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Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: Where to Start?
Nienke Palstra and Ruth Fuller
Originally published in Deliver 2030, 2 November 2016
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
The SDGs – an agenda for change
The Sustainable Development Goals are an integrated and indivisible package of goals and targets that should be delivered for all people in all countries. Never before has a global agreement been so encompassing and had such potential to drive change. But with 17 interlinked goals and 169 targets, knowing where to start is a challenge!
We’ve outlined some risks and recommendations on the prickly issues of prioritising, phasing and indivisibility. It summarises a paper that goes into more detail here.
Cherry picking: In prioritising some SDGs over others, there is a risk that governments, private sector companies and other stakeholders adopt a ‘pick and choose’ approach where they pick easy wins and choose to avoid more controversial aspects of the agenda.
‘SDGs washing’ by the private sector: Private sector companies may fund social or environmental projects while stopping short of changes to their business practices. This could lead to a situation where businesses report on delivering some SDGs while other aspects of their business practices could undermine other goal areas. For example, a company that funds small-scale community health projects while contributing to major environmental damage in its everyday business.
Raising the bar: We should be mindful of developed countries prioritising issues which are easier to achieve and overstating their accomplishments, while avoiding goal areas that are more challenging in their context (e.g. energy and sustainable production and consumption). It is important to remember the SDGs and their targets are a floor and not a ceiling.
‘Siloed’ approach: The format of the goals risks creating a ‘siloed’ response, but in reality the progress on one goal often depends on progress in another area. Many important issues, such as gender equality, violence, health, climate change, and sustainable consumption and production, cut across different goals and targets.
Policy coherence for sustainable development gets missed:Focusing on certain goals may have unintended consequences and undermine progress in other areas – whether domestically or globally. Only by approaching the SDGs in an integrated way will these policy coherence and domestic-global issues be identified and addressed.
Informed prioritisation: For prioritisation to be meaningful, it should be backed by clear rationale and evidence, countries should first assess their status in relation to goals and targets. Analysing the linkages between goals and targets and taking an integrated approach should always be a starting point.
Start with the most transformational goals and targets: Where a phased approach is needed, countries should start with the goals and targets which require urgent action and have the potential to be most transformative given their national context. This looks different for different countries.
Leave no one behind: To achieve the goals, it will not be enough to prioritise the majority of people, while failing to deliver for those who are socially excluded. Governments should ensure progress against the SDGs is made for all people, particularly marginalised groups, even if it is more difficult or expensive.
National plan and consultation: Governments should set out national plans for SDGs implementation, with an explicit rationale for tackling the most transformative goals. National implementation plans should be developed openly and transparently in collaboration with civil society and the private sector and be informed by public and parliamentary consultation.
Working with partners to address the goals: While the SDGs need to be implemented as a whole, not every stakeholder needs to address every goal and target. Working strategically with partners, including through new multi-stakeholder partnerships, could ensure that gaps are covered and the linkages between goals understood. This would help ensure the goals are addressed comprehensively but with different organisations retaining their specialisms and expertise.
Integration is key
The SDGs are the most ambitious and comprehensive global agenda ever to have been agreed. If implemented in their entirety they stand to transform our world to be safer, fairer and healthier. Approaches to implementation need to be pragmatic but the principles of integration and indivisibility must be upheld in any process of prioritisation and phasing goals and targets.
Nienke Palstra is Policy and Advocacy Adviser (Child Protection) at UNICEF UK. Ruth Fuller is Policy Advisor (International Development) at WWF-UK.
From a human development perspective, work, rather than jobs or employment is the relevant concept. A job is a narrow concept with a set of pre-determined time-bound assigned tasks or activities, in an input-output framework with labour as input and a commodity or service as output. Yet, jobs do not encompass creative work (e.g. the work of a writer or a painter), which go beyond defined tasks; they do not account for unpaid care work; they do not focus on voluntary work. Work thus is a broader concept, which encompasses jobs, but goes beyond by including the dimensions mentioned above, all of which are left out of the job framework, but are critical for human development.
