A major obstacle to the integration of the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development was a “silo” mentality among stakeholders, especially among politicians and institutions, a panellist told the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development today as it continued its 2015 annual session with two panels that explored policymaking in the post-2015 era.
Breaking silos and helping stakeholders to see their contributions to particular goals in an integrated manner was important, said Patrick Birungi, Director of National Planning Authority at the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Economic Development of Uganda, during a panel discussion titled “Changing approaches to policy making: the role of the sustainable development goals”.
The discussion explored the best ways to integrate sustainable development policymaking at all levels. It also examined the opportunities for or barriers to integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development.
In his country, Mr. Birungi said, institutions were set up in silos with their own mandates and “territories” and were resistant to change. A coordinated mechanism for implementation and monitoring was needed, but unfortunately it was difficult to change the mind-set of political leadership.
Karel J.G. van Oosterom (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the Chair of the sixty-sixth session of the Economic Commission for Europe, stressed the crucial role of youth, as they were both the main beneficiaries and actors in implementing the post-2015 agenda.
Jaroslava Jermanová, Vice-President of the Czech Republic Parliament, underscored the importance of a proper assessment of future development strategies and effective practical actions.
The Forum, established by a decision in the outcome document of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also heard opinions from the floor, with several representatives of Member States and major stakeholder groups noting a lack of disaggregated data, national legislation, financial resources, governmental capacity and adequate indicators as obstacles to integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development.
In the afternoon, the Forum held a panel on “Regional support to national action”, in which policy experts from Africa, Asia and La Francophonie noted that once the new agenda was adopted, national reviews of implementation in developed and developing countries, as well as thematic reviews, would be carried out starting in 2016. They explored ways for regional platforms to support national implementation of the sustainable development goals, notably as forums for exchanging national experiences and lessons learned, as well as discussing broader regional trends, cross-border concerns and policy coherence.
The Forum will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 1 July, to continue its annual session.
Panel Discussion I
The High-Level Political Forum opened its third day of its annual session with a panel discussion on the topic “Changing approaches to policymaking: the role of the sustainable development goals”.
Moderated by Debapriya Bhattacharya, Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Chair of Southern Voice on Post-MDG (Millennium Development Goals) International Development Goals, it featured the following speakers: Karel J.G. van Oosterom (Netherlands), on behalf of the Chair of the sixty-sixth session of the Economic Commission for Europe; Patrick Birungi, Director, National Planning Authority, Ministry of Planning, Finance and Economic Development, Uganda; and Jaroslava Jermanová, Vice-President of the Parliament, Czech Republic. Y.W. Junardy, President Commissioner, PT Rajawali Corpora, and President, Global Compact Network, Indonesia, and Galina Angarova, Tebtebba, United States, served as lead discussants.
Chairing the meeting was VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia), Vice President of the Economic and Social Council, who said that the panel discussion aimed to address what would be the best way to integrate sustainable development policymaking at all levels with the ultimate goal of implementing the new development agenda, as well as the opportunities for or barriers to integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development. The panel also would explore how best the Forum could support policy coherence at the national and regional levels and approach the sustainable development goals in an integrated manner.
Mr. BHATTACHARYA said there were two ways to look at today’s topic. One way was to see policy changes as the driving force to achieve sustainable development goals. Another was to see the sustainable development goals as the driving force to change policy. The experience with the Millennium Development Goals taught that public policy interventions and institutional reform were necessary. A key question was whether there were enough instruments to achieve a myriad of objectives.
Mr. VAN OOSTEROM stressed that the Forum was meeting before the United Nations Conference on Financing for Development and the meeting to adopt the post-2015 development agenda and the Climate Change Conference in December. Those were words, which needed to be translated into action and delivery. The creation of new partnerships for financing for development was vital as sustainable development was not the task for Governments alone. They must cooperate with non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders. The role of regional organizations was also crucial. For instance, the European Union focused on six issues, including connectivity, sustainable land transport, sustainable management of ecosystem, sustainable energy, and monitoring sustainable development. Youth were both main beneficiaries and main actors in implementing the post-2015 agenda.
He asked the Youth Representative from his country to say a few words. The youth envoy stressed the importance of knowledge, skills and more guidance as well as education for sustainable development. “Youth need to learn how to learn,” he said.
Mr. BIRUNGI noted the gap between policies and programmes implemented at the community and household levels on one hand and those at the national level on the other. It was important to break silos and help stakeholders to see their contributions to particular sustainable development goals in an integrated manner. In his country, institutions were set up in silos with their own mandates and “territories”. A coordinated mechanism for implementation and monitoring results was crucial. A challenge was that institutions were resistant to change. Unfortunately, it was difficult to change the mind-set of people, especially among politicians. Another challenge was competition for scarce resources. Those barriers needed to be removed.
