United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

SDG Union Strategy

The Hunger Project (
Non-governmental organization (NGO)

    The Hunger Project’s SDG Union Strategy is a package of community mobilization and capacity development interventions for both the electorate and elected local council, the Union Parishad (UP). Bangladesh’s constitutional mandate for the implementation of “public services and economic development at the level closest to the people” (Article 59(2)(C)) makes it imperative that Bangladesh localize the SDGs. Our strategy equips UP leaders with skills to analyze their local situation, set priorities based on the SDGs, and track their progress, while strengthening inputs for direct civil participation by citizens. We implement the strategy in 185 unions across 28 districts of Bangladesh.


    In SDG Unions, The Hunger Project sparks a fundamental mindset shift among the people—from dependency to confidence and action. The shift is transformative. People collectively create a vision for a new future and commit to making it happen through a partnership with their elected UP representatives, grassroots civil society and the government functionaries responsible for delivering services locally. UPs that are SDG Unions sign an MoU to make the achievement of SDGs their priority and work in partnership with the citizens to improve governance and transparency. The objective of this strategy is to show that, when fully implemented, the participatory reforms of the Local Government (UP) Act of 2009 accelerate local development and could support Bangladesh’s achievement of the SDGs if implemented at national scale.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    The SDG Union Strategy evolved from the MDG Union Strategy, in reference to the Millennium Development Goals, and was greatly enhanced by the SDG 16 mandate for participatory decision-making at all levels – starting at the village level, the SDG 11 commitment to sustainable communities, as well as the overall context to leave no one behind and to create integrated solutions to interlinked challenges.

    Implementation methodologies

    This is a demand-driven development process, where communities move through phases at their own pace, meeting benchmarks throughout a five-year timeline that aligns with the UP election cycle—key to community ownership and sustainability. The strategy is implementable with limited resources, given its focus on volunteer leaders at the community-level. About US$25,000 is required per Union per year—inclusive of training facilitation costs, monitoring through household surveys, and program management. Key activities include: 1) Transforming Mindsets. Creating an SDG Union begins by awakening citizens to their capacity to make a difference. 2) Village Development Committees (VDC) are formed by animators—trained women and youth leaders, champions of good governance and girls’ rights, and facilitators who create groups among the ultra-poor—who work closely with the UP members to encourage increased access to resources. 3) Transforming Gender Relations. To address pervasive gender inequality, women leaders organize “courtyard” meetings where all can participate to discuss sensitive issues, such as halting domestic violence and child marriage, keeping girls in school, and other human rights. 4) Mobilizing Local Government. UP representatives attend training to transform their mindset and provide them with statutory information about their role. The UP, in partnership with the VDCs, holds meetings to generate awareness of service standards, set local priorities and activate functional standing committees. 5) Sustaining Peace and Social Harmony. The rise in violence in Bangladesh is a threat to progress on the SDGs. Animators are trained to analyze the situation and carry out actions to promote peace and social harmony.


    SDG Unions target and take action on all 17 SDGs. The strategy has profound impact on SDG16 targets 5, 6, and 7. Capacity training for UP Members increased their understanding of the laws for UP governance, making them more responsive. In one cluster of UPs, women’s confidence in local leadership grew by 58%. Marginalized people’s participation in governing processes, specifically in Ward Shava and open budget meetings increased by 350%, including a 520% increase in the number of women participating. As a result, UP Members are responsive to the demands of a diverse group of people. The strategy achieves results in SDG 5 targets 1, 2, 3, and 5, as empowered women are the key drivers of change. We have trained 184,000 volunteers, 42% of whom are women. 9,000 of those women have joined the Bikoshito Nari Network to expand their leadership outside of their Unions and to develop their leadership skills to confront the issue of gender inequality at the national level.

    Factors and Constraints

    To enable UPs to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities in key sectors to achieve the SDGs, we recommend: 1. Further devolution of public resources, ensuring UPs manage at least 20%. Currently, only 18% of public resources are devolved across all sub-national levels. 2. Devolution of government functionaries who work at the Union level to work with UP Standing Committees. 3. High-level mandates for line ministry personnel to support active citizen participation in UP activities, including training in gender-focused, community-led development. 4. International support for district government and NGOs to mobilize active citizenry in every Union.

    Sustainability and replicability

    This strategy was designed with sustainability in mind. To truly unleash the power of the people of Bangladesh, there would need to be hundreds of trainers who possessed both the deep knowledge of the principles of empowerment and the compassion and leadership skills to multi-year “training of volunteer trainers” program. Now, our trained volunteer trainers provide a tremendous, decentralized, capacity-building resource across the country. Though this strategy leverages the laws and political structure in Bangladesh, this strategy could be adapted to fit other contexts. THP founded the Movement for Community-led Development to support the widespread adoption of strategies like the SDG Union specifically because they are sustainable and replicable when implemented with community leadership and an understanding of context.

    COVID-19 Impact

    In March 2020, THP, leveraging its experiences in mobilizing local communities for localizing SDGs, developed a “Coronavirus Resilient Villages” model to deal with the health, social and economic risks of the pandemic. The model has four steps: community mobilization, risk communication, patient management, and mitigation of economic impact. Activities are carried out by volunteers THP has already mobilized in each village through the SDG Union Strategy, allowing THP staff to advise on activities remotely. Through this initiative, volunteer leaders distributed 178,673 leaflets informing their neighbors about COVID-19 and collected $256,000 from community philanthropy drives to distribute to the people most impacted by COVID-19.

    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    01 January 2011 (start date)
    01 January 2030 (date of completion)
    More information
    Contact Information

    Anna, Communications Officer