I spent the day with Marina Sarli (Fair Trade Hellas) and Glykeria Arapi (Action Aid Hellas) Director and president of the Greek NGO platform in Athens last week.

The visit to the Greek NGO platform was an opportunity to:

  • Promote members’ engagement with CONCORD’s new strategy
  • Understand better how different member states are tackling SDGs/ Agenda 2030
  • Support the Hellenic platform and their role as a valued interlocutor with national and local government
  • Hear about CSOs responding to the refugees /migration situation

We had meetings with the Ministry of education (global citizenship education); (deputy) Vice Mayor of Athens: Maria Strategaki, (SDGs, refugees, gender), Ministry of foreign affairs (SDGs), Hellenic Platform members (CONCORD engagement, refugees).

My main take aways:

Informing and engaging the population on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will be critical to enabling people to see the framework as something relevant to them, to their struggles and to the issues they care about. Advocating for a strong element of global citizenship in the education curricula – at EU level and with national ministries – can be an important step.

National governments are making varied progress in developing plans to communicate, implement, monitor progress and engage citizens on Agenda 2030 – in Greece, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been meeting with the statistics office and different ministries and have committed to consulting civil society. This all sounded encouraging. It is not yet clear the extent to which authorities dealing with ‘domestic’ policies feel implicated by the framework. How SDGs are reflected in national and local plans and who in government takes overall responsibility for the implementation of Agenda 2030 will be the things to watch for. Meanwhile, Civil Society initiatives that bring together external and in-EU action on the 2030 Agenda should remain an important focus for us.

It was notable to see Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) very visible in providing essential social services to vulnerable communities in Athens.

NGOs with expertise and experiences providing humanitarian and development assistance overseas are increasingly working at home. Medical NGOs are working with the municipality of Athens to provide medical and social services. This in spite of what the platform describe as a political environment that has been limited in explicitly encouraging exchange and collaboration with the wider sector of NGOs.

In the Port of Piraeus, I was shown the work being done by small CSOs and volunteers to organise assistance to refugees coming from the Greek Islands. Against a background of deep concern about the human rights implications of the EU – Turkey deal on migration, it was a moment of great inspiration to see NGO professionals volunteers working in challenging circumstances with the refugees to provide meals and shelter women, men and children seeking a safer life in Europe.

Demonstrating how civil society organisations can help translate public solidarity and generosity into vital support for people fleeing conflict is – I think – a key part of what our sector should be all about.