Ms. JERMANOVÁ said that while many countries got the idea of sustainable development in a natural evolutionary way, her country, after the Velvet Revolution, was mentally, socially and economically unprepared to face those global questions. The Czech Republic had been passing through massive changes never experienced before. There was no model to follow. To carry out sustainable development, it was thus necessary to engage with the brightest of minds and try to precede not only natural disasters but social ones. That required a proper prognosis assessment of future development, effective practical actions and a social consensus. She noted that she had initiated a project “Women, please elect women” and intended to establish a gender university in her country based on such American gender universities, such as Simmons College of Management in Boston. The university would educate not only potential women politicians in the Czech Republic but also women politicians from other countries of Eastern Europe or other parts of the world.
Mr. JUNARDY said that it was essential to have a close coordination between the central and local governments as Indonesia had 34 provinces. Partnerships with civil society, businesses and academia were also important. One way to address the issue of coordination was to establish a high-level coordination body with a mandate from the Government. There was also a need to improve transparency at all levels of planning so that the public could provide feedback. The Governments must be open with regards to access to information. There was a need to establish a data centre that could contribute to monitoring implementation of sustainable development.
Ms. ANGAROVA, speaking on behalf of the major group for the indigenous peoples, said that everyone engaged in the sustainable development goal process must check their contributions against reality. Sitting in New York without experiencing harsh realities on the ground would not contribute to the creation of an inclusive agenda. All stakeholders should imagine the struggle of young, indigenous women, who were marginalized based on gender, age and ethnicity. All development projects must be scrutinized from three dimensions of sustainable development — social, economic and environmental. While recognizing the role of science in sustainable development, traditional knowledge of indigenous people was also indispensable. A monetary measure of poverty was not good enough to measure people’s well-being. One goal could be achieved at the expense of another. For instance, economic growth could harm the environment.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of the major group for women stressed the important role of domestic legislation in the implementation of the sustainable development goals.
The representative of the major group for children and youth said education was the greatest tool towards achieving those goals and the economy was a subset of the environment, not the other way around.
The representative of Brazil said that integration of the three dimensions in the sustainable development framework was a ground-breaking achievement and the international community now needed a clear strategy and road map to implement those goals over the next 15 years.
The representative of South Africa said that his country adopted its National Development Plan 2030, with inclusive participation.
The representative of Bangladesh underscored the importance of social inclusion, capacity-building at the local government level, and means of implementation.
Responding to a question about achieving balance on the three dimensions of sustainable development, Mr. BIRUNGI said weights tended to vary from country to country but the important thing was to leave none of the three behind.
Ms. JERMANOVÁ said that balance must stem from respecting the culture and specificity of countries.
To a further question about how the integration of the three dimensions could be measured, the representative of Colombia said that it would be “difficult” to do so. However, her Government adopted 192 indicators to measure the implementation of sustainable development goals and created a national commission for planning, implementation and follow-up.
Mr. VAN OOSTEROM said monitoring was the biggest challenge for the United Nations. Many countries, including his, did not have the technical capacity to set more than 100 indicators. The coming 12 months, building on the work of the Statistical Commission, could be spent adopting smart indicators that measured multiple targets.
The representative of Brazil said that one measure of success of the sustainable development goals would be to see sustainable development discussed in classrooms. He favoured indicators based on a country’s trajectories over indicators that compared countries. The development of comparable indicators would require a sizeable investment.
The representative of Finland also stressed the need for multi-purpose indicators that could measure several targets.
A representative of the major group for women underscored the importance of capacity-building for data disaggregation through the national statistical commission.
The representative of the major group for other stakeholders stressed the importance of enabling legislation as it underpinned the programmes and policy needed at the local, State and national level.
On the issue of coordination and communication, Mr. JUNARDY said that in his country, the Government served as a hub for connecting different stakeholders.
Ms. ANGAROVA said that the Forum needed a bureau consisting of Member States.
Mr. VAN OOSTEROM said his Government created child-friendly documentation.
Wrapping up the discussion, the moderator said that nothing would change if people did not change. “You must be the change you want to see,” he concluded.
Panel Discussion II
In the afternoon, the Forum held a panel on “Regional support to national action”, moderated by Ximena Ponce, Member of Parliament and Former Minister for Economic and Social Inclusion of Ecuador. It featured presentations by: Vajra Narampanawa, Secretary, State Minister of Environment of Sri Lanka, and Vice-Chair of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development; Mohamed Ashraf Rashed, Ambassador and Member of the African Peer Review Panel of Eminent Persons; and Christian Brodhag, Senior Expert, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. Paul Ladd, Senior Policy Adviser, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), New York, and Roula Majdalani, Director of the Sustainable Development Policies Division of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), were lead discussants.
