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Reshaping Governance for Sustainability: 2019 “Spotlight” Report Launched at the UN HLPF

17. Juli 2019 - 4:21

By Elena Marmo and Sophia McCarron

Photo: FES

“There needs to be an examination of the hardware of the 2030 Agenda, rather than an upgrade of its software” concludes the 2019 Spotlight Report launched on Thursday, 11 July during the High Level Political Forum that reviews the United Nations 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Under the title of “Reshaping governance for sustainability”, the civil society report explores transforming institutions, shifting power and strengthening rights. The launch event showcased the ideas presented by a variety of the report’s authors. Barbara Adams, Moderator and Chair of the Board at Global Policy Forum, opened the discussion with a call for “serious shifts in major policy, a real re-thinking of the public sector.” The report and its authors demands governments live up to their responsibilities in public finance and provides recommendations for strong institutions, and adequate regulations of markets have been found ineffective. All of the panelists’ presentations highlighted the need to re-think the development hegemony.

Kate Donald of the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) explored this thinking through a lens of the austerity policies promoted or endorsed by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) that are resulting in increased inequalities in Egypt and Brazil. While the IMF acknowledges that inequality is macro-critical, traditional orthodoxy of austerity and structural adjustment work counter to reducing inequality. For example, two years ago Brazil introduced a radical freeze on public spending for 20 years, seeking to reduce fiscal deficit and regain the country’s investment grade rating. The IMF supported these cuts, that have resulted in a 20% reduction in public spending in health and education The IMF rhetoric on reducing inequalities does not prevent it from favouring policies that increase them and work counter to the SDGs. Her chapter can be downloaded here.

Antonia Wulff of Education International spoke on the changing power imbalances in the education field which has seen influence move away from UNESCO and towards the private sector. UNESCO’s 22% budget deficit upon the withdrawal of United States government funding weakens the multilateral agency for education while the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Education Commission and the GEMS Foundation are actively promoting their own views on education. The Education Commission and GEMS Foundation are organized around private interests and offer a market-driven education model and the OECD and World Bank have created different standardization schemes to make countries globally comparable. Both models hinder vulnerable groups’ access to education and their governance models run counter the transformative change needed to achieve the SDGs. Her chapter can be downloaded here.

Photo: FES

Roberto Bissio of Social Watch spoke on the need to end gentlemen’s agreements in international governance. These agreements are antithetical to the spirit of the 2030 Agenda because they solidify inequality between states and reinforce structures of patriarchy and gender inequity. For example, in spite of their universal membership, the Bretton Woods institutions are invariable led by an American in the case of the World Bank and an European for the IMF. This non-written “club governance” maintains old power imbalances and undermines SDG 10 on reducing inequality, that explicitly request for a bigger developing country representation in these institutions. His chapter can be read in full here.

Abigail Ruane of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) examined the intersection between gender and conflict resolution. She argued that by siloing peacebuilding, gender, and development, the international community creates the basis for unstable post-conflict societies. Militaries have often been considered the solution to conflict situations, but in practice, traditional military masculinity can worsen gender inequality and undermine global security. Interlinking gender, development and peacebuilding can foster more effective peacebuilding solutions that would reduce extraterritorial conflict spillovers and promote 2030 Agenda implementation. Her chapter can be downloaded here.

Photo: FES

Lastly, Jens Martens of Global Policy Forum offered a summary of the main themes of the 2019 Spotlight Report. Gaps in SDG implementation need to be closed in a bottom-up approach by starting at the local and national levels to include marginal groups. Institutionally, Adams recommends the HLPF be brought under the General Assembly and given a status similar to the Human Rights Council so that it has the capacity to set norms and overcome governance weakness at a global level. Other institutions need effective political and legal instruments in order to encourage binding indicators. To check business interests at the international level, there must be a binding treaty linking business and human rights in order to secure public funding for the 2030 Agenda and bring it away from the whims of private donors. The HLPF reform offers an opportunity to accomplish some of these suggestions, however, without political will, little can change. His chapter can be downloaded here.

Discussion on Governance, Power and Institutions

Following the panelists’ presentations, there was plenty of energy and enthusiasm for debate in the crowded room, provided by the Baha’i International Community in New York. The issues raised covered trade agreements and power asymmetries, democratizing governance of the global macro-economy, the role of the IMF, of parliamentarians and of national action (both by governments and civil society), shifting power and tackling structures like patriarchy, and the need for civil society organizations to be more inclusive and to focus on creating a wider strategy to connect all the dots and collectively advocate for the governance changes needed.

Kate Donald from CESR spoke about how “challenging macroeconomic policy is key to challenging patriarchy and authoritarianism.”Mahinour El-Badrawi, co-author of the Spotlight Chapter on SDG 10  spoke on regressive policies approved by the IMF in Egypt despite the IMF  rhetoric in support of the SDGs. Jens Martens from Global Policy Forum referenced  chapters in Spotlight Reports from previous years that look at the role of trade agreements in hindering the SDGs and also stressed the importance of building new coalitions and breaking sector silos within Civil Society. Antonia Wulff of Education International stressed the need to hold governments accountable at national levels and globally as duty bearers. She noted, “we are nearing a tipping point where public authorities will have lost so much of the perceived power that we are really fundamentally messing with what should be a social contract.” It is clear that increasingly, governments are turning to civil society and the private sector as not only “partners” in implementation but as co-pilots. It’s important to consider how to best hold governments accountable to their commitments, as they’ve signed up to achieve the SDGs and how other actors can unintentionally undermine the multilateral importance of the agenda.

Abigail Ruane of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) reiterated how vital it is for governance mechanisms to create cohesion between action on peace and justice and action on development, particularly to avoid both streams from working in a gender-blind way. Roberto Bissio of Social Watch emphasized the “complete disassociation” between UN resolutions and trade and investment agreements—many governments are shouting rhetoric in support of the SDGs while also engaging in trade agreements that work counter to the 2030 Agenda. What he calls for, is an examination of where and how power is vested, and for civil society organizations to tow the line, acknowledging that power is necessary to affect change but those who possess it need to be controlled.

Barbara Adams of Global Policy Forum closed the meeting, synthesizing the panelists’ remarks and the discussion—highlighting the productivity of the conversation in outlining “what we’re up against” and stressing that it’s important for civil society to work collectively to address the power asymmetries and governance challenges ahead.

The entire 2019 Spotlight and reports from years prior can be found online here:


Kategorien: english, Ticker

Warum sich Wohlstand und Nachhaltigkeit nicht mit einer Zahl messen lassen

16. Juli 2019 - 20:32

versión en español. English version.

Der Nachhaltigkeitsindex der Bertelsmann-Stiftung soll Aufschluss darüber geben, wie einzelne Länder bei der Umsetzung der Agenda 2030 vorankommen. Doch die hohen Kosten des westlichen Entwicklungsmodells gehen dabei unter.

Im Juni haben die Bertelsmann-Stiftung und das Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDNS) mit Sitz in New York und Paris ihren Sustainable Development Report für das Jahr 2019 veröffentlicht. Die Autoren „messen“ darin anhand ausgewählter Indikatoren, wie die Staaten bei den 17 Nachhaltigkeitszielen abschneiden, und fassen die Ergebnisse in einer Rangliste von 162 Ländern zusammen, für die ausreichend Daten verfügbar sind.

Erstaunlich dabei ist: Die Werte des SDG-Index ähneln stark denen des Human Development Index (HDI), den das Entwicklungsprogramm der Vereinten Nationen (UNDP) jährlich veröffentlicht. Der Korrelationskoeffizient beträgt 0,91, was bedeutet: Wenn man den Wert eines Landes im HDI kennt, kann man mit einer 91-prozentigen Genauigkeit die Position des Landes in der SDG-Rangliste vorhersagen. Der neue Index bietet also kaum neue Informationen.

Das überrascht, weil der HDI lediglich drei Faktoren berücksichtigt (Einkommen, Gesundheit und Bildung), der SDG-Index aber das Abschneiden eines Landes in allen 17 Zielen abbilden will – von Armut, Hunger, Gesundheit und Bildung (Ziele ein bis fünf) über Umwelt (Ziele 12 bis 15), Regierungsführung (Ziel 16) und der Umsetzung (Ziel 17).

Die Grafik zeigt, wie stark der SDG-Index und der HDI korrelieren.Roberto Bissio

Die Agenda 2030 als Rahmen der Nachhaltigkeitsziele versteht sich als „transformativ“. Sollte sich das nicht auch in einem Index spiegeln, der die Fortschritte einer solchen Transformation messen will?

Entwicklung wurde lange Zeit mit Wirtschaftswachstum gleichgesetzt. In den 1990er Jahren erweiterte der HDI dieses Verständnis und ergänzte das Pro-Kopf-Bruttoinlandsprodukt um Indikatoren des Wohlbefindens. Der Index zeigte, dass Länder mit ähnlichem Einkommensniveau sehr unterschiedliche Erfolge bei der „menschlichen Entwicklung“ erzielen. Die Nachhaltigkeitsziele gehen nun noch einen Schritt weiter, indem sie Ungleichheit, Regierungsführung und die Umwelt in den Blick nehmen.

