And Now SDGs. Stupid Distracting Goals?

Chart_of_UN_Sustainable_Development_GoalsI keep on searching the answer.  How Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs) would address reducing inequality over next 15 years? It is still unanswered question.Even after scores of documents and speeches. Here is typical example of how UN top officials speak on SDGs.

Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP Speaks on SDGs: 

My sincere thanks go to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for hosting today’s discussion on how to take the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development forward.

Last year was a watershed year for global development. Member States reached major new agreements which set the global development agenda for a generation – across the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Climate Agreement, the Sendai disaster risk reduction framework, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development.

The 2030 Agenda was shaped by many voices, including that of Denmark which promoted the inclusion of gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, peace and security, quality education, water and access to energy, climate and green growth, and fostering connections with civil society and private sector stakeholders.

UNDP and the UN Development Group as a whole also contributed to the design of the 2030 Agenda. Together, we facilitated national, thematic, and global consultations, as well as the MY World survey which has now engaged close to ten million people. This amounts to an unprecedented global conversation around a United Nations process. As well, UNDP and other agencies gave technical support to the Member State-led process which determined the SDGs.

Now people around the world want action on the SDGs. Agendas remain mere words on paper unless they are implemented. The 2030 Agenda is large and complex, and there is much to do.

But the new agenda has been launched in much tougher times than those which prevailed when the MDGs were launched:

  • Global economic growth is far from robust. Growth in a number of the large emerging economies which helped boost growth in recent years has slowed, with spillover effects for many other economies. A number of major developed economies are experiencing only slow growth.
  • Major economic and social shifts: Fast technological progress and deepening globalization create opportunities for some people but profound challenges for others. Some societies are ageing rapidly; others have as many as two-thirds of their population under the age of 26, and are struggling to create sufficient opportunity for them. The deficit of jobs and livelihoods for youth is a big challenge for many societies.
  • A significant number of countries are experiencing violent conflicts, causing loss of life, major development setbacks, and the displacement of people on a huge scale – a staggering 59.5 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2014, and half of these were children. The spillover effects of this are felt widely as people seek security for themselves and their families.
  • The scale of natural disasters: Many countries are being affected by natural disasters, and with climate change we can expect worsening weather events for decades. The current severe droughts in parts of Africa, exacerbated by the impact of El Niño, and huge tropical storms, like Cyclone Winston which recently devastated communities in Fiji, are the face of the foreseeable future.

So what will it take to achieve the new agenda?

Today’s challenges call for very bold approaches to building a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world. The alternative is clear: a world characterized by even more turmoil and instability than that which we see today.

  • First, let’s affirm the critical importance of strong national ownership of and leadership on the 2030 Agenda. In this, we are off to a good start – many countries are working to integrate the SDGs into their national policy frameworks and plans. Already more than eighty U.N. Country Teams have been approached for support on this, and are delighted to assist. What goes into national plans, policies, and budgets has a good chance of having an impact, provided the capacities to deliver exist or can be built.
  • Second, sustainable development requires whole of government and cross-sectoral approaches. Often the key obstacles to achieving an important goal will be outside an immediate sector targeted for attention. This became clear when obstacles to achieving the MDGs were analysed. Maternal mortality rates, for example, are impacted not just by whether appropriate health services are in place, but also by the rate of early pregnancy and childbirth, and whether women are able to access the services available – empowerment, the availability of transport, and the costs of access are all factors. Cross sectoral and co-ordinated action is needed to address such a range of challenges.
  • With the SDGs, it will be critical to identify and act on key accelerators of progress from the outset – including on the empowerment of women and girls, sustainable energy for all, and inclusive growth which contributes to poverty eradication and a significant reduction of inequalities and marginalization.
  • Third: broad coalitions around the SDGs are needed. Government commitment is vital, but insufficient on its own. Parliaments and civil society must be engaged in meaningful ways, and the way in which business does business will have a big impact on whether development is inclusive and sustainable.
  • In Denmark, I understand that there is strong engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals by both civil society organizations and the private sector. I met this morning with representatives of some of the largest companies and pension funds in Denmark. Many such companies are interested in partnering with development actors to support the 2030 Agenda in developing countries. Many business leaders see that the future lies in broad-based and sustainable development.  Inclusive business models, which connect the poor and excluded with markets, both as consumers and as producers of commercially viable goods and services, need to be encouraged too.
  • Parliaments, civil society, and media have an especially important role to play, including in monitoring progress made on the 2030 Agenda and in ensuring accountability for commitments made. To be effective, they will need access to data, and the capacity to analyze it. These capacities too may need to be built. Danish civil society also provides vital strategic input and thinking into SDG action and implementation.
  • Fourth, finance. Money isn’t everything, but it helps. All available resources must be drawn on for the new agenda – domestic and international, public and private, and environmental and developmental.
  • Official Development Assistance (ODA) will remain important, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable countries, including Least Developed Countries and Small Island States, many of which struggle to raise domestic revenue and attract private finance.
  • As ODA is limited, it is important to use it in catalytic ways which build capacities and can leverage further resources. For example, growing economies can generate more tax revenues – if the capacity to collect taxes exists. UNDP and the OECD are partners in the new Tax Inspectors Without Borders initiative which can place tax audit experts alongside local officials to build their capacity through the transfer of skills and expertise.
  • Innovative financing mechanisms for sustainable development, like impact investing, and financing mechanisms, like green bonds which combine public and private resources, will also play a role. Islamic finance mechanisms too are relevant for a number of countries.
  • Fifth, generating and sharing new ideas, knowledge, and technologies. Every country has relevant experiences to share, and every country has new things to learn. South-South Co-operation is playing a growing role in this, and is greatly valued by developing countries.