Opening the discussion, Forum Vice-President María Emma Mejía Véléz (Colombia) said negotiations on the post-2015 agenda showed broad support for a transparent review and follow-up framework to track progress in implementing the sustainable development goals. The Assembly had determined that the reviews would be universal, voluntary, State-led and inclusive, and there was agreement that they should support an exchange of national experiences. Also emerging from negotiations was the importance of the regional level of the review as a platform for both the exchange of experiences and discussion of cross-regional issues.
Ms. PONCE said lessons had been learned in the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the sustainable development goals. First, experience had shown that poverty could be reduced. Other lessons were about partnerships and “new players” on the scene in academia, the private sector and media, and about the convergence of development financing and climate change.
Mr. NARAMPANAWA said the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development was held in Bangkok from 21 to 22 May, with 400 participants from government, major groups, United Nations bodies and other stakeholders. It confirmed the importance of a holistic approach to sustainable development, agreeing that the new agenda must engage the region’s people and calling for political commitment. It also recognized that the sustainable development agenda must be embedded in national policy frameworks and required national ownership. Follow-up and review should be streamlined, fit-for-purpose and adapted to national priorities, participants said, while regional follow-up mechanisms required more discussion. Least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing States would require particular attention in implementing the sustainable development agenda.
Mr. RASHED said the African Peer Review Mechanism was a monitoring instrument that helped States create an enabling environment for sustainable development by providing recommendations in the areas of democratic and political economic and corporate governance and socioeconomic development. It aimed at fostering the adoption of standards that led to stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and regional integration. The mechanism cooperated with research institutions, as well as with UNDP and the African Development Bank, and counted 35 countries among its members. Guided by the principle of inclusiveness, both State and non-State actors participated in its work. Going forward, the mechanism’s progress report could complement the regional reporting forum envisaged for the sustainable development goals, he said, stressing that in Africa, there was consensus on the need for a follow-up and review mechanism to ensure implementation of the sustainable development goals.
MR. BRODHAG said various countries had implemented peer review within la Francophonie: Belgium and Wallonie, Benin, Burkina Faso, Canada (Quebec), Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Gabon, Niger, Mali, Togo and Senegal. The reviews had been organized in three phases, with the first organizational phase involving the establishment of an institutional mechanism, the second phase the preparation of the “context report” and the third offering a review workshop with stakeholders and experts who made recommendations. Going forward, the peer review could be part of the “collective learning” on sustainable development policies and integrated into the Forum’s follow-up and review process. He concluded by stressing that the review was not a bureaucratic assessment based on the verification of indicators.
Mr. LADD stressed the importance of national monitoring and review as the foundation for any successful regional or global process. It was at the national level where implementation policies were set, data was generated and the “specific context” for sustainable development was understood. The first “port of call” for partnership would be at the national level. For its part, UNDP had supported more than 450 national review processes during the Millennium Development Goals, reports from which supported voluntary presentations at review summits. “We have learned a lot from those processes and reports,” he said. At the regional level, economic commissions had strong analytical research capacity that could benefit countries requesting support. It also offered space for countries to discuss common challenges, such as generating employment or improving health, and to explore solutions.
Ms. MAJDALANI said the transformative nature of the post-2015 agenda would require “doing things differently”, as it had set itself apart from previous development efforts by placing people at its core and calling for a balanced integration of the sustainable development dimensions. Success in delivering those results lay in part with the “regional dimension”, as it was conducive to enhancing national ownership and building trust among States. For example, regional commissions could help States adapt the new goals to their national circumstances. They also had a role to play in terms of enhancing States’ statistical capacity for follow-up and review. Their role in holding regional consultations on global issues was essential and regional forums on sustainable development convened by the commissions were also well-placed to ensure coherence.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers agreed that well-managed and efficient processes were crucial for delivering a transformative agenda. Many agreed that while national ownership and accountability were at the heart of success, new partnerships were needed to better target national needs. With that in mind, they explored ways for regional platforms to support national implementation, with the representative of Burkina Faso explaining that regional organizations should be prepared to support States through regional commissions.
Similarly, the representative of the Russian Federation stressed the importance of regional economic commissions, saying that regional platforms were the optimal place for discussion of national reviews, common issues and lessons learned.
Outlining fresh efforts, South Africa’s representative said that at the Johannesburg summit, African Union member States adopted “Agenda 2063”, a 10-year plan that would put in place a results-based approach to sustainable development priorities, guided by the principles of subsidiarity and complementarity.
Brazil’s delegate said countries in Latin America and the Caribbean decided to hold a regional forum on sustainable development next year as part of the broader regional debate on the post-2015 agenda. Indicators should go through a regional and national “proofing” to ensure they really met national challenges. The forum would also channel the participation of civil society and stakeholders from subregional organizations, development banks and national development agencies.
The representatives of Zimbabwe and Egypt also spoke, as did the representative of the European Union. Also making interventions were the representatives of the major groups on youth and children, and on women.