Eine solche Erweiterung müsste eigentlich Folgen für das Gesamtergebnis haben. Doch das ist nicht der Fall und die Ursache liegt darin, wie der Index gebildet wird. Ein Beispiel: Ein Indikator, der in den SDGs anders als in früheren Indizes enthalten ist, ist die Zahl der Mordfälle pro 100.000 Einwohner eines Landes. Die Rangliste der Länder nach diesem Indikator korreliert in keiner Weise mit dem Pro-Kopf-Einkommen oder dem HDI: Unter den zehn Ländern mit niedrigster Mordrate finden sich einige der reichsten und einige der ärmsten Länder der Welt.

Teilweise willkürliche Auswahl der Indikatoren

Und obwohl Burkina Faso und Indonesien hier besser abschneiden als Großbritannien oder die Schweiz, landen sie auf dem SDG-Index weiter hinter diesen auf den Plätzen 141 und 101. Der Grund dafür ist, dass die niedrige Mordrate sozusagen weggemittelt wird: Sie verschwindet im Durchschnitt der anderen Indikatoren für Ziel 16 wie der Qualität der Eigentumsrechte (ermittelt vom Weltwirtschaftsforum) und der Pressefreiheit (gemessen von Reporter ohne Grenzen).

Der SDG-Index kommt zustande, indem die Mittelwerte der für jedes Ziel ausgewählten Indikatoren gebildet werden und dann aus diesen insgesamt 17 Mittelwerten der Durchschnitt berechnet wird. Dabei werden jeder Indikator innerhalb der Ziele sowie die Ziele untereinander gleich gewichtet. Die Auswahl der Indikatoren ergibt sich zum einen aus der Verfügbarkeit von Daten, folgt aber auch der willkürlichen Entscheidung der Autoren.

So sind bei der Berechnung des Indexwertes des ersten Nachhaltigkeitsziels drei Armutsindikatoren maßgebend: Der Anteil der Bevölkerung, der mit weniger als 1,90 beziehungsweise 3,20 US-Dollar auskommen muss, sowie für OECD-Länder der Anteil der Bevölkerung, dessen Einkommen 50 Prozent unter dem Median liegt. Die Abdeckung sozialer Sicherung fließt dagegen nicht in die Berechnung ein, obwohl sie eines der Unterziele ist und die Internationale Arbeitsorganisation (ILO) dazu ausreichend Daten bereitstellt.

Die Zentralafrikanische Republik steht beim Klimaschutz auf dem zweiten Platz

Als unabhängigen Forschungseinrichtungen steht es Bertelsmann und dem SDSN natürlich frei, die Auswahl zu bestimmen. Aber die Berechnung des Indexes reflektiert damit eben nur teilweise die Stoßrichtung der Agenda 2030.

Das belegt eine statistische Prüfung des SDGs-Berichts durch die Gemeinsame Forschungsstelle der Europäischen Kommission: Sie zeigt, dass manche Länder, die bei SDG 12 zu nachhaltigem Konsum und nachhaltiger Produktion und bei SDG 13 zum Klimaschutz schlecht abschneiden, bei allen anderen Zielen hohe Werte erzielen – und umgekehrt. Die fünf Länder, die den Gesamtindex anführen, landen bei den Zielen 12 und 13 auf den hinteren Plätzen. Schweden beispielsweise steht auf dem zweiten Platz des Index, bei nachhaltigem Konsum und nachhaltiger Produktion aber auf Position 138. Die Zentralafrikanische Republik wiederum, die auf dem Gesamtindex ganz unten steht, landet beim Klimaschutz auf dem zweiten Platz.

Diese Beobachtung bestätigt, was die von den Nobelpreisgewinnern Amartya Sen und Joseph Stiglitz angeführte Kommission zur Erforschung eines neuen Maßstabs für Wohlstand schon 2009 geschrieben hat: Die Bewertung nachhaltiger Entwicklung müsse getrennt vom Wohlstand und der Wirtschaftsleistung beurteilt werden. „Versucht man, aktuelles Wohlergehen und Nachhaltigkeit in einem einzelnen Indikator zusammenzufassen, führt das zu Verfälschungen. Oder anders ausgedrückt: Beim Autofahren würde ein Zähler, der die Geschwindigkeit des Fahrzeugs und den verbleibenden Benzinstand in einer einzigen Zahl zusammenfasst, dem Fahrer nichts nützen.“

Das Versagen der reichen Länder, die armen zu unterstützen

Genau das passiert im SGD-Index: Im abschließenden Durchschnittswert der Durchschnittswerte werden die zwei Ziele, bei denen die reichen Länder schlecht abschneiden, von den 15 anderen Zielen egalisiert, die dem gängigen Verständnis von wirtschaftlicher Entwicklung entsprechen. Der finale Indexwert wird zudem dadurch beeinflusst, dass das in jedem SDG enthaltene Unterziel der Umsetzung nicht berücksichtigt wird. Laut diesem Unterziel sollen die reichsten Länder ärmere Länder bei der Umsetzung unterstützen. Die Folge: Das schlechte Abschneiden der armen Länder bei den Wohlstandsindikatoren schlägt bei jedem einzelnen SDG durch und verschlechtert die Werte. Hingegen taucht das Versagen der reichen Länder, die armen bei der Umsetzung der Ziele zu unterstützen, nur einmal auf – im Wert für Ziel 17.

„Entwicklung“ wurde gemeinhin als linearer Anstieg verstanden, von niedrig zu hoch, von arm zu reich, gemessen an einer einzigen Zahl, dem Pro-Kopf-Einkommen oder dem HDI. Die Bertelsmann-Stiftung macht es in ihrem Bericht ähnlich, indem sie Fortschritte bei den SDGs als eine Art olympischen Wettbewerb darstellt, bei dem die Länder Medaillen in verschiedenen Disziplinen sammeln können. Wie bei einem Marathon werden manche Läufer das Ziel schneller erreichen als andere, aber mit etwas Mühe werden letztlich alle ankommen, wobei die etwas Fitteren die Nachzügler mit Rat und Ermutigungen unterstützen und mit guten Beispielen vorangehen.

Der SDG-Index ist dem Human Development Index so ähnlich, dass er wie dieser letztlich die vorherrschende Entwicklungsstrategie legitimiert. Die Botschaft lautet: Wenn wir nicht auf Kurs sind, die Ziele zu erreichen, dann müssen wir eben einfach nur etwas schneller werden in dem, was wir tun.

Aber was wäre, wenn wir anstelle des Strebens nach mehr Medaillen die Wechselbeziehungen, die Kosten und Umweltfolgen unseres Entwicklungsmodells in den Mittelpunkt rückten? Mit dieser Frage sollten sich die Regierungen und das internationale Entwicklungssystem bei der Überprüfung der Agenda 2030 auseinandersetzen. Denn ein „Weiter so wie bisher“ wird uns nicht die erhofften Fortschritte bringen.

Aus dem Englischen von Sebastian Drescher.

Roberto Bissio ist Koordinator von Social Watch, einem internationalen Netzwerk zivilgesellschaftlicher Organisationen, die sich für nachhaltige Entwicklung einsetzen.

Eine längere englische Version dieses Beitrags ist bei erschienen.


Kategorien: english, Ticker

Governance of data and artificial intelligence

15. Juli 2019 - 14:45

Analyses from the many global civil society organisations which contributed to the Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2019 make it clear that to meaningfully tackle the obstacles and contradictions in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals needs more sweeping, holistic shifts in how and where power is vested.

The current status of Artificial Intelligence governance must be reshaped or it will contribute to more being left behind. The risks and shifts are outlined by Cecilia Alemany of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) and Anita Gurumurthy of IT For Change (ITFC) in a chapter on Governance of Data and Artificial Intelligence.

They propose the United Nations as the forum where AI must be understood and governed as a crucial condition for human rights, democracy, peace and sustainable development. But it has to be led by governments with broader participation, ensuring that it is not directed by platform companies’ interests, and that it is not regulated only as a matter of e-commerce or trade as currently seems to be the case. Digital intelligence, generated from social interactions data (of people and things in a networked data environment) to produce profit marks a shift in the foundational structures of society and economy, requiring a new governance model.

Concerns about the inherent biases in AI and consequences for fundamental rights, including the right to equality and non-discrimination, are being widely flagged today by civil rights groups. Employees of big digital corporations have also raised their voices against the weaponization of cyberspace through a state-corporate nexus. Alemany and Gurumurthy flag that it is vital to recognise that data and AI Governance needs a more comprehensive approach that addresses the individual and structural underpinnings of equality and justice.

