Mr. Eliott Harris Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist

Discussion around the World Public Sector Report 2018

Distinguished members of CEPA,
Dear colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to open this discussion around the World Public Sector Report 2018, entitled “Working Together: Integration, Institutions and the Sustainable Development Goals”.

“Integration” became a buzzword, most notably during the negotiations and since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda emphasizes the importance of the integrated nature of the SDGs. Indeed, identifying and building on the synergies between the SDGs will make it much easier to achieve the Goals by ensuring more coherent action on the various dimensions of sustainable development.

Work on interactions among the SDGs has gathered momentum during the past two or three years, in governments, in civil society, the private sector, academia and among other key stakeholders, as well as in the UN system. Everyone is now trying to assess the implications of the interconnectedness of the SDGs for their work.

However, there are still gaps in our knowledge and practice. It is great that actors are increasingly aware of the potential impacts of their actions on other sectors and players. But how do we go from this to integrated approaches to solving sustainable development issues?

More specifically, how does the institutional landscape have to evolve to foster integrated approaches?

This question often remains unanswered.  In part because of the difficulties of identifying appropriate institutional responses, at the international as well as the national levels. However, the past 25 years since the Earth summit offer a rich body of experiences and lessons learned – in terms of institutional arrangements and public administration management efforts – that can foster integration and coherence.

For example, national strategies for sustainable development, national sustainable development councils, and local Agenda 21s are all instruments that promote integration. At the sectoral level, attempts at integration in many sectors have resulted in the development of integrative concepts and institutional experiments, the lessons of which could be harnessed for the benefit of SDG implementation. The report that we are discussing today aims to take a first step in this direction.

It argues that overall, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda has created positive momentum for policy integration. This can be illustrated in the following five brief points:

First, with the 2030 Agenda, the integrated nature of sustainable development has become the mainstream approach to development. [This is increasing the political salience of integrated approaches, including in developed countries due to the universality of the SDGs;]

Second, the SDGs provide a common map of sustainable development, clearly showing the interdependence among goals and targets and the scope for intersectoral institutional collaboration;

Third, scientific knowledge and evidence on interlinkages among SDG areas have progressed tremendously;

Fourth, institutions are an integral part of the SDGs on par with other goals, not an afterthought or a component of an “enabling environment”, legitimizing the discussion on institutional approaches for SDG implementation;

And fifth, methodologies that support integrated approaches in public institutions are being developed, including analytical methods, managerial tools and information systems.

Eventually though, whether these positive factors will result in concrete improvements in terms of policy integration at different levels is still and outstanding question.

Dear Colleagues,

The 2018 World Public Sector Report informs efforts by all countries to foster policy integration for the SDGs, highlighting the challenges and opportunities that exist for public institutions and public administration.

The report illustrates how interlinkages among the SDGs can be addressed from an institutional perspective, based on examples. Through this, the report aims to identify critical areas where public institutions need to work closely together; the types of tools that can be used to this effect; and the broader implications of this approach for public institutions and public service.

The report aims to assist national policy makers, especially those working in SDG implementing institutions, as well as in planning, finance and sector ministries and in local governments, to implement the SDGs in an integrated fashion. The focus of the report is on the national level, including the sub-national and local levels.

The Report is a first step in taking stock of institutional approaches adopted by countries to promote integrated approaches to the implementation of the SDGs. This is, of course, part of a much broader agenda, and the reflection on how to best operationalize such approaches in various contexts should continue.

For example, while the report focuses on the national level, there is also a need for integrated approaches at the international level. If the UN system, multilateral financial institutions, and bilateral donors do not strive for consistency and coherence in their development assistance, they can in effect make integration at the national level much more difficult to achieve. More broadly, the old debates on the coherence of legal and regulatory regimes in different areas (as illustrated in the past by the tensions between trade and environment) not only are still relevant, they may acquire increased salience as the complexity of the challenge of implementation becomes clearer.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, to achieve the SDGs, transformative change is needed across many interlinked areas, and this includes exploiting synergies and managing trade-offs among the SDGs. Governance systems and institutions need to be designed – or redesigned – to support integrated SDG implementation.

This event gathers experts from what used to be two separate fields: development, and public administration. We are all convinced that, for the SDGs to become a reality, the dialogue between these and other communities must be ramped up. We need development experts to consider institutional aspects, including the incentives for integrated approaches at all levels. We also need public institutions and public administration experts to distil the lessons from their discipline in the framework for SDG implementation.

I hope that the coming discussion will illustrate this and provide for a fruitful exchange.

Thank you.

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