A Study of Perceptions of the Sustainable Development Goals

At the request of the UN Office in the Republic of Belarus, SATIO conducted a study of the peculiarities of perception and promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals in Belarus.

As part of the study, representatives of seven focus groups with different levels of education, income and professional affiliation from all regions of Belarus were interviewed.

According to the research results, the understanding of the term “sustainable development” is still superficial. It reflects the contradictory aspiration for the growth of welfare and living standards and stability simultaneously. There is no understanding that sustainable development aims to ensure both development of systems and their sustainability and the possibility to survive in the long run.

It is interesting that, on the whole, the topic of sustainable development arouses the interest and involvement of the participants in the group discussions. Sustainable development objectives reflect the pressing issues of public interest. There is potential to involve the residents of the Republic of Belarus in the implementation of the goals. While ensuring quality information and promoting the goals, emphasising the international rather than purely country-specific nature of the program is essential.

 

According to the survey results, the most important goals for the population are related to the improvement of living standards and quality of life. The promotion of the SDGs should correspond with these goals. Financial well-being, adequate living and working conditions, and the provision of basic social services (education and health care) at a high level are the primary needs of the population. Themes of ecology, peace and security are important but not as relevant as the goals related to living standards. The least significant for people were topics related to the development of civic initiatives, combating discrimination, and the development of public associations.

We offered a number of recommendations for the SDGs promotion; in particular, the form of their presentation is important. Performance quality (visual and auditory range, storyline) is important, especially for engaging young people. The survey participants expressed their negative attitude towards dry and unattractive stories: complicated language, convoluted phrases and formalism.

It is essential to emphasise the global nature of the Sustainable Development Goals put forward by the international community. The perception of the SDGs as purely governmental and obligatory for implementation reduces the credibility of the information campaign.

It is not enough to focus only on social advertising or informing about the indicators of achieving the SDGs. Society expresses the need for information about the most straightforward steps that anyone can take to make the goal a reality-even a global one, such as climate change. This gives an important sense of involvement.

High-quality social advertising (attractive visuals, original characters) generates interest and positive attitudes among the public. The prototype is Goal 99 “about raccoons” – the absolute leader among social ads. Less frequently mentioned are the commercial “Belarus – country for life” (high quality of performance) and the Ministry of Emergency Situations commercial (creating). No clear preferences for advertising distribution channels were revealed; much is determined by individual preferences (TV, radio, Internet, outdoor advertising, information boards in transport, public places such as clinics, schools, etc.).

Attracting attention to the SDGs should be carried out based on the most relevant goals for the population, which can trigger interest in the rest.

A sense of consistency can be supported by using symbols in the design of various products – marking with SDG’s logos products and services that are involved in achieving the goal (recycling boxes, products with ecological packaging, etc.). Principles of designation – logos in plain sight, minimal information about the specific goal to arouse curiosity. SDG souvenirs can also maintain interest in the goals and help build loyalty. For example, a shopping bag with Sustainable Development Goal logos.

And the most effective way to raise awareness was identified by experts as involving the population in SDG-related activities.

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