Many public policy decisions that shape citizens’ everyday experience are found not in legislative norms but in software codes and AI made by scientists and innovators in private (and monopolistic) settings. Policy-makers have not yet grasped of the risks of delegating public and private decision-making to AI and ML. All countries need to understand the impact of deep learning and intelligent prediction models in public policy design and response to get the benefits and reduce risks. Good policy can ensure that this can be the beginning of a ‘golden age’ of social sciences, a coming together of contextual complexities and statistical interpretations at a new level.

IT for Change calls for “an agile legal and policy framework to curb platform excess”, to govern the new economy and its effects on the society, citizens, institutions and politics in this digital era. States should mandate “that private platforms in key sectors share critical data they collect with state agencies, with safeguards for protecting user and citizen privacy. To support essential public services, like city transport or health care, companies must be obligated to open up such public data for the public interest”.

The UN High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation is led by two chairs (common practice), but, uncommonly, both of them come from two of the most important transnational corporations of the digital economy. However public leadership has not been ensured. If the international community continues to merely observe how monopolies are owning people’s data and using AI without any correction to their abusive practices and biases, existing structural asymmetries will be reproduced also in the way data and AI will be governed or ungoverned.

The international community needs to work towards an overall paradigm shift where there is a convergence of the liberal paradigm (open AI, open internet, etc.) with a more progressive paradigm (communitization of the digital world) based on human rights and a clear norm setting on digital rights and obligations.

Go to the article

Go to the full report

Kategorien: english, Ticker

The HLPF review has to match the ambition of the 2030 Agenda

11. Juli 2019 - 23:28

This discussion paper features content extracted from a chapter in the 2019 Spotlight Report titled, “Democratic global governance: if it doesn’t challenge power it isn’t democratic,” by Barbara Adams, Global Policy Forum. The 2019 Spotlight Report is available for download at

Download this briefing (pdf version).

The High-level Political Forum (HLPF) for monitoring the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development was mandated by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012, and the details were negotiated by Member States in 2013. Proposals for a robust accountability body were resisted and   the result was a forum/talk shop, removing an accountability voice in favour of follow-up and review.

Its founding resolution (A/RES/67/290) also mandated a review process, which will be formally initiated in September 2019 and conducted during the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. The response to the 2030 Agenda and assessment of its progress has been concentrated on the HLPF almost exclusively, which as currently configured is patently inadequate for the task.

Due to the high interest from the Member States, civil society, academia and the private sector, the already limited timeframe of the HLPF becomes overloaded by bite-size snapshots.

The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs have also captured the attention of many parts of the UN system, which are slowly restructuring their work plans towards their achievement. This fact can be seen in negotiations on UN development system (UNDS) reform and country-level reporting; on the push for a Data Revolution as well as Information and Technology. The VNRs are being analysed by civil society groups as well as the UN Committee on Development Policy to see the extent to which they are focused on leaving no one behind, and tackling the furthest behind first, as well as the extent to which they address trade-offs between the goals and especially spillover effects from global policies that impede their achievement.

A number of countries have reported on adapting or adjusting their national plans and to some extent budgets to reflect achieving the SDGs.

The HLPF review 2019-2020

All these developments place even more pressure on the HLPF review process, which will be ‘launched’ at the SDG Summit in September 2019, to break out of its time management, coordination and working methods mindset to pioneer a new generation of governance. Such a breakthrough is essential for it to catch-up with the new generation of global economic practice that has been established over the last few decades.

The review process is a barometer of the potential of the broader UN reform process, the focus on which is gaining momentum to replace a perfunctory 75 year anniversary at the UN commemoration ceremony in 2020.

Can the HLPF review lead the way to a new generation of global governance or will it be relegated to minimalist and lowest common denominator outcomes, sometimes guaranteed by big power politics, going it alone when convenient and insisting on consensus when it suits their interests?

Shifting tides: can the HLPF capture the momentum or it is in over its head?

While honouring the Rio+20 agreement that it would be universal and high-level, the HLPF started its life lacking an official identity and with fewer working days and a smaller UN budget allocation than the Commission on Sustainable Development, the body it replaced.

This was clearly an attempt by a few States to minimize and ‘invisibilize’ the 2030 Agenda, particularly with regard to monitoring and accountability of the HLPF.

Even so, the HLPF has become the go-to forum for the last four years. It has a global constituency among Member States, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector. Member States have taken ownership of the SDGs and many have integrated them into their national planning and budgets. The up-take among countries has begun to break the mold of the programme country / donor relationship that prevails elsewhere in the UN system.

So many countries have volunteered to report on their progress through the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the annual HLPF session (some for the second and even third time) that the session is staggering under the weight of not enough time – and not enough substance, too much talk and not enough (inter)action.

With one third of the SDG implementation period to 2030 already over, 2019 is the time for serious ‘lessons learned’ from this first phase. The final decade must build on the evident and abundant interest to inject urgency, action and accountability.

Addressing the governance challenge

The next phase of implementation should bring the HLPF away from the ECOSOC orbit and the scramble of UN agencies to stake a claim to specific goals. The SDG Summit in September 2019 and the

HLPF review process that will take place in 2019-2020 are opportunities to reposition the HLPF and the 2030 Agenda more firmly in the General Assembly machinery, similar to the direction taken by Member States for the Human Rights Council (HRC) and the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) in 2005. With an agenda of equal importance and intimately connected to those of the HRC and PBC, the General Assembly should establish a third such body, a Sustainable Development Council, supported with complementary machinery at regional and thematic levels. Furthermore it should convene, on a regular basis, inter-council/commission meetings. As part of broader UN reform efforts these councils could refresh (and replace) much of the work of the General Assembly Second and Third Committees, which includes economic and social development, gender equality and human rights.

While the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs have propelled the drive to break out of the existing siloes of thinking and programming, this has not been matched at the governance level, with a disproportionate focus on a single body, the HLPF. The HLPF as currently configured is only a global forum and the review process threatens to go no further than tinkering with working methods. The need for   integration, prevention and addressing root causes in policy-making demands a new role for the UN General Assembly, that of adjudicator across policies, across sectors and across institutions. The SDGs, collectively and by design, embody cross-cutting, cross-border and intersecting policy demands.

The growing tensions between trade and investment regimes and human rights obligations, between tax avoidance and illicit financial flows and the vital role of public finance throw into sharp relief massive governance failures at the national and global levels. Trade-offs between policies and across borders cannot continue to be ignored. The UN’s highest political body needs to exert leadership and position itself as the cross-cutting governance space.

The UN General Assembly would also benefit from reconfigured Member State representation (the prerogative of each Member State to decide) to close the gap between global presence and country priorities and plans. Representatives in global arenas and delegates to intergovernmental processes should be drawn not only from the executive branch but also from the legislature and sub-national bodies. This is essential to put the brakes on the trend towards replacing democratically accountable country representation with ‘stakeholders’ – legislation and regulation with ‘partnerships’. Such representation will also contribute to transparency and coherence across line ministries and enhance country ownership.

Upgrading – and re-constituting – the SDG Summit

In establishing the HLPF, the Rio+20 conference mandated that it be held at Summit level every four years. In 2019 this will take place in September in conjunction with the annual UN General Assembly high-level debate. This is inadequate to the task; rather, it should follow the pattern of other UN major bodies that convene for a two to three-day conference every four or five years (such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), or the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty), not a day tagged on in September for speeches. Furthermore, Summit leadership should be charged not to reflect and put a stamp on earlier meetings and declarations, but to drive the agendas forward, flag major concerns and emerging issues, and kick-start related action plans.

The first phase of SDG monitoring has concentrated on quantity – of countries reporting, on processes and institutions and constituencies hitching their flags and futures to the 2030 Agenda. The second phase must show quality as well as seriousness in addressing the obstacles to achieving the SDGs. It must break the ’domestication only’ approach currently dominating the reporting in the VNRs and address the trade-offs across goals and spill-over effects across borders. Many goals cannot be achieved in country isolation, but are dependent on international cooperation. There are enormous differences among countries and governments in their policy space to influence and shape global regimes and rules. A new reporting framework needs to be developed to measure the power imbalances and be an obligatory chapter in VNR reporting.

For the HLPF, as for other UN governance forums, Member States face the challenge of shifting gears from tinkering to transformative change.

The 2030 Agenda – an accountability challenge

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda has pried open the lid on many stubbornly resistant dynamics and approaches prevalent in the UN system and its inter-governmental processes. It has been a major driver for reform efforts and spurred attention to strengthening the science-policy interface and deepening capacity for data collection and analysis.

The 2030 Agenda has been in many ways a game changer. Its universal application requires all countries to report on their progress in achieving the SDGs, not only programme countries or development assistance recipients. It has also driven long-overdue UN development system reform  and given impetus to the need to address root causes in the pursuit of sustainable development and sustainable peace. UN human rights experts have offered high-quality analyses and recommendations to reach the vision for 2030. The human rights machinery demonstrates a comprehensive set of quality standards, from poverty elimination to housing, water and sanitation to debt and trade agreements.

