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World Public Sector Report 2018

Two years ago, Member States of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Acknowledging possible synergies and trade-offs between the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and targets will make it much easier to achieve the Agenda and to translate ambition into reality.

The World Public Sector Report 2018 aims to inform efforts by countries to foster policy integration for implementing the SDGs. It asks, what are the challenges to and opportunities for policy integration across the different stages of policy cycle at the national level? What are some innovative examples of institutional and administrative arrangements that can foster integrated approaches to the 2030 Agenda?

The report distinguishes the dimensions of horizontal integration, i.e., integration across sectors or institutions; vertical integration, i.e., integration of policies and actions across various levels of government; and engagement, i.e., the inclusion of relevant stakeholders in the realisation of shared development objectives.

Horizontal integration in the context of SDG implementation

An increasing number of countries around the world are integrating the SDGs into their national policies. Looking at institutional arrangements in a sample of 60 countries, the report finds that about half created a new structure or mechanism specifically for leading or coordinating SDG implementation. Most of these new institutions are of an inter-ministerial nature and are placed under the authority of the head of State or Government. This stands in contrast with countries that are using pre-existing institutional mechanisms, the majority of which are under a specific ministry. This shift may be an indication of countries’ interest in addressing the integrated nature of the SDGs and of their determination to rally all parts of government around them.

Going forward, countries may be able to enhance horizontal integration by actively leveraging various means and instruments. Those may include revised budget processes aligned with the SDGs, as done by Mexico, and adequate incentives for integrated work in the public service. Strengthening the capacity of public institutions to track and monitor progress on the SDGs in an integrated way will also be important, as it could reduce the likelihood that implementation initiatives by individual governments institutions are counteracting one another.

Vertical integration for the implementation of the SDGs

In many countries, local governments are very actively engaging around the SDGs. At the planning stage of policy-making, many sub-national governments have been aligning their strategies and plans to the SDGs, sometimes under a national legal mandate. At the implementation stage, the drive for alignment across government levels may come from the national or the sub-national level. Colombia is an extreme case of alignment, where multi-level processes enable allocation of budget resources across territories and establish common reporting formats. Local governments have also been involved in monitoring and evaluation, with the national level sometimes recognizing sub-national and local SDG indicators or supporting their development. Network of cities are active on the SDG front, replicating some of the forms of networking observed in areas like climate change in the past. Decentralization reforms, political economy considerations and organizational factors related to the country context may create specific opportunities for and barriers to vertical integration.

Engaging stakeholders for integrated implementation of the SDGs

The comprehensive scope of the 2030 Agenda requires coordinated action between governments and all stakeholders. The report finds that stakeholder engagement around the SDGs has been happening through different activities, including: awareness raising on the 2030 Agenda; adaptation and prioritization of the Goals to the national context; the development of national SDG implementation plans; their implementation; and monitoring and review. Engagement has happened both at the systemic level, looking at the SDGs as a whole, and around specific goal or target areas, the latter often before the adoption of the SDGs. Hence, lessons from the functioning of such engagement mechanisms could inform current efforts around the SDGs. Several countries have put forward multi-stakeholder partnerships or created frameworks for those in relation with the SDGs. For example, the Netherlands has a broad coalition of over 75 different stakeholders referred to as the “Global Goals Charter NL”. Finland’s whole-of-society approach to the achievement of the goals encourages stakeholders from all parts of society to make public commitments that contribute to the goals.

Integrated approaches for migration, health and in post-conflict contexts

The report illustrates the importance of integrated approaches for three topical issues: international migration, health, and sustainable development in post-conflict contexts.

Linkages between international migration and sustainable development are multiple, as illustrated by the ongoing international discussions around a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration. For public institutions and public administration at the national level to adequately address these linkages, multi-dimensional approaches are required, which often involve multiple institutions and actors. The report examines national institutions and policies on migration in a sample of 29 countries representing different regional, economic, social and political backgrounds, with emphasis on labour, education and health policies as they apply to migrants and refugees. It finds a broad variety of institutional settings, as well as a range of integration challenges. It shows the important role played by local governments in meeting the needs of migrants, and the equally important role of stakeholders, including migrant communities themselves, in supporting the economic and social integration of migrants.

The report explores how countries have institutionalized integrated approaches to health, which take into account the multiple linkages between health and other policy areas, including food, nutrition and consumption and urban areas, and also strive to work with multiple actors including communities themselves. Examples of practical approaches to policy integration in health abound. One of them is Health in All Policies, an approach adopted in both developed and developing countries, which systematically considers the health implications of policy decisions across sectors. Tools that mobilize and disseminate data from multiple sources are another example, as illustrated in the report. Many types of institutional mechanisms and structures have been tried in different contexts, making health a pioneering sector in terms of adopting integrated approaches. Some of the approaches surveyed in the report could possibly inform integration initiatives in other sectors.

Finally, the report recognizes the particular importance of policy integration in post-conflict contexts. Realizing the SDGs will be more difficult in post-conflict contexts than in other countries. Countries emerging from conflict have to simultaneously address three generic types of issues: securing quick developmental gains; restoring basic functions of the State; and progressing toward sustainable development; in a context of narrow fiscal spaces and low public revenue mobilization capacity. Several countries have used the SDGs as a framework to align their long-term development strategies and plans, as well as other instruments such as budget processes. Among countries having suffered from conflict, Chad, Colombia, Sierra Leone, the Solomon Islands and Somalia have explicitly linked high-level objectives expressed in their national plans and strategies with the SDGs.

Working together: Integration, Institutions and the Sustainable Development Goals

Achieving the SDGs is not an exercise in achieving a collection of individual targets, but rather an exercise in collaboration and joint efforts within and across government, and between government and various stakeholders, to a level that has not been seen before. The World Public Sector Report 2018 highlights some of the institutional approaches that countries have put in place since 2015 to achieve this objective.

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