The Sustainable Development Goals
This morning, UKSSD and BOND, two multi-sectoral organisations working towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), hosted a morning on this very theme. Chaired by Jon Snow, we were welcomed with a speech by the Minister of State at the Department for International Development. This was followed by policy development presentations from the Finish Secretary General from the National Commission on Sustainable Development; the Colombian Director of Monitoring and Evaluation of Public Policy, National Planning Department; a Ugandan representative of the Head of Economic and Strategic Planning at the National Planning Authority; and the German Head of Division, Cross-sectoral and Sustainability-related Strategic and General Aspects of Environment, Building and Urban Development Policy.
The abbreviated notes below are my own focus and interpretation: live streaming of the event itself is due on the BOND website shortly. It is a noticeable achievement that adult literacy has explicit mention in Sustainable Development Goal 4.
MP Rory Stewart OBE FRSL, Minister of State at the Department for International Development
The last handful of decades, as we moved towards and through the Millennium Development Goals and into the SDGs, have seen the UK’s comparatively high level of international aid funding, at 0.7% of GDP, steadily accompanying an explosion in global economic activity. Where once DFID’s aid contributions may have been the largest contributor to a developing country’s budget, they now represent a fraction. In Pakistan, for example, the economy now spends one hundred times more on military expenditure than DFID spends on aid.
These can lead to questions of scaling. While demands for renewable water, energy and finance mechanisms are common to all, to what extent are which models of domestic development appropriate to international contexts? In farming, for example, how do large-scale industrial agricultural practices relate to subsistence family farming? Which models of public and private funding, such as bonds, support sustainable local development?
Annika Lindblom, Secretary General from the National Commission on Sustainable Development in Finland
In developing policy, Finland have prioritised eight primary SDGs to implement a whole country approach to implementation which is led from their cabinet office. The rest of the SDGs flesh out policy around the primary eight. Finland has a well-established political investment in sustainability that has progressed through several changes of parliament.
Dr Felipe Castro, Director of Monitoring and Evaluation of Public Policy, National Planning Department in Colombia
Colombia undertook a detailed technical analysis of current policies and how they meet the SDGs. They matched available performance data to SDG indicators to analyse how and to what extent these goals are being met. This has enabled gap analysis, similarly to Finland’s process of policy development, and the identification of resource shortages. While using mass data and visualisation techniques, the social implications and applications were highlighted. The result was clear evidence of the interconnectedness of the SDGs, and of Colombia’s peace process. It evidences the detrimental impact of conflict on growth and development.
Dr. Joerg Mayer-Ries, Head of Division, Cross-sectoral and Sustainability-related Strategic and General Aspects of Environment, Building and Urban Development Policy in Germany
Germany utilises the SDGs as the basis for societal contracts and matrixes policies to them. As an example, in agriculture, they have identified the over-usage of nitrogen and consequently work towards reducing the impact on polluting ground waters and seas. These dialogues influence their economic models of growth and consumption with an emphasis on ‘resource productivity’, as much in international trade as domestic.
Representative of Paul Okitoi, Head of Economic and Strategic Planning at the National Planning Authority of Uganda
Uganda has implemented universal primary education and activated civil society in achieving its sustainable goals. In broader political terms, the SDG agenda is led from their cabinet office and disseminates through the political and societal structures.
A gap analysis was carried out. This recognised globally recognised challenges including project management capacity and meaningful, effective data collection and evidence-based practices to an appropriate scale.
The role of parliamentary mechanisms in ensuring accountability for the SDGs was queried. In this, civil society was suggested as engaging in two way partnership. Traditional understandings are not always fully aligned with scientific perspectives in decision-making processes. While not explicitly mentioned, lifelong learning agendas have a clear role to play in moderating mutual understanding. Ultimately, the aim of the forum is to get sustainable business practices more involved and this may take a bit more work ongoing.
These dialogues highlight the tensions between ‘doing things for people’ and supporting the mechanisms which enable them to do for themselves. In a social world, the SDGs and monitoring their progress contribute to bridging the ontological divide between (social) subjective and (mass data) objective realities – shared values, shared goals! The UK government has not to date released a cohesive plan for progressing the SDGs in the UK despite being a significant contributor to their generation. It would be wonderful to see consistent matrixing which disseminated a lifelong learning agenda, in policy as well as in practice. The drive for paths to be found in each context provides a rich narrative of development, and plenty of stories to be shared in the making.
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