These are available to all Member States and their residents, although they are severely underutilized.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) have maintained the commitment many demonstrated during the drafting of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs into the tasks of monitoring and contributing to their implementation. Throughout, they have shown an impressive range of self-organizing and diverse ways of working from community to global level, often demonstrating a unique blend of experience and expertise. Their autonomy is recognized by the rights of participation spelled out in the HLPF resolution (A/RES/67/290), which set the minimum standard for the UN as a whole including the General Assembly.

The challenge of the 2030 Agenda has been taken up across the UN expert bodies including the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA). Addressing the need for effective, accountable and inclusive institutions (E/RES/2018/12), CEPA elaborated a set of governance principles on each of these which were adopted by Member States in 2018.

It has also been taken up by many of the UN human rights experts and rapporteurs. In an unusual joint letter to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) addressing Working Group III (Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Reform) in April 2019, seven human rights experts addressed the urgency to “remedy the power imbalance between investors and States” calling for systemic reform in their submission to consideration of the architecture of the ISDS system (OL ARM 1/2019).1 Their letter addressed many aspects that go to the heart of the governance responsibilities of states and their ability and willingness to meet their commitments in the 2030 Agenda.

The signatories pointed out the contradictions and incoherence between human rights law and the   rule of law, contradictions of particular concern for the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, which reaffirm the importance of “an enabling international economic environment, including coherent and mutually supporting world trade, monetary and financial systems, and strengthened and enhanced global economic governance”. There is a critical need to fundamentally reform international investment agreements, “so that they foster international investments that effectively contribute to the realization of all human rights and the SDGs, rather than hindering their achievement.” The ISDS also address the limitations on policy space, fiscal space and reality of regulatory chill that illuminate the multiple barriers faced by public servants and public sector advocates at all levels of government.

Implementation gaps – accountability failures

The SDG implementation phase since 2016 has certainly spun off many initiatives, studies, meetings and reports. At the HLPF alone there have been a total of 158 VNRs over four years. The UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) administers a platform for partnerships that currently hosts 4,361 “partnerships/commitments” and there are frequent business and investor events co-organized or facilitated by UN agencies and programmes.2 The international financial institutions (IFIs) and multilateral development banks have all called for moving from billions to trillions.

While the UN ‘family’ has embraced the profile of the SDGs and is campaigning to increase awareness of them at all levels, there is concern that much has been characterized by cherry picking, self-promotion and self-positioning, apparent in abundance from all players – governments, UN agencies, corporations and CSOs alike. All players are understandably presenting themselves as committed to and vital for the achievement of the SDGs. But presence, persuasion and numbers are still the limited and inadequate currency for measuring impact.

The remaining decade to 2030 needs to build in cycles of quality and independent oversight, and robust accountability. This will require a dramatic shift from the win-win, pay-to-play dynamic prevalent around the UN.

A first step would be to incorporate benchmarks, not only indicators but also actions, to delineate SDG- washing by governments and corporations that highlight best practices while hiding domestic and extraterritorial impacts such as emissions and pollution, lack of labour standards and so on. To overcome piecemeal and inadequate responses and support genuinely transformative actions, not only is a change of mindset essential, but also a change of financing strategies, of measurement, of incentives and of reporting and monitoring by public institutions, including the UN. These must highlight obstacles to achieving the SDGs with the same attention as actions to advance them.

The HLPF as currently set up and practicing cannot do this. It is a platform that welcomes all and challenges none.


1 Letter transmitted to all Members of the Working Group III and a copy of it to the secretariat of the UNCITRAL, REFERENCE: OL ARM 1/2019, 7 March 2019,

2 The “Partnerships for SDGs online platform”:

Kategorien: english, Ticker

SDG 13 Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

11. Juli 2019 - 23:19

This discussion paper provides an overview from a chapter in the 2019 Spotlight Report titled, “Climate finance support to developing countries imperative for ambitious climate action” by Indrajit Bose, Third World Network (TWN). The 2019 Spotlight Report is available for download at

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)), which governments adopted in September 2015, has been described as a “supremely ambitious and transformational vision”. Since 2015, the Civil Society Reflection Group (CSRG) has been monitoring how governments and international organizations have been implementing the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.

In his assessment of progress on SDG 13 – taking urgent action to combat climate change— Indrajit Bose, from the Third World Network, reminds us that Cyclone Idai, which devastated Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in March is just the most recent example of the catastrophic impacts of climate change on developing countries. He calls on developed countries, which are largely responsible for causing climate change, to stand by their commitments to provide the promised finance so that developing countries can implement mitigation and adaptation measures to ensure their survival.

Global temperatures could rise by 1.5 in just 11 years

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special Report in 2018, if temperatures increase at the current level, global warming could reach 1.5 °C in just 11 years, heralding sea-level rises, and temperatures in the Tropics seeing up to 3°C warming. We are already beginning to see the implications of this—water shortages and food insecurity are leading to civil unrest (Sudan/South Sudan) and millions of climate refugees in Africa, and this will only intensify. Indrajit Bose insists that:

  • Developed countries must recognize that sustainable development supports and enables the fundamental societal and systems transitions and transformations that help limit global warming to 1.5°C.

A history of empty promises

Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, developed countries have reluctantly acknowledged their responsibility for creating climate change and its effects on developing countries. Some have pledged billions of dollars to support developing countries’ measures to adapt and mitigate the effects but sadly these are mainly empty promises. The Global Environment Facility (GEF), which was established in 1992 experienced an aggregate 37% decrease in its seventh replenishment compared to GEF’s sixth replenishment since 1992.

At the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2010, developed countries again committed themselves to addressing the needs of developing countries, and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was launched to a big fanfare in 2011. The GCF took four years to operationalise and at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, governments agreed to mobilise US$100 billion a year by 2020 for the GCF. It was decided that there would be a floor 50% of funds for adaption for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and African States. The funds earmarked for mitigation are to support developing countries reduce emissions from energy generation and access.

The funds and pledges from developed countries fell well below expectations. Actual contributions amounted to US$33 billion in 2015 and US$ 38 billion in 2016, with an additional US$10.3 billion in pledges between 2015 and 2018. Of these pledges, US$10.2 billion were agreements between the governments and the GCF, and as such do not reflect the amount likely to be received.

For example, the United States said it intended to pay US$ 3 billion, but so far has only paid $1 billion. Under the Trump Administration, the US will certainly not pay more, particularly as he is likely to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and at the June 2019 G20, tried – unsuccessfully – to persuade others to follow his lead. Given exchange rate fluctuations, in July 2018, the GCF Secretariat said it was only likely to receive US$ 7.2 billion of the overall pledges.

Demands for climate justice

The question now is whether developed countries will be prepared to make their agreed commitments for the GCF’s first formal replenishment in 2019. They are trying to insist that they will only replenish funds to match finance that developing countries have accessed from other sources. In another sleight of hand, developed countries wanted to link their voting rights to the funds they agreed to put in – the GCF Board at present has 24 members, composed of an equal number of members from developing and developed countries. What might be the implications of a shift like this?

Indrajit Bose emphasises that developed countries:

  • Must fulfil their obligations on climate finance to deliver climate justice for developing countries and future generations.
  • Must recognise there is a critical need to help developing countries increase capacity to implement low-emissions and climate-resilient projects and programmes.
  • Must stick to the Paris Agreement to agree to a new collective quantified finance goal before 2025 to take developing countries’ needs into account.
  • Financial support should be channelled through institutions such as the GCF to help developing countries to transform their energy programmes.
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Press release: Sustainable development needs fundamental governance changes

8. Juli 2019 - 11:00

Press release

Sustainable development needs fundamental governance changes

Global civil society report assesses structural obstacles and institutional gaps in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda

New York, 8 July 2019: “the world is off-track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most governments have failed to turn the transformational vision of the 2030 Agenda into real transformational policies. Even worse, xenophobia and authoritarianism are on the rise in a growing number of countries.”

“The implementation of the 2030 Agenda is not just a matter of better policies. It requires more holistic and more sweeping shifts in how power is vested, including through institutional and governance reforms.”

“A simple software update is not enough – we have to revisit and reshape the hardware of sustainable development, i.e. governance and institutions at all levels.”

This is the main message of the Spotlight Report 2019, one of the most comprehensive independent assessments of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The report is launched on the day before the opening of the High Level Political Forum at the United Nations in New York by a global coalition of civil society organizations and trade unions.

“The Spotlight Report 2019 shows, that structural transformation is more needed than ever before. It has to start at the local and national level and requires strengthening bottom-up governance and governance coherence.”

“At global level the upcoming review of the High-Level Political Forum should be used to overcoming the weakness of this body and transform it to a Sustainable Development Council of the United Nations.”

