As we approach the May session of the Post 2015 negotiations the focus will shift to follow up mechanisms. I thought this was a good time to put forward some suggestions so here is post 1 on ideas for the Follow Up.
National Councils or Commissions on Sustainable Development
After the 1992 Earth Summit many countries set up National Councils or Commissions on Sustainable Development to develop Sustainable Development Strategies often drawing from Agenda 21 chapters, though not exclusively. Countries were expected to finish their strategies by 2002 and then engage in implementing them. There were over 100 councils or commissions created in the period from 1992-2002.
These Councils and Commissions differed in where they were set up in government or in some cases as an independent entity. They were established through widely diverse mechanisms such as:
- Presidential decree: Argentina and Vietnam.
- Ministerial decree: Niger and Barbados.
- Council of State decision: Finland.
- National law: Mexico and Philippines.
- Letter from the environment minister: Norway.
- Cabinet resolution: Ukraine and Grenada.
In some cases they were chaired by the Prime Minister or President in other cases by Ministers and in some cases by an independent expert. Most of these bodies were made up of relevant government Ministries and of national stakeholders often drawn from the Major Groups identified in Agenda 21.
Recommendation: Governments could revitalize where they exist National Councils or Commissions on Sustainable Development or set them up where none exists. They would develop and oversee the implementation of a National Sustainable Development Goals Strategy.
Sustainable Development Goals Strategies
To take forward the SDGs at the national level governments could develop National Sustainable Development Goals Strategies. There is a considerable amount of wisdom from the past twenty years gained on how to develop and implement Sustainable Development Strategies and also Poverty Reduction Strategies.
Guidance in Preparing a National Sustainable Development Strategy has been produced by OECD, IIED and a number of NGOs. Here I will share the approach suggested by the European Sustainable Development Network on NSDS’s Strategies should have:
1.Common vision and strategic objectives
- An SD strategy should define a common long-term vision for SD;
- The vision for SD should be operationalised with strategic objectives that are SMART, i.e.: Specific (ideally stating a quantified target);
- Measurable (with SD indicators, see below);
- Achievable (neither too easy nor too demanding);
- Realistic (to be achieved with the given resources and political circumstances);
- Time-bound (indicating a start date and target year).
An SD Strategy should be backed by high-level political commitment (from the entire government, from influential lead institutions).
3. Horizontal integration
- The integration of economic, environmental and social issues should be taken into account
- In the SD strategy document (e.g. by highlighting links and trade-offs between the three dimensions of SD);
- In the governance of the SD strategy (e.g. by establishing inter-ministerial bodies that are responsible for implementing the SDS).
An SD strategy should be in line with priorities and implementation activities at other levels of governments (EU, national/federal, regional, local).
Different stakeholder groups should be involved in the development and implementation of an SD strategy (participatory activities can be informational, consultative or decisional, and they can make use of different tools and mechanisms, such as permanent Councils for SD, ad-hoc stakeholder dialogues, informative/consultative internet actions, etc).
6. Implementation mechanisms and capacity-building
The objectives of an SD strategy should be addressed with:
- Provisions and mechanisms of implementation (budgeting, annual or bi-annualwork/action plans) in which political responsibilities are clearly defined;
- Adequate institutional and/or personal capacities or capacity building activities that are necessary to achieve the objectives.
The effectiveness of an SD strategy in achieving its objectives should be:
- Monitored continuously with a set of SD indicators (mostly quantitatively); and Reviewed/evaluated in regular intervals (mostly qualitatively);
- Monitoring and reviewing results/reports should be considered in the continuous adjustment and the cyclical renewal of an SD strategy so that evidence-based policy learning takes place.
- National Sustainable Development Strategies are a good and flexible way to develop with stakeholders a national approach to sustainable development. The aim is to ensure that not only are sectors dealt with effectively but also a cross sectoral integration is approached.
- NSDSs were reviewed a number of times by OECD and the UN from 2002 to 2008. The introduction of peer group reviews by other countries was seen as an effective learning vehicle (see the UN DSD web site on NSDSs).
Recommendation: A similar approach could be undertaken for Sustainable Development Goals Strategies. The idea of having Peer Group Reviews of the Strategies could be undertaken at the regional or sub regional level or both and reported to the High Level Political Forum.
National Strategies could be debated by parliaments and reviewed each year by the relevant parliamentary committee and debated in parliament as an Annual debate on the state of implementation. The annual financial statement to parliament could also identify funding going to deliver the targets under the SDGs.