From SDG Online: Preparing for the 2019 Heads of State Review of Progress on SDG Implementation
This is published on new SDG Online Taylor & Francis Group, which includes Routledge Publishing, publishes more than 2,500 journals and over 5,000 new books each year, with a books backlist in excess of 120,000 specialist titles. It has great resources and other thought pieces
The 1990s was a decade of UN Conferences and Summits which had resulted in programmes of action on children (1990), environment and development (1992), population and development (1994), social development (1995), women: action for equality, development and peace (1995), food security (1996) and human settlement (1996). By the end of decade, most governments couldn’t deal with the amount of commitments they had made. The idea around the 2000 Millennium Summit was to simplify these various commitments into a concise and achievable series of goals and targets that could be measured and reported on.
The Millennium Summit did not agree the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as some people think; these were crafted by the UN in 2001 without governments and stakeholder involvement. There were eight Millennium Development Goals and 18 targets.
Progress to delivering those Goals was compromised by the 2008 financial crisis.
Sustainable Development Goals
In July 2011 at an UN expert meeting preparing for Rio+20 Paula Caballero from the government of Colombia suggested we needed a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to come out of Rio+20 (2012). Colombia were supported in this campaign by Guatemala, Peru and UAE.
Two months later at the UN Department of Public Information NGO Conference in Bonn, which I was chairing, nearly 2000 stakeholders came forward with 17 suggested SDGs.
It is worth remembering that the development community governments and NGOs initially opposed the SDGs and wanted an MDG+ agenda. Save the Children Fund being the last NGO to support the SDG approach.
The agreement in 2015 for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate, gave the world a roadmap to how we might live more sustainably on this planet. Supported by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, focusing on the means of implementation for the SDGs and Paris Agreement while also addressing financing for development more generally.
For the reader, not completely living the SDGs as I am, the SDGs are 17 goals, 169 targets and 232 indicators.
The goals are:
What is the difference between the MDGs and the SDGs?
The MDGs only applied to developing countries, while the SDGs apply to ALL countries. The MDGS addressed development, while the SDGs are addressing sustainable development. The MDGs addressed the problems, while the SDGs address the symptoms and causes. The MDGs addressed particular sectors, and the SDGs address the sectors and the interlinkages between those sectors.
After the 2030 Agenda was negotiated, it was agreed that there would be a regular annual review of a set of individual goals and targets at the annual High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). It was also agreed that, every four years, the Heads of State and Government would review the entire 2030 Agenda to provide an additional level of oversight to refocus and reenergize commitments.
The first review of the 2030 Agenda by the Heads of State and Government will take place in September 2019, and they will conduct a similar review of the Paris Agreement in November and December 2020.
Where are we in SDG Implementation?
As Francesca Perucci, Chief of the Statistical Branch at the UN Statistical Division, recently said in an interview:
“Almost all areas where you see progress, if you look at the rate, or the pace of progress, it is never sufficient to meet the targets.” (Perucci, 2018)
It was clear that at this point that the sustainable development community is not on track to deliver the SDGs nor the Paris Agreement.
There are a number of reasons for that.
In hindsight, there is no doubt we did not realize at the time the regressive forces that were intensifying around the world… though perhaps we should have. The results of the financial crisis in 2008 were still being felt. We had seen the political establishment in most countries become far too cozy with the financial sector. We saw them privatize the profits of a few and socialize the losses of the many. Hardly any of the culprits behind the financial crisis went to jail, and many emerged from the crisis even wealthier than before. Meanwhile, millions of people lost their jobs, their homes and, in some cases, their lives. No wonder the anger and loss of support for our political class.
There have been some very good developments over the last four years. For the first time, many of the foundations have realigned their funding reports around the SDG framework through sdgfunders.org. Companies are using the SDG framework for reporting with the help of the SDG Compass, which was put together by the UN Global Compact, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Global Reporting Initiative. Many governments have reported on their progress on delivering the SDGs, and sub-national and local authorities through the localization of the SDGs are hard at work in their respective jurisdictions. Moreover, there are over 4000 multi-stakeholder partnerships committed to helping implement the SDGs, though their impact is unclear as there is no quantification of their work being conducted at this point.
Its Means of Implementation Stupid?
To paraphrase James Carville’s famous mantra for Bill Clinton’s 1992 White House bid, ‘it’s the economy stupid.’ The success or failure in delivering the SDGs will come down to means of implementation (MoI).
The World Bank has estimated that it would take $3-5 trillion annually to implement the SDGs. At present, official development assistance (ODA) is around $150 billion, so there is a huge gap in funding that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. A step in the right direction could involve redirecting private sector finance to more seriously consider the SDG framework. The development of SDG Bonds, for instance, with the first global SDG bond being launched by HSBC, and the bond market more generally needs to have a set of principles to guide those funds. Are the are the Equator Principles enough, or is there more that should be done?
This can be done through a number of changes in the financial regulations that guide the flow of money through capital markets. This might include requiring companies listed on the major stock exchanges to report their Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) activities as part of their typical reporting methods.
Some 75 Stock Exchanges are part of the Sustainable Stock Exchange Initiative and many are implementing this requirement of their stock exchanges.
The credit rating agencies should also be reformed, three companies (Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and the Fitch Group) account for 95% of all credit rating, to take a longer-term investment horizon and to establish Sustainable Development Goals ratings. We need changes in all aspects of the financial system and capital markets so that we reward behavior that promotes sustainability.
MoI also of course includes the need to address access to technology development and transfer, capacity‐building, inclusive and equitable globalization and trade, regional integration, as well as the creation of a national enabling environment required to implement the 2030 Agenda.
There are many challenges ahead, but unlike the MDGs, the reality is that governments, UN bodies, and various stakeholders participated in the development of the SDGs. Thus, we all have a role in delivering them. At the heart of this idea is the theory of change outlined in my new book, Stakeholder Democracy: Represented Democracy in a Time of Fear. This theory of change underscores the importance of involving stakeholders in the decision-making process, as it will enable governments to make better and more informed decisions. This approach would also prime governments to more readily engage in partnerships to ensure those collective decisions are implemented. The SDGs is just that: our best collective vision. During this critical inflection point in history, it is more urgent that ever to make a significant directional change to a more sustainable, equitable and peaceful future.
Felix Dodds, Adjunct Professor in Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of North Carolina and co-author of Negotiating the SDGs: A transformational agenda for an insecure world.His new book, Stakeholder Democracy: Represented Democracy in a Time of Fear, was published by Routledge in June.
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