“The SDG Summit in September, and even more the year 2020 with the 75th anniversary of the United Nations will provide important opportunities to translate the calls of the emerging global movements for social and environmental justice into political steps towards a new democratic multilateralism.”

The 190-page report is supported by a broad range of civil society organizations and trade unions, and informed by the experiences and reports of national and regional groups and coalitions from many parts of the world. The contributions cover most aspects of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs (and beyond), and reflect the rich geographic and cultural diversity of their authors.

The Spotlight Report is published by the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), Global Policy Forum (GPF), Public Services International (PSI), Social Watch, Society for International Development (SID), and Third World Network (TWN), supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2019
Reshaping governance for sustainability: Transforming institutions – shifting power – strengthening rights
Global Civil Society Report on the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs

Beirut / Bonn / Ferney-Voltaire / Montevideo / New York / Penang / Rome / Suva, July 2019

Contact in New York

Barbara Adams, Global Policy Forum (GPF):
Jens Martens, Global Policy Forum (GPF):
Kate Donald, Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR):
Roberto Bissio, Social Watch:
Stefano Prato, Society for International Development (SID):
Ziad Abdel Samad, Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND):

Contributing partners of the Spotlight Report 2019

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The Battle for the Right to Education

5. Juli 2019 - 10:02

Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

This article references content included in the 2019 Spotlight Report, available for download at There will also be a side-event at the HLPF on 11 July, 9:30am-11:30pm at Baha’i International Community, 866 UN Plaza, New York. See the invitation here.

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which governments adopted in September 2015, have been described as a “supremely ambitious and transformational vision … of unprecedented scope and significance”.

Civil society organisations are important watchdogs to assess if governments are fulfilling the ambitions of international treaties. Since 2015 the Civil Society Reflection Group (CSRG) has been monitoring how governments and international organizations have been implementing Agenda 2030 and working to achieve SDG 4: Ensuring quality education and lifelong learning for all.

A battle for the soul of education

In her commentary on progress so far, Antonia Wulff, from Education International describes how the growth in global inequality and cuts in government services, are putting education in danger of becoming a commodity that can be bought and sold.

Since Agenda 2030 was passed in 2015 there has been a sharp drop in state funding for education, and an accompanying global funding shortage for UNESCO, the UN lead agency on education. As a result education is increasingly vulnerable to influence and pressure from donors and other players, contributing to an ideological shift that posits that private investment is the solution.

There are four global players in the education field: the World Bank, the OECD, the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (Education Commission), and the Varkey Foundation. They are carving up the way education is promoted: the battle for the soul of education has begun. The World Bank, which has a history of undermining public education and discouraging governments from regulating private providers, now advocates an ‘instrumentalist view’ of education that gauges success by the economic growth it yields.

The OECD promotes evidence-based policy-making and champions its assessment data as a prime indicator of education quality. This includes its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) initiative, which it currently markets as a tool for tracking progress towards SDG 4.

This has resulted in using data systems to assess progress. However, there are strong arguments against this. Firstly, the costs could be prohibitive. Secondly, this cannot measure the quality of education, and fails the transformational vision of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs. For example, how could data measure: SDG 4.7 Target, that education should “promote sustainable development”.

To measure educational successes in keeping with SDG4, Wulff suggests:

  • Incorporate benchmarks that emphasise actions as well as indicators and highlight best practices.
  • Develop a set of proxy indicators or indices that display a wider view of education as described in SDG Target 4.7. “developing skills to promote sustainable development, and global citizenship”.

Taking other factors into account for successful education

In addition, when assessing the level of state funding for education, household expenditure on items such as school fees, books and uniforms must be factored in. In poorer countries this can amount to about half of total educational expenditure, so this needs to be taken into account when drawing up educational budgets.

  • In assessing figures on education spending and results, include financing of public goods and services, and social care.

 State education under threat

The two other organisations: the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (Education Commission), and the Varkey Foundation both wield considerable clout. The Education Commission comprises the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) – that unlocks finance through a development bank investment mechanism, and the Education Outcomes Fund (EOF) that promotes privatisation and results-based financing by applying impact bonds for private actors.

The Varkey Foundation is the philanthropic branch of GEMS Education, the world’s largest for-profit private school system. Each year it holds a Global Education and Skills Forum that brings together high-level private actors with government ministers and education stakeholders, which is contrary to formal SDG 4 structures.

The way in which the education debate and fulfilling Agenda 2030 is shaping up shows that responsibility for education for all is being taken out of state hands. The implementation of the SDGs depends on all actors and actions being equally important and legitimate, but current developments undermine public, quality education.

  • Governments must uphold the principle that Member-States and UNESCO take the lead in SDG 4 implementation and governance.

Daphne Davies for Global Policy Watch

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SDG 5 – Advancing women’s rights and strengthening global governance: the synergies

3. Juli 2019 - 23:31

This article references content included in the 2019 Spotlight Report, available for download at There will also be a side-event at the HLPF on 11 July, 9:30am-11:30pm at Baha’i International Community, 866 UN Plaza, New York. See the invitation here.

Analyses from the many global civil society organisations which contributed to the Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2019 make it clear that to meaningfully tackle the obstacles and contradictions in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals needs more sweeping, holistic shifts in how and where power is vested.

Cecilia Alemany and Gita Sen of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) Spotlight SDG5: Advancing women’s rights and strengthening global governance: the synergies

Taking gender equality seriously in global governance is essential to advancing gender equality and women’s human rights at both global and national levels. Equally important, advancing gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights are critical to strengthening global governance, particularly with regard to debt relief, global trade, technology transfer and institutional coherence.

 The pervasiveness of gender inequality and violations of girls’ and women’s human rights, despite variations across countries and regions, co-exists with national level governance systems that are highly uneven in how they tackle this challenge. Half of the world’s people cannot be left to the vagaries of national governance systems without clear commitments, institutional mechanisms and funding at the level of global governance. Such central elements of women’s human rights as the recognition and valuation of unpaid care work, and the rights of informal sector workers including in global production and value chains where women predominate cannot be adequately addressed at the national level alone.

Without substantive advances in SDG 17 that take seriously trans-boundary effects such as migrant workers and refugee women, sexual violence in conflict situations and responsibility for family survival in climate change, existing efforts to advance SDG 5 could be undermined. The incorporation of women’s rights and gender equality in global institutional frameworks, structures, rules and regulations, and effective participation by feminist and women’s rights groups in international bodies governing development are essential.

Alemany and Sen acknowledged that the global ‘bully pulpit’ of the SDGs and greater global visibility through other campaigns and governments, as well as real changes in global governance, give institutional positioning and importance to respecting, protecting, promoting and fulfilling women’s human rights and can encourage similar changes at national levels. But many forms of gender discrimination remain unrecognised, much potential for change remains hidden while some women’s mobilisation has generated vicious backlash. The global governance picture for gender equality and women’s human rights remains decidedly mixed.

Substantive changes in global governance content requires changes in its institutions. But power is still very masculine everywhere, for instance it is hard to find women’s rights activists in international financial institutions. The advance of some international organisations to have more women at the table is no guarantee on its own but does push towards transforming the culture of all-male panels and bodies that remains in many spaces.

On funding, there were efforts including so-called feminist foreign policies involving funding for women’s organisations by some governments that have potential for engendering significant shifts in policies and participation, but they have not yet change the ways some governments hold their own corporations to account for abuses of human rights and negative impacts on women’s livelihoods.

Feminist and women’s rights organizations are not necessarily the preferred partners of funders, even when they mark their funding is a contribution to gender equality. Traditional funders or donors, and even UN agencies in the field, increasingly tend to partner with and fund women’s business organizations. In sum, many of the ‘innovative financial tools’ respond to a reductionist vision of gender equality as smart investments that eschew attention to how macroeconomic policies, trade rules and global value chains amongst other effects harm women.

The insignificant funding allocated to entities of the UN system, including UN Women, is a signal of weak political will to support multilateral institutions committed to and leading on women’s empowerment and gender equality. It also undermines the UN system’s capacity to partner and fund women’s human rights and feminist groups in the global South, and drives the pressure to partner with the private sector.

Strengthening participation and voice for women’s rights in global governance requires direct participation by women’s rights and feminist organizations in governance fora and bodies so they speak for and by themselves.

María Graciela Cuervo, DAWN

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BS/SDG Index: Can progress on sustainable development be reduced to a single number?

3. Juli 2019 - 17:53

by Roberto Bissio

Denmark, Sweden and Finland are the top ranking countries in terms of sustainable development, while Niger, Chad and the Central African Republic are the worse performers, according to the recently launched Sustainable Development Report 2019, by the Bertelsmann Foundation of Germany and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, based in New York and Paris.*

The Bertelsmann-SDSN report includes 17 “dashboards” with indicators selected by the authors for each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and a Global SDG Index that summarizes them in a single number and allows for the ranking of the 162 countries for which enough data are available.

