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

Welcome Remarks
VNR lab: What should institutions look like to support SDG implementation
and how best to reflect it in VNR reporting?

Distinguished delegates,
Colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for joining us today at this VNR lab on national institutions for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I wish I could say it is a pleasure to see you in person, but we are all adapting to this new virtual context. I appreciate your taking part in this online event. Hopefully, the virtual format does enable a broader participation from around the world than we could have had in person.

This VNR lab brings together a prominent group of experts from diverse countries and regions to consider two key questions: (1) What should institutions look like to support SDG implementation? and (2) how best to reflect that in VNR reporting?

On the first point, we will explore institutional features that are most conducive to accelerating progress towards the SDGs. Clearly there is no single institutional model which all governments should strive to emulate, as each country’s public institutions must be grounded–and operate–in its own unique context.

And yet, it has been five years since the launch of the 2030 Agenda, five years during which countries have been adapting their institutions, at different paces and in a multitude of forms. There is a great deal to be learned from this experience, as much from the successes as from the challenges and even failures—the lessons learned can and should inform governments’ next steps in making their institutional arrangements for SDG implementation more effective.

In examining institutional developments, this lab aims to dig beneath the surface. It asks not just what institutional set-ups are in place to implement the SDGs, or what changes have been made since 2016. We are equally interested in the why and how, and in the trajectory of that change over time. For instance, how have governments assessed the effectiveness of their institutional arrangements for implementing the SDGs? How have institutional arrangements been adjusted to enhance policy integration, and to involve institutional actors beyond the center of government and main line ministries? What challenges do you still face in this regard?

On the second point, the lab will hone in on what brings us all together this week – the Voluntary National Reviews. All of the speakers here representing national governments come from countries that have now conducted more than one VNR. You are in an ideal position to reflect on how governments convey progress in strengthening their institutional capabilities to advance sustainable development in their VNR reports. This is important because VNR reports represent one of the main sources for peer learning in real time among all countries.

In this lab, we are also fortunate to have two members of the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration (or CEPA), serving as moderator and discussant. CEPA developed the “principles of effective governance for sustainable development”, which the UN’s Economic and Social Council endorsed in 2018. The principles were discussed in the African context in a workshop in 2019. We will hear from a representative of the African Peer Review Mechanism how the principles may help to facilitate the review of institutional arrangements for the SDGs in voluntary national reviews.

The SDGs will not be achieved by 2030 in the absence of capable, well-resourced and agile institutions. Beyond individual institutions, it is the effectiveness of the institutional ecosystems that countries put in place around SDG implementation – involving parliaments, oversight institutions, civil society, local governments in a coherent and cohesive approach – that will condition progress. There is much to delve into at this VNR lab, which promises an insightful and engaging discussion. I look forward to the exchange of experiences and the lessons to which they lead.

With that, I leave you in the able hands of our moderator, Mr. Louis Meuleman, and I wish you a fruitful and rich exchange.

Thank you.

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