Work is the means for unleashing human potential, creativity, innovation and spirits. It is essential to make human lives productive, worthwhile and meaningful. It enables people to earn a living, gives them a means to participate in society, provides them with security and gives them a sense of dignity. Work is thus inherently and intrinsically linked to human development.
But it is important to recognize that there is no automatic link between work and human development. Nor does every type of work enhance human development. Exploitative work, particularly exploitation of women and children, robs people of their fair share, their rights and their dignity. Likewise, work that is hazardous - work without safety measures, labour rights, or social protection - is not conducive to human development.
More importantly, the linkages between work and human development must be seen in the context that over time the notion of what constitutes work has changed, areas of work have shifted and the modus operandi of work has evolved. What used to mean work three decades ago is no longer valid, and work is defined differently now. Now, some of these changes may contribute positively to various dimensions of human development, but some aspects of these new phenomena may have negative impacts for human development.
In the context of all these changes, time has come to relook at the issue of work in its various dimensions and dynamics through a human development lens. Thus the 2015 Human Development Report (2015 HDR) will be on Rethinking Work for Human Development.
To be launched in December 2015, the Report will zoom in on the fundamental question – how work can be rethought for human development –– to enrich human development. Given this broader perspective, the focus of 2015 HDR will be based on five building blocks:
Rethinking the linkages between work and human development identifying the positive intrinsic relationship between work and human development - Work provides livelihoods, income, a means for participation and connectedness, social cohesion, and human dignity - but also those situations where linkages are broken or eroded - child labour, human trafficking, etc.
Revisiting the new world of work, where the notions of work, areas of work and modus operandi of work have changed and the implications for human development. ICT and mobile devices are revolutionizing work. People can work anywhere. There is an e-economy. We ask the question – are these changes enhancing human development? And how may they best be harnessed to promote equitable opportunities?
Recognizing the worth of care work and its impact on human development. For instance care for those who cannot care for themselves is important in itself for human survival but there are other connections to human development: from an intergenerational perspective, care work is crucial for the cognitive development of children.
Refocusing on the notion of sustainable work to be incorporated into the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. This will include, among other issues, the environmental value of green and low carbon emission jobs and so on. And also the quality of work that can be sustained over long periods.
Recommending policy options for reorienting, reinventing and reorganizing work so that it enriches human development
Several targeted issues will be taken up throughout the report– youth employment, gender aspects of work, agriculture and rural development, the informal sector, and work during crisis and in post-crisis situations. In realizing the post2015 international agenda it will be critical to enable youth, who make up 50 per cent of the global population, and women, holding up half the sky, to find work opportunities that enable them to participate constructively, creatively and equitably in society.
Accessing information from the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) has never been easier. The GEOSS Portal has undergone a transformation, to be unveiled in time for GEO’s Thirteenth Plenary.
The European Space Agency (ESA) in partnership with Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) has built an intuitive interface to discover, access and use all of the ever-growing numbers of GEO-resources from a variety of providers all around the world.
Users can now perform temporal, thematic and geographic searches, allowing them to retrieve the resources they are looking for quickly and accurately. Keywords can be used to perform general searches and progressive filtering is applied to support users in refining and narrowing down their search results. A synthetic summary is presented of key metadata fields. Icon buttons help the user quickly assess the results' relevance. Make use of the GEOSS Portal’s feedback form and let us know what you think.
The team members that made this new look possible are: @CNR-side (GEO-DAB): Stefano Nativi and Mattia Santoro; @ESA-side (GEOSS Portal): Joost van Bemmelen, Guido Colangeli, Piotr Zaborowski; @Geo Secretariat-side: Paola De Salvo and Osamu Ochiai
A new online knowledge hub launched today provides an unparalleled view of multilateral, national and sub-national efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The International Institute for Sustainable Development’s SDG Knowledge Hub consolidates our Policy & Practice knowledgebases—and the tens of thousands of published articles contained within them. Focused on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and its Sustainable Development Goals, the platform draws on IISD’s network of experts to provide real-time information on SDG implementation.
“The development of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was one of the largest participatory processes ever,” said Scott Vaughan, President of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. “Information sharing, measurement and assessment will need to continue if the global community is to achieve the aims set out in the new agenda.”