The numbers of the BS/SDG Index are surprisingly similar to those of the Human Development Index (HDI) that UNDP publishes every year (see graph below) with a correlation coefficient of 0.91 (where 1.0 indicates perfect correlation and 0.0 means no relation at all). In other words, if you know a country’s HDI value, you can forecast its BS/SDG ranking with 91 percent precision. Thus, the new index only adds minor details to what we already know.

BS/SDG index and HDI are highly correlated

Source: Graph by the author with data from the BS/SDG Index and UNDP’s HDI.

This high correlation was not to be expected if we remember that the HDI reflects only three factors (income, health and education), while the BS/SDG index intends to reflect all of the goals, from the well-being and gender dimensions of poverty, hunger, health and education (Goals 1 to 5) to environment (SDGs 12 to 15), governance (SDG 16) and implementation (SDG 17).

The 2030 Agenda that frames the SDGs calls itself “transformational” in its very title and has been hailed as a “paradigm change”. Shouldn’t that be reflected in an index that claims to measure progress towards achieving it?

Development used to be conceived as a synonym of economic growth and the OECD still “graduates” countries out of their condition of potential recipients of ODA based on the World Bank threshold between high middle income and high income countries.

In the nineties, the HDI nuanced per capita GDP by adding well-being considerations and showing that countries with similar income levels could have very different “human development” results. Now “sustainable development” further expands the concept, introducing inequalities, governance and the environment into the picture.

For example, one of the new indicators incorporated in the SDGs and not previously considered in development indexes is the number of homicides per 100,000 deaths. The ranking of countries in that indicator does not correlate at all with per capita income or HDI and among the ten best ‘performers’ we find some of the richest and some of the poorest countries in the world. Among the “bottom ten”, the countries with the highest proportion of homicides, mostly middle income countries are found, with extreme inequalities being the only obvious common denominator.

Source: UNODC United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Yet, even when they perform better than the UK or Switzerland in this indicator, Burkina Faso and Indonesia end up ranked 141 and 102 respectively, out of 162 countries in the BS/SDG Index. This is due to their non-violence being averaged away, within SDG 16, by other indicators such as property rights (as assessed by the World Economic Forum) or press freedom (as evaluated by Reporters Sans Frontières).

The Index is built, precisely, by averaging first all the indicators for each SDG and then averaging those averages, giving the same value to each indicator within a goal and to each of the 17 SDGs in the total. This method seems logical in the case of health (SDG 3), where 13 basic health-related indicators, ranging from maternal mortality to the percentage of smokers in the population are computed, as ultimately all of them relate to health policies or service delivery. It is less obvious what the meaning of the cocktail is in the case of Goal 16, which averages the three indicators mentioned (homicides, press freedom and property rights) with the corruption perception index of Transparency International, child labour (measured by UNICEF), arms exports (reported by the Stockholm Peace Research Institute) and the Gallup poll about how safe people feel when walking alone at night.

The selection of which indicators to include or not is conditioned, obviously by the availability of data, but it is also an arbitrary choice of the authors. Thus, for example, three poverty indicators form the index for SDG1 (population under the US$1,90 and US$3.20 poverty lines and, for OECD countries, 50% below the median income). But the coverage of social security is not in the list, even when it is an explicit target of SDG1 and abundant data are provided by the ILO.

As independent research institutions, Bertelsmann and SDSN are free to make any choices they want. The BS/SDG Index and Report are not official UN documents, but some confusion is unavoidable when the SDSN, one of the two institutional authors, calls itself “a global initiative for the UN” (emphasis added) and claims to operate “under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General” and adds the UN acronym to its name on its website:

But the way in which the BS/SDGs Index accounts for the goals only partially reflect the official 2030 Agenda.

For SDG 10, for example, only one indicator for domestic inequalities is used, the Gini index of income for each country, ignoring that this goal requires to “reduce inequalities within and among countries” (emphasis added).

In the case of climate change (SDG 13), the CO2 emissions indicator is supplemented with an indicator on imported CO2 emissions embedded in traded goods (carbon footprint), but fossil fuel exporters are penalized with the carbon equivalent of their exports, thus double counting the emissions (in the country of production and in the country of consumption) and under counting the damage produced by countries that consume their own fossil fuels. Further, all these indicators are expressed on a per capita basis, and as a result the US, which is the largest fossil fuel producer of the world is listed with per capìta exports of less than one tonne per year, while Ecuador, who is a marginal producer, exports four times more fossil fuels per capita due to its small population and very low local consumption.

To make matters worse, the climate indicators cocktail also includes as an indicator the number of people affected by climate-related disasters. The Philippines, which has low emissions and moderate fossil fuel exports gets an orange colour average on climate traffic light ranking because of the millions of victims of climate-related disasters… caused by the emissions of other countries.

The statistical audit of the SDG report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, finds out that “some countries that have poor performance on SDG12 (on sustainable production and consumption patters) and SDG13 (on climate) have good performance on all the other goals and vice-versa. (…) The top five countries in the index are ranked among the bottom positions of SDG12 and SDG13. For example, Sweden tops the list on the SDG Index, but is on the 138th position on the SDG12 ranking. On the other direction, Central African Republic which is at the bottom of the SDG Index gets the second best position on SDG13.”

This observation reaffirms what the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, led by Nobel Prize winners Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz had said already in 2009: “The assessment of sustainability is complementary to the question of current well-being or economic performance, and must be examined separately. (…) For instance, confusion may arise when one tries to combine current well-being and sustainability into a single indicator. To make an analogy, when driving a car, a meter that added up in one single number the current speed of the vehicle and the remaining level of gasoline would not be of any help to the driver. Both pieces of information are critical and need to be displayed in distinct, clearly visible areas of the dashboard.”

The BS/SDG Index uses the term “dashboards” to name each of the 17 averages. In the final average of averages, the two SDGs where rich countries perform poorly are outnumbered by 15 others that are shaped to correlate with conventional development rankings. The final ranking is affected both by the decision to weight each of the 17 goals equally in the average, but also by the decision to not include in each goal’s score the implementation targets that usually require from the richest support for those left behind. While the poor performance in well-being indicators of poorer countries is counted on each goal’s average, the failure of rich countries to support them, as required in the implementation target of every one of the SDGs, is only counted only once, in the average for SDG17. Within the many indicators within the SDG 17 “dashboard”, a bad cooperation performance can be compensated by higher domestic spending in health and education.

The SDG Index has no space for the notion of limited “stocks” (of air, water, biodiversity or minerals) that are being depleted in unsustainable ways by a few while the majorities lack the minimum resources for a decent life. But the Index does acknowledge that there are “spillovers”, negative or positive, of national activities over other countries and it creates a country by country “spillover score” averaging indicators that range from tax havens (based on Oxfam data) and financial secrecy (based on Tax Justice Network data) to the amount of accidents at work embodied in imported goods to arms exports. Official Development Assistance is counted for as “positive spillover” as well as contributions to peacekeeping.

Even acknowledging that “environmental spillovers can be generated in two ways: i) transboundary effects embodied in trade; ii) direct cross-border flows in air and water,” the 2019 report “only includes indicators on environmental spillovers into trade” because “generating global measures of cross-border flows available at the country level remains an important research agenda”.

This leaves out problems of cross-border water appropriation or contamination, but also greenhouse gas emissions, which is an issue of enormous international concern. This option by the authors is difficult to understand, since data about emissions are abundant. An indicator on “imported biodiversity threats” is included under SDG15, one on “imported water depletion” is part of the average for SDG6 and one on “imported fatal work accidents” in SDG8, but climate change related deaths are attributed in SDG13 to the countries where they happen, and not to those responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions?

Spillover Score: The worst offenders and the good planetary neighbours

Source: Online database for the BS/Sustainable Development Report 2019

The author of this blog computed a negative correlation factor of -0.5 between the GSI and the spillover score, a number which can be considered as a “relatively strong inverse correlation” in social sciences. The higher a country is ranked in GSI, the worse its negative spillovers, as defined by the very same SDG report. Yet, instead of pointing to that negative correlation, which leads to uncomfortable questions of causality, the authors prefer to comment that “there is high variation in spillovers among countries with a similar per capita income. This suggests that countries can reduce their negative spillover effects without reducing their per capita incomes.”

Thus, the problem is portrayed as one of policy options by each country, ignoring the notion of trade-offs between, for example, economic growth and environmental protection and downplaying the role of multilateral agreements, like the conventions on climate change or on biodiversity in defending the global commons.

Further, the spillover “score” that averages a complex mix of economic, environmental and security indicators is expressed on a per capita basis, and the emphasis on trade and non-inclusion of climate produces a table (see above) where “on a per capita basis, small countries with large trade intensity – such as Luxembourg, Singapore and Switzerland – generate the highest negative spillover effects.” This seems to suggest that trade itself is to blame for the spillover, instead of explaining that this is the result of only computing, for example, the water depletion, without accounting for the domestic depletion, that tends to be larger in larger countries, less dependent on foreign trade.

