education, 18.9% of kids drop out of school, only 5.7% of the people are college graduates, 46% of students do not live with their biological parents, 72% of students live in a household without gainful employment…. These alarming statistics show that our families are in crises and need support from organizations like ours, volunteers, the government and others to address these issue which are impeding their success.”  Their report further states, “These issues of poverty, hunger, and poor health are all interconnected. Many of our families see no hope in their future and continue on a downward spiral. News agencies from all over the country publish articles about the problems we face in McDowell County, West Virginia. But we need our government officials and others that can actually do something to step forward and do what is needed to bring us new highways, jobs, and a better education system to give people a path to a brighter future.”


East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) is a non-profit environmental justice organization focusing on climate justice, water justice, and food justice. They work with youth and families in the city of Detroit, Michigan. They said, “Each year in Detroit, approximately 40,000 households have their water shut off due to the inability to pay. The city of Flint had its water system contaminated by mismanagement, which resulted in the lead poisoning of children. In both cities, under emergency financial managers appointed by the governor, people have been denied their human right to clean, potable water. Through EMEAC's work with the People’s Water Board, we have been opposing the undemocratic use of emergency financial managers and demanding a water affordability plan based on income to be implemented.” EMEAC and the People’s Water Board have developed a comprehensive plan for sustainable water management in the region, which would prevent all the current patterns of shutoffs and poisoning, which city and state governments have refused to consider.


CUMAC, based in Paterson, New Jersey, a once-industrial city now a largely impoverished town, is focused on their mission is to “feed people and change lives.” It works to alleviate hunger at its root causes for those in need in Paterson and throughout Passaic County in Northern New Jersey. CUMAC reported, “Passaic County has an official poverty rate of 18.2 %. This means that just under 20% of the population exist on annual income of under $12,331 for singles, and $24,036 for a family of four (two parents and youth under 18). It is important to note, New Jersey has one of the highest costs of living in the nation, making the official measure of poverty unrealistic. The Real Cost of Living in Passaic County would be $32,105 for singles, and $70,644 for a family of four to meet basic needs. As such, a more realistic picture of poverty is captured at incomes that are 250% of the Federal Poverty Level. Using this more accurate measurement, over 43% of households in Passaic County – just under half of residents – are struggling to afford basics like housing, food, and health care.”


Remote Area Medical (RAM) is a nongovernment funded nonprofit founded in 1985 by Stan Brock to address the needless pain and suffering caused by the lack of health care in impoverished, underserved, and isolated areas of the Third World, which has now transformed into an operation that carries out 70% of their work in the U.S., based in Rockford, Tennessee, because of the tremendous need here. RAM has treated more than 500,000 people without insurance or without adequate income to purchase needed care, utilizing hundreds of volunteer medical and dental professionals who participate in free mobile health clinics RAM holds in partnership with local organizations in urban and rural areas in over 30 U.S. states. RAM reports, “Of all the pictures that come to your mind when you hear the word ‘refugee’ you did not picture that ever taking place in America. Who would eve think that people in America would voluntarily leave their home due to a crisis that was so bad they would sleep in their cars, tents and even on the ground in rain, snow and heat? That they would do without plumbing and electricity, use porta-potties and bring coolers of food and water? The healthcare crisis in America has reached a point where people are becoming ‘weekend refugees’ to simply get basic medical attention. At any given RAM Clinic you will find those so desperate that they sleep in the car for days… to be on line to be seen.”

    RAM also has now partnered with other nonprofits to address the hunger they have seen in Tennessee. Ram reports that “In 2014, Tennessee ranked 44th for the percent of children living in poverty, which was 25.9% of children under age 18. In 2012, over 44% of U.S. children and youth qualified for free, reduced school lunch program, which is slightly lower than 2011, at 47%. Blount County, Tennessee covers eight cities. Within this county, 20.3% of children live in poverty. In 2012, 45.6% of Blount County kids qualified for free and reduced price school meals.”


New York State Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals (CCLP) New York State is an all-volunteer, nongovernment funded independent membership association of attorneys, law students, business owners, clergy and anyone else concerned about the lack of meaningful legal recourse available to a growing portion of our low-income population.  CCLP volunteer attorneys provide legal education, information and legal advice to members of organizations of low-income workers and others who have united to fight to change the systemic problems and priorities of the government that lead to poverty.  
    CCLP reported that, “Meanwhile, on the criminal front, more than 50 years later, the constitutional mandate that the government uphold the right to counsel in criminal cases embodied in the landmark decision Gideon vs. Wainwright has failed.  Court-appointed counsel are routinely underpaid and understaffed, placing them in no position to provide an effective defense at trial. This truth has led to a situation in which over 99% of criminal cases in New York City result in plea bargains.... Even former New York State’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has pointed to a crisis of confidence in our legal system, publicly acknowledging the existence of a ‘two-tiered system of justice, one for those with money and one for those without.’”


Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals/New York (CCMP) is an all-volunteer, nongovernment funded, private membership association of health professionals, students, low-income workers and other concerned citizens fighting for comprehensive health care for poor and working people, regardless of their ability to pay.