What about the role of the UN Development system?

The 2030 Agenda calls on the UN development system to provide integrated and coherent support to Member States’ efforts to achieve the SDGs – and we are intent on doing just that.

Prior to the adoption of the agenda, new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) guiding UN Country Teams on how to deliver as one had been developed. This is critical – a fragmented approach to the SDGs by UN agencies does not assist governments which are trying to co-ordinate action across the agenda. Supplementing the new SOPs is an agreed approach across the UNDG to SDG implementation. Called MAPS, our offer to governments is support for:

  • Mainstreaming the agenda into national plans and budgets,
  • Accelerating progress across the agenda, and
  • Joined-up policy support from across the system.

We also offer

  • Our expertise on data and our experience in supporting national reporting– many countries will have systematic data gaps and capacities to fill. As was the case with the MDGs, UNDP stands ready to support countries with their national progress reports on the SDGs;
  • Support for building partnerships and advocacy for the SDGs. The Millennium Campaign for the MDGs has been revamped as the SDG Action Campaign. It will support UNCTs with advocacy tools.

A guide on support for countries to mainstream the SDGs into national agendas has been developed for all UN Country Teams. In support of that, UNDP has made programme and policy support and seed funding available to twenty UN Country Teams. We are seeing many countries moving forward on SDG action, including in the following ways:

  • Incorporating goals and targets into national plans: UNDP developed a Rapid Policy Integrated Assessment tool which helps identify the degree of alignment between existing national development plans and the SDGs. This has already been applied by Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Namibia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tonga.
  • Reviewing data capacities: Mongolia and Lao PDR are conducting SDG data assessments. In Colombia, an innovative performance indicator dashboard for the SDGs has been designed. Honduras has set up a Presidential Results-Based Management Platform, monitoring inter-sectoral work which is advancing the SDGs.
  • In Tonga, an Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF) is being discussed.
  • Assessing risk: Botswana is undertaking national dialogues and training workshops in all its rural districts and urban centres to map potential shocks which might impact on SDG progress. These range from climate change impacts to global economic trends, including changes in the prices of diamonds which are a critical component of Botswana’s economy. The findings are intended to inform the formulation of Botswana’s Vision 2036 and the country’s medium term national development plan.
  • Ecuador is developing scenario planning around its three active volcanoes, including on potential damage and costs from eruptions.
  • Tailoring support to SDG implementation in countries affected by conflict and fragility: we are supporting initial mainstreaming efforts in Somalia, including by establishing a statistics database for key indicators, in line with the country’s national development plan.

CONCLUSION

Taken together the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, and the other 2015 agreements, set clear, global priorities for both people and planet, and establish the means of creating a more peaceful, inclusive, and sustainable world.

UNDP looks forward to working with the Government of Denmark and Danish civil society and the private sector in pushing the SDGs forward.  Denmark is known for its high living standards, effective social protection for its citizens, and its environmental sustainability. How it carries forward its approaches to inclusive and sustainable development will be of global interest in the context of the 2030 Agenda. END

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