Similarly, the per capita computation of spillovers can be very useful to attribute comparable moral responsibilities. Yet, whatever the faults of a small country like Cyprus, its global impact is limited by size. The report does not make any attempt to measure the absolute spillovers, which would not exempt the small-sized culprits from their sins but could help to better understand the global problems and where to start tackling them.

“Development” used to be understood as a linear progression from low to high, from poor to rich, judged by a single number, be that per cápita GDP or HDI. The Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress strongly warned against using a single number to measure sustainability, as that could create “confusion”, even when recognizing that “ there are strong demands to develop a single summary measure”. The SDG report ignores the warning and tries to satisfy such demand by picturing the achievement of the SDGs as a kind of Olympic games, where countries accumulate medals in different disciplines. As in the Marathon, some runners will reach the goal faster than others, but eventually with some effort all will get there and the more advantageous might give some advice, encouragement and good example to those following behind.

The GSI as a summary measure ends up being so similar in its ranking to what we already know from the Human Development Index, that it can only support the continuation of the existing development strategy. Rich countries are encouraged to contribute more ODA and more peacekeeping and given a gentle slap on the wrist for their insistence on some bad practices like exporting arms or attracting illicit financial flows, making it harder for poor countries to become like the Nordics. But, ultimately, if we are not “on track” to reach all goals what we need to do is “accelerate” what we are already doing.

But, what if instead of a quest for more medals, the trade-offs were addressed? As the evidence mounts that “business as usual” is not delivering the expected results by 2030, this is the question that country leaders and the international development system need to address in their review of the 2030 Agenda.


*Sachs, J., Schmidt-Traub, G., Kroll, C., Lafortune, G., Fuller, G. (2019): Sustainable Development Report 2019. New York: Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). Available at:


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Side Event on Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10)

3. Juli 2019 - 5:51

Reducing inequalities (SDG10) is essential for overcoming extreme poverty (SDG 1) and a successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda as a whole. Many countries experience high and increasing inequalities. A reversal of this trend is not in sight. Therefore, it is paramount to take political action towards reaching this central goal of the 2030 Agenda. Strong social protection and redistributive policies significantly reduce inequality within countries. Therefore, it is essential to develop overarching strategies, build universal social protection systems as well as assess and increase redistributive capacities. These measures have to ensure that no one is left behind and equitable access to protection against risks and against poverty for all people is guaranteed.

The panel will discuss the most persistent barriers to a sustained reduction of inequalities and the contribution of fiscal and social protection policies to overcome inequalities worldwide.


Side Event on Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10)

Overcoming barriers to reduce inequalities: Policies to leave no one behind and achieve greater equality
July 15, 2019, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations | Auditorium


Dr Maria Flachsbarth
Parliamentary State Secretary
German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Dr Luise Steinwachs
Deputy Chair
Association of German Development and Humanitarian Aid NGOs (VENRO)


Pedro Conceição
Office of the Human Development Report, United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

Dr Chiara Mariotti
Inequality Policy Manager
Oxfam Great Britain

Wolfgang Schiefer
Senior Multilateral Cooperation Specialist
International Labour Organization (ILO)

Roberto Bissio
Social Watch and Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors

Esther Lusepani (tbc)
Permanent Secretary
Namibian Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare

Host: Dr Minu Hemmati

Refreshments and snacks will be served.

Please confirm your participation by July 11 to Ms. Johanna Hauf (, stating your name, position and affiliation.
For further questions, please contact Ms. Johanna Hauf or Ms. Sonja Grigat (

The side event on Reducing Inequalities within and among countries (SDG 10) is hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Association of German Development and Humanitarian Aid NGOs (VENRO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Download the invitation here.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

The HLPF – a blueprint for more democratic global governance? Not yet.

1. Juli 2019 - 23:45

This article references content included in the 2019 Spotlight Report, available for download at There will also be a side-event at the HLPF on 11 July, 9:30am-11:30pm at Baha’i International Community, 866 UN Plaza, New York. See the invitation here.

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)), which governments adopted in September 2015, have been announced as a “supremely ambitious and transformational vision … of unprecedented scope and significance”.

Since 2015 the Civil Society Reflection Group (CSRG) has been monitoring how governments and international organizations have been implementing the 2030 Agenda. As part of this role the CSRG is presenting a series of papers at the 2019 High-level Political Forum, all of which identify obstacles and suggest solutions, as well as the Spotlight Report on Reshaping Governance for Sustainability.

People still believe in the UN

People still turn to the UN as the arbiter of peace and justice, but recent years have seen calls for its workings to be brought up to date. Barbara Adams from Global Policy Forum, argues that work on the 2030 Agenda, could set in train a new generation of global governance.

Part of the thinking behind the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs was to bring together the UN’s different programming strands to foster real change. Adams believes the 2030 Agenda can be the UN game-changer, by addressing the root causes of poverty and conflict and confronting how UN policy space is being held hostage to powerful interests, public and private. She writes to:

  • Use the 2030 Agenda as the impetus for the UN General Assembly to reassert its role as adjudicator across policies, sectors and institutions.

The next phase of SDG monitoring: moving from quantitative to qualitative assessment

The first phase of the HLPF monitoring of the SDGs has concentrated on quantity, with countries reporting on progress in achieving SDG targets. Monitoring now needs to concentrate on quality, says Adams.

  • Monitoring should look at quality of SDGs results. This may require the need for ‘trade-offs’ between targets, and to transcend national boundaries, as solutions can be regional and global.
  • Monitoring should adopt a ‘rights-based approach’ for poverty elimination, and providing housing, sanitation, etc., and for trade and debt agreements.

While the UN family has embraced the SDGs and is working to raise awareness, implementation has been over-dependent on a win-win, ‘pay-to-play’ dynamic that is prevalent around the UN and ignores negative impacts such as inequalities, greenhouse gas emissions, or lack of labour standards. Instead,

  • Monitoring should incorporate benchmarks, and actions to prevent governments or corporations glossing over negative impacts and must highlight obstacles and include democratic financing strategies.

The 2030 Agenda – the promise of new global governance hampered by a power imbalance in the UN

For UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres the 2030 Agenda has the potential to “overcome the deficit of trust” that people have in the UN by creating multilateral governance forms that bring the UN closer to people’s everyday lives.

This aspiration is thwarted by the current form of the UN, where most influence is in the hands of the Security Council, which itself is dominated by five veto-wielding permanent members (P5). The major UN funders, which overlap with the P5, have leveraged their power and influence to keep the UN out of their policy priorities, particularly in trade and investment, undermining not only the ability to achieve the SDGs but also the democratic multilateralism the UN represents.

This is compounded by the severe lack of UN funding – in 2017 it received US$48.3 billion (compared to global military expenditure of US$1.7 trillion). These financial strictures impact its human rights work in particular: while the 2030 Agenda takes a strong human rights perspective, the UN human rights’ work receives a mere 3.7% of the total UN regular budget.

  • Essential to democratic multilateralism is a thorough restructuring of how the UN is funded.

Economic dominance should be answerable to human rights principles

Another block to change within the UN has been the decision-making power that some countries or corporations have. Time after time financial deregulation or lowering environmental protection has restricted populations’ human rights. When countries sign trade and investment policies with stronger economies, this often restricts that freedom for action in the domestic sphere. In addition, there are two economic mechanisms: the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and the International Investor Agreements (IIAs), in which States de facto sign away human rights in return for investment, that make it more difficult to achieve the SDGs.

  • There is an urgent need for a systemic reform of the ISDS and the IIAs, to protect communities’ rights to seek remedies to protect their economic, environmental and human rights interests.
  • Additionally, the ability of investors to sue States should be removed.

Changing UN thinking

Many echo Guterres’ belief that now is the time the UN could change. While in the 2030 Agenda Member States committed themselves to addressing “disparities of opportunity, wealth and power”, it has often been difficult to get the stronger players to do so. The UN has tried many approaches – adopting ‘win-win’ partnerships between stakeholders, or associating with power centres, such as big business, regionalism, or South-South cooperation – but often finds itself the looser.

There are concerns about the inherent power imbalance within the UN, where outside economic interests determine or disproportionately influence policy, and that by adopting the rubric “doing good business is doing good” the UN is veering too strongly towards a market-based approach. Trying to correct power imbalances by persuading the most powerful to share their power is not a long-term solution, and fails to address “those left behind”, a key tenet of the 2030 Agenda.

To remedy this

  • Economic policymaking must be anchored in, and guided by human rights’ standards, and economic reforms must advance, not inhibit human rights. Governments, International Financial Institutions, and private actors must adhere to UN Human Rights Council Principles 13: International assistance and cooperation; 14: External influence and policy space; 15: Obligation of public creditors and donors; and 16: Obligations of private creditors.
  • A primary task of a revitalized General Assembly should be to examine the impact of the current investor preference view on the GA and on UN work. This could begin to unravel the systematic asymmetry of control by the big private and public powers.
Kategorien: english, Ticker

The scale of the employment challenge for Africa

1. Juli 2019 - 12:22

SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

This article references content included in the 2019 Spotlight Report, available for download at There will also be a side-event at the HLPF on 11 July, 9:30am-11:30pm at Baha’i International Community, 866 UN Plaza, New York. See the invitation here.