    CCMP reported that, “The CDC reported that 38.4% of NYC adults have high cholesterol, but for people who make less than $25,000 and live in NYC, the number is 44.2%. At CCMP’s community health events this year, where volunteer doctors, nurses and advocates worked together to provide preventive care through education, screening and provision of volunteer services, our findings are that 35% of those we screen are hypertensive and 73% of the low income families we have surveyed throughout central Brooklyn requested assistance and education on hypertension.
    The so-called “Affordable Care Act” has been a financial boost for our nation’s largest insurance corporations and for the financial consolidation of the hospitals. Due to the government approval of premium increases, deductible increases, and out-of pocket costs for co-pays and medications, we are now receiving requests in our all-volunteer free preventive medical benefit from people who are mandated to be legally “insured” but who dare not access the plan they have due their inability to afford the real costs.  This is not sustainable, is not a sustainable solution, is in direct contradiction to Goal #3 in its entirety, and to Goal #10 on diminishing inequality… this policy has increased inequality in access to comprehensive health care and good health.
     On dozens of occasions, our organization has experienced a low-income uninsured patient who refuses to go to the emergency room due to costs. Because our organization is not equipped to provide any form of urgent care, we often face the contradiction of trying to guide a low-income uninsured person to some alternative source of help.  We have seen fear of hospital bills turn minor medical matters into life-threatening urgencies time and time again.  


Eastern Service Workers Association (ESWA), Philadelphia is a free and voluntary unincorporated private membership association founded in 1976 by low-income service-workers and their families, day-laborers, part-time and seasonal workers and other low-income residents of Philadelphia who banded together to create a self-help organization to address survival needs and long-term solutions to our poverty conditions. ESWA reports,

     “Philadelphia has a 26% poverty rate. Philadelphia’s service workers and their families suffer devastating poverty conditions – more than a quarter of the 1.6 million citizens of Philadelphia live below the poverty line. An investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer called Philadelphia “the poorest big city in America”, and put the rate of extreme poverty – that is, families of at least three making no more than $9,700 annually – at about 13%, or roughly 200,000 people.  In 2014, the median household income in Philadelphia was $39,043 and the median family income was $46,989 – the lowest of the top ten most populous cities.
     “While the census says that the city’s unemployment rate as of December 2015 is 5.4% (preliminary), down from 6.3% in December 2014, which is higher than most of the top ten U.S. cities, the reality is that 27% of those who are living in poverty have given up looking for work and when they stop collecting unemployment, they are not counted in those statistics.
    “Eastern Service Workers Association further reported on their approach to building leadership towards changing these conditions, showing that when the people are organized and work together, they know what is needed to solve problems: ESWA members have stepped forward to represent other members in their own neighborhoods or job categories. Worker Benefit Council delegates meet on a weekly basis and discuss problems they face in the community and on the job, and what actions can be taken to address them. In this way, the people who are closest to the problems are involved in developing and implementing solutions to those problems. This is fundamental to ESWA’s structure. It also makes it possible for delegates who have traditionally lacked the political influence to change their living and working conditions to be in a leadership position.”


5. Contribution to implementation, reporting review and follow-up by Member States:
    As we have been conducting our Community Education Campaign for the Implementation of the SDGs, in addition to being asked, “Why is there no media coverage – the goals were never reported on in the U.S. press?” and “Who has been appointed by the U.S. government to coordinate the implementation of this agenda?”, people have also raised their hand and said that their organization could contact municipal government officials and put the SDGs on their agenda on the local government level, and CVSA encourages this. People in the presentations and who we meet with via phone conference have all asked CVSA for tools to involve volunteers in carrying out a community education campaign in their own community, which we are glad to assist with. CVSA itself is an entirely volunteer effort with resources coming entirely from contributions from individuals, faith-based groups and businesses, and private foundation grants.


6. Next Steps:
    CVSA volunteers are producing a Community Education “Tool-kit” to assist organizations in promoting the SDGs to their communities. The Tool-kit has phone pitches with talking points for pitching local organizations and business about holding speaking engagements and community meetings about the SDGs. It will also contain flyers, posters and outlines for making reports, and other tools.  We will continue to carry out our Community Education Campaign, promote volunteer involvement with all of the participating organizations, provide tools and training, and compile reports towards analysis of progress in achievement toward the 2030 Goals.

    Other nongovernment organizations and stakeholders in the U.S. or any other part of the world are welcome to contact us about how you can participate in CVSA’s Community Education Campaign, or to request training in grass-roots organizing methodology for carrying out the campaign. We will be glad to meet with representatives of member states as well, about how our experience can be of benefit to your domestic efforts in mobilizing people at the community level to be involved in the SDGs.


    On the strength of our growing grassroots support and the feedback from the community-based organizations we have spoken with across the country over the past ten months since the 2030 Agenda was unanimously adopted, CVSA has this proposal:

    We call on the United States government carry out its pledge toward the 2030 Agenda both domestically and internationally by forming a national SDG Coordinating Council. We strongly recommend that State Councils also be set up to oversee data collection, draw up implementation plans, coordinate policies and monitor the progress of implementation in their state and submit those to the national coordinating body. The process must be made public and open. Members on the councils should include representatives from nongovernmental volunteer organizations and associations, faith-based service organizations, social service administrators, grassroots leaders from minority communities, educators, religious community leaders, labor leaders, poor people’s representatives, health advocates, legal justice and environmental specialists, as well as community development credit unions and small community banks, and coalitions of family farms.

    We propose that each state in the U.S., or the federal government, begin with the simple step of publicly announcing and making widely available, free of charge, printed copies of “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” to all persons and organizations working in their community to involve people in planning and carry out these goals.


   (Download the PDF below for the seven full reports contributed by CVSA member organizations that are summarized above.)


Susan Angus, Executive Director
Commission on Voluntary Service & Action
22-19 41st Avenue, Suite 205, Long Island City, NY 11101
(718) 482-8724

Download the full report here.
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