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Comments on the Secretary Generals Synthesis Report


I had hoped to get to this earlier but I was in New York at UN retreat meetings on the SDGs and EcoSoc.
Clustering
So in all but name the Secretary General has come up with a way of grouping the goals into six areas: dignity, people, planet, prosperity, justice and partnership. Although he doesn’t go as far as to say its clustering you do feel there have been a couple of paras taken out which probably did say that. Around para 6 he introduces the six elements as an idea and then goes on to seven areas that need to be implemented to address the new agenda without telling us what the six are we have to read further to find out.

What was very good to see was that the Secretary General did NOT try and reduce the goals and targets that governments had come to an agreement on in the SDG OWG. The UK push for less goals and targets is now dead on arrival and I would hope the UK now starts to play a much more constructive role than they have over the last 3 years.
Governance
It was good to see the Secretary General promote press freedom and access to information, freedom of expression, assembly and association as enablers of sustainable development. How that is reflected in the negotiations as we move forward will be very important.
Reporting
I was very pleased to see the para 104 on companies and reporting:
“All countries should consider adopting policies to encourage responsible and accountable investment  private finance in sustainable development, and requiring companies to undertake mandatory Economic Environment Social and Governance (EESG) reporting, accompanied with regulatory changes that ensure that investor incentives are aligned with sustainable development goals. Transition periods and technical support would be needed to this effect, especially for small and medium enterprises.”
Congratulations to AVIVA, GRI and Stakeholder Forum for the work they have done to promote this agenda from 2011 and also the governments of Brazil, South Africa, Denmark and France who have continued to work on the issue as Friends of par  49.

There have been two Reports of Eminent People to the Secretary General calling for action, Rio+20 nearly adopted this and now it will be up to the negotiators for the September Summit to formulate this into an equivalent intergovernmental agreement.

Technology Facilitation

I had hoped for more of a direction on the Technology Facilitation which I think they are close to a good idea but not yet there. I lived through the technology transfer discussions of the 1990s which did not go anywhere.

Rio+20 started this new discussion and I believe the best way forward is build platforms around 16 of the 17 goals. This would see a lead UN Agency or Programme for each SDG who could facilitate the technology facilitation mechanism for that the goal they have responsibility for. A lot of the recommendations that the Secretary General has put forward would then have a clearer home. This would enable the identification of what was in the public domain or supported by funding from governments and would enable developing country companies to build on that developing their own patent. It would bring together experts in those areas and focus funding and partnerships.

Capacity Building

One of the successful follow ups to the 1992 earth Summit was UNDP’s Capacity 21 Programme which should be re-launched perhaps under the direction of UNDP, World Bank and UNDESA. Most of what it was meant to do is relevant to the SDG agenda. Its 1992 objectives were:
  1. Formulate, on the basis of existing plans, sustainable development strategies for the achievement and implementation of development goals.
  2.  Identify priority areas of Agenda 21 and formulate a National Agenda 21 in support of sustainable development goals.
  3. Identify major capacity-building requirements for effective implementation of a National Agenda 21 and sustainable development plans.
  4. Formulate programmes and projects to meet capacity-building needs; to strengthen national, or where appropriate, regional scientific and technological research and development; to enhance knowledge, information and databases; and to increase the participation of all stakeholders in the decision-making processes.
In the 2002 review it added partnerships as additional function in particular:
  • Learning by doing
  •  Implementing Experimentation
  •  Information and Learning Support Network
Partnerships
The Report fails to distinguish between the different forms of partnership its talking about using partnerships to mean different things in different places
  1. Global Partnership for Development: In the MDGs this focused on aid, trade, debt and access to new technologies
  2. Partnerships: For the World Summit on Sustainable Development "Partnerships": the term ‘Type Two’ was used to indicate initiatives by groups of stakeholders, including governments and agencies or not, that aim to contribute to the implementation of sustainable development agreements. In 2003 the UN Commission on Sustainable Development developed criteriaand guidelines for partnerships that would be recognized by the UN. This should be revisited by member states to see how they want to change it.
  3. Partnership with the Private Sector: The UN has guidelines on this and the Secretary General has been asked to update these and bring it to the UNGA. This has brand implications for the UN and does suggest too many in civil society the UN is selling itself to the private sector without a proper regulatory framework in place.
  4. Voluntary Initiatives: Many stakeholders including industry made voluntary commitments – these are not really partnerships but a commitment by a company, an Ngo, an academic institution to do something – but often are presented as a partnership with the UN as they are on a UN topic.
  5. Private – Public Partnerships:  These are usually at the national or sub national level and though they can be on areas that fall under UN agreements they are relevant to national implementation not international review. 

There is a very good Berlin Civil Society Center Review of Partnership which would be worth reading.

My own feeling is this needs to have much clearer demarcation and the Type Two partnerships are ones which should be counted and monitored to delivering the targets under the goals.

A good example of a successful one would be the Global Alliance to Eradicate Polio. If one was to take a similar approach to that then one could imagine for a coalition for each of the 9 targets in the health goal. This would keep the approach manageable and would enable effective reporting. I would go as far as have the relevant Un Agency or Programme facilitating that space. It would enable national process to learn from each other and at the global level the Partnership Forum under EcoSoc to bring those together.

Data

I would have liked to see a push for the setting up UN Data which would be similar to UN Water, UN Energy, UN Oceans and would like UN Water also have partners from stakeholder groups with particular expertise. There are some suggestions that is the direction that the Secretary General would like to go para 139 and 143 one the call for a ‘Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data’ may be what I’m suggesting but termed differently.

It was good to see the call for Strengthen National Statistical Offices. On the issue of indicators the experience of the 1990s and also the opportunity of new data approaches should move us away from core indicators to establishing a basket of indicators approach to enable national engagement in the choice of relevant indicators.

Financing

As those of you who read my blog will have noticed I’m not very happy with the report of the ICESDF and I think much more could have been said in pointing governments to the sustainable development  and climate finance conversation and not the traditional FfD issues.

Finally

We now have all the major papers on the table and the dates for the negotiations. It’s important that groups focus on what can be achieved and have their plans ready for the New Year as things could move very quickly. I plan to run lobbying training sessions at the beginning of the first three SDG negotiations. Watch this space if you are interested. 

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