“The SDG Knowledge Hub provides a much-needed space for that exchange to take place,” said Vaughan.
IISD experts are at the meetings we report on, talking to those involved, and gathering information from official, primary sources. We also develop partnerships with the institutions and organizations we cover, and publish original content from invited experts who are working on the frontlines of SDG implementation. The SDG Knowledge Hub does not aggregate news from other sources.
The SDG Knowledge Hub will be presented at an event in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 26th, and on a webinar on November 3rd. Register for the Geneva event here, and the webinar here.
The value of the hub lays in the depth of information it will contain on each SDG, as well as the breadth of knowledge across all elements of the integrated 2030 Agenda. Content is organized and searchable according to the 17 SDGs. Information is also categorized according to actors, focusing on intergovernmental bodies, agencies and funds within the UN system, as well as national governments, major partnerships, stakeholders and non-state actors. In addition, content is searchable by seven regional groups as well as three regional groupings of small island developing States. A comprehensive calendar provides details on events that address SDG policy and practice.
Users can also filter posts by issue area, action type and specific elements in SDG 17, on the global partnership. This filter permits users to focus in on news based on whether it addresses means of implementation (MOI), such as capacity building and education, or the following systemic issues: data, monitoring and accountability; multi-stakeholder partnerships; and policy and institutional coherence.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be the guiding framework for international development until 2030 and are intended to provide a reference for setting national policy priorities.
This unique, searchable database provides a snapshot of what those national priorities are. Users can compare existing national targets with the ambition of the SDGs. We intend this to be a living document, supplemented and kept up to date by crowdsourcing, and we encourage others to send us new information on national goals to update the tracker.
"C-ROADS is an award-winning computer simulation that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of policy scenarios to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It allows for the rapid summation of national greenhouse gas reduction pledges in order to show the long-term impact on our climate." For more information, click
9. Fostering Sustainability in the International Community
Trickle-Down Economics Is Not a Tenable Premise for Development
United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research
Press Release, UNU-WIDER, 22 November 2016 Creative Commons License
Thirteen of the world's leading development economists* — including four former Chief economists of the World Bank and 10 prominent members of the UNU-WIDER global network — have released the Stockholm Statement, in which they summarize what they see as the core principles for development policy-making going forward. Traditional economic thinking no longer applies. Inequality within countries is threatening social cohesion and economic progress, and development needs to be seen in a broader perspective in order to achieve more equitable and sustainable results
Socially and economically sustainable development is only possible through reducing inequality
The Statement emphasizes the importance of policies that tackle inequalities. GDP growth is needed as a means to grow the common economic pie and thus funding the achievement of social objectives — but ensuring this growth is inclusive requires a combination of policies. We need deliberate interventions to eradicate oppressive norms and discriminatory practices, as well as to attend to the impact of global technology on inequality.
Taking into account environmental sustainability and social norms is a requirement, not an option
The Statement is crystal clear on the importance of stepping up efforts globally and nationally for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The 13 economists also emphasize the importance of incorporating social norms more consciously in policy-making and use their potential for curbing corruption.
The Statement underscores the importance of official development assistance and the role of the international community in advancing development opportunities for the world’s poorest citizens. The international community has a responsibility to ensure that assistance is directed to developing countries and marginalized groups within them, and that developing countries are better represented in the governance structures of international institutions.
Bhorat, Kanbur, Lin, Platteau, Stiglitz, and Tarp also gave key presentations in the 2015 WIDER Development Conference Mapping the Future of Development Economics. The conference reviewed 30 years of development economics research and policy-making in order to map a path for the future and it is reflected in many of the themes touched upon in the Stockholm Statement; inclusivity, sustainability, the need to balance the state and market, and macroeconomic stability. These themes are also at the core of UNU-WIDER’s 2014-18 work programme on transformation, inclusion and sustainability.
The Institute began operations in 1985 in Helsinki, Finland, as the first research centre of the United Nations University. Today it is a unique blend of think tank, research institute, and UN agency, undertaking a range of activities — from policy advice to governments, to providing freely available original research coordinated by a core group of resident and non-resident researchers and undertaken by a global network of collaborators.