The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)), which governments adopted in September 2015, has been described as a “supremely ambitious and transformational vision”. Since 2015 the Civil Society Reflection Group (CSRG) has been monitoring how governments and international organizations have been implementing these.

In his assessment of progress on SDG 8: Trywell Kalusopa of the African Labour Research Network argues that the current capitalist global financial and economic production system needs to undergo radical change before it will be possible to promote sustainable growth, full employment and decent work.

Reclaiming the socio- economic space for realizing SDG 8 in Africa

It had been assumed that Africa’s economic growth spurt, with countries recording rates of more than 7%, would help make SDG 8 in Africa a done deal. However, so far this growth has failed to bring about any concrete employment gains as 80% of the population continue to work in the vulnerable informal sector, and only 19% of the working population (excluding North Africa) are covered by social protection systems, and therefore cannot be described as enjoying decent work.

Some African economists have suggested this employment picture is a hangover from colonial capitalism, where the formal sector only constituted a small segment of the economy, with the rest under pre-capitalist modes of production; something which post-independence policies have failed to remedy. At present Africa’s dominant development economic model reflects an unbalanced production system, unable to absorb the vast numbers of the unemployed/ underemployed into the mainstream economy. This will hinder progress on SDG 8.

Finding out the scale of the problem

The 2017 Africa regional report on Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stresses that in order to make inroads into changing the current system, policy-makers need a clear picture of the continent’s employment perimeters. Kalusopa says that the continent’s entire data collection and statistical systems need strengthening and to meld with SDG 8 targets in order to move forward on SDG8:

  • Governments need to collect disaggregated data by age, gender, income and geographical location so they can focus on groups that risk being left behind in the development process.
  • Employment-to-population ratios; vulnerable employment; the share of working poor (US$ 1 a day) in total employment; growth in labour productivity; gender equality, the future of work.

SMEs are a section of the economy with the potential to generate industrialization, entrepreneur revival and job creation, and thus contribute to SDG 8. More information is needed to assess this potential.

  • Governments should set up national data bases on the size and structure of the SME sector, including output, product range, employment and exports, and a competitiveness observatory.

Using all this data, governments, trade unions and business must join forces at national and regional levels to develop common methodologies for national labour market information systems. They must also draw up and assess national plans, all within the context of the SDGs.

Governments must then introduce:

  • Inclusive social protection for formal and informal workers; collective worker and employer representation and social dialogue; health and safety protection; environmental sustainability and equality at the workplace and beyond.

The informal economy and social protection mechanisms

The very high proportion of those in the informal sector in Sub-Saharan Africa means that most of the workforce, are exposed to unsafe working conditions, longer working hours, and uncertain, irregular and lower incomes. They are not protected by social security schemes or health and safety, and, maternity or other labour legislation, and as most are not unionised cannot bargain for better employment terms or protection from unscrupulous employers.

  • Governments should take immediate measures to formalise the informal economy and as a corollary should introduce social protection legislation for all workers, as this is crucial to achieve SDG 8.

New Social Contract

As a final demonstration of the aspiration to fulfil SDG 8, workers, communities, employers and governments should draw up a Social Contract:

  • This should include a universal labour guarantee for all workers, the respect for workers’ rights, decent jobs with minimum living wages and collective bargaining, universal social protection coverage, due diligence and accountability and transition measures for climate and technology.

Daphne Davies for Global Policy Watch

Kategorien: english, Ticker

Event: Spotlight Report Sustainability in Europe

1. Juli 2019 - 5:32

The EU is still lacking a comprehensive strategy on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its ambitious commitments to action. On average, the EU has one of the world’s worst environmental footprint per capita, with our unsustainable lifestyles based on resource and labour exploitation in other parts of the world. The economy of the future needs to take into account the environmental and social impact beyond our borders rather than living in the illusion of a low-carbon, resource efficient Europe that exports resource-intensive production to other parts of the world. At the launching event on July 15th in New York authors of the Spotlight Report Sustainability in Europe will present in some important policy areas where there is an urgent need for action, because the external effects of European policies are not sufficiently taken into account.

Launch Spotlight Report Sustainability in Europe

Who is paying the Bill ? (Negative) impacts of EU policies and practices in the World

MONDAY 15TH OF JULY – 16.30-18.00H

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted unanimously at the United Nations in September 2015 is highly ambitious. If taken seriously it has the potential to change the prevailing development paradigm by re-emphasizing the multidimensional and interrelated nature of sustainable development and its universal applicability. Consequently, it should also form the basis for all policies of the European Union.

The 2030 Agenda is universal, not just because the SDGs are global in scope, but also because all countries have to do something to achieve them. No country can deem itself to be sustainably developed and having already done its part to meet the SDGs. The 2030 Agenda offers the opportunity to challenge the idea that development is a phenomenon that occurs only in countries of the Global South while the North is already ‘developed’. This is especially true for the European Union.

But four years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda the world is off-track to achieve the SDGs. Most governments have failed to turn the transformational vision of the 2030 Agenda into real transformational policies. Even worse, xenophobia and authoritarianism are on the rise in a growing number of countries.

In January of 2019 the European Commission presented a “Reflection Paper” on how to deal with the 2030 Agenda. The paper, however, limits itself to outlining options for the Commission and the European Parliament to come after the European elections in May 2019. The EU is still lacking a comprehensive strategy on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its ambitious commitments to action.

On average, the EU has one of the world’s worst environmental footprint per capita, with our unsustainable lifestyles based on resource and labour exploitation in other parts of the world. The economy of the future needs to take into account the environmental and social impact beyond our borders rather than living in the illusion of a low-carbon, resource efficient Europe that exports resource-intensive production to other parts of the world. Policy coherence for sustainable development requires to fully take into account the externalities and spill-over effects of European policies, production and consumption patterns.

Taking policy coherence into account means also a monitoring of the spill-over effects and set goals to limit them. Eurostat is not including externalities in their reporting, as indicators are (still) not existing.

This report shows in some important policy areas where there is an urgent need for action, because the external effects of European policies are not sufficiently taken into account.


  • Mr. Jens Martens – Global Policy Forum
  • Ms. Lonne Poissonier – CONCORD Europe
  • Ms Thao Hoang Phuong – ActionAid Vietnam,
  • Mr. Roberto Bissio – Social Watch
  • Mr. Gabor Figeczky- IFOAM
  • Repr of EC (tbc)

Moderated by Ms. Leida Rijnhout – SDG Watch Europe

Download the invitation here.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

Event: Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2019

28. Juni 2019 - 17:03
With support from
  Conversation with authors of the global Civil Society Report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2019 Reshaping governance for sustainability Transforming institutions – shifting power – strengthening rights Baha’i International Community, conference room
866 UN Plaza, New York
11 July 2019, 9:30-11:30AM

Four years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda the world is off-track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most governments have failed to turn the transformational vision of the 2030 Agenda into real transformational policies. Even worse, xenophobia and authoritarianism are on the rise in a growing number of countries.

But there are signs of change. New social movements have emerged worldwide. They not only challenge bad or inefficient government policies, but also share a fundamental critique of underlying social structures, power relations and governance arrangements.

The implementation of the 2030 Agenda is not just a matter of better policies. It requires more holistic and more sweeping shifts in how and where power is vested, including through institutional, legal, social, economic and political commitments to realizing human rights and ecological justice.

For this reason, the Spotlight Report 2019 has as main topic “reshaping governance for sustainability”. It offers analysis and recommendations on the global governance that sustainability requires, as well as on how to strengthen inclusive and participatory governance to overcome structural obstacles and institutional gaps.

Since 2016, the annual Spotlight Report has been published and supported by a broad range of civil society organizations and trade unions. It provides one of the most comprehensive independent assessments of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

At the roundtable event authors of the Spotlight Report 2019 will present key findings and recommendations to participants for discussion.


Welcome by Luise Rürup (FES New York Office) and Barbara Adams (Global Policy Forum)

Brief statements by Jens Martens (Global Policy Forum), Roberto Bissio (Social Watch), Kate Donald (CESR), Antonia Wulff (Education International), Abigail Ruane (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom)

Comments by Katja Hujo (UNRISD)


Moderator: Barbara Adams (Global Policy Forum)

PDF invitation

Refreshments will be served. As space for this side event is limited, we kindly ask you to RSVP by 9 July 2019 to  
Kategorien: english, Ticker

National Reports on 2030 Agenda – What do they (not) tell us?

27. Juni 2019 - 17:34

The side event will present and discuss the importance of national reporting on the 2030 Agenda, both by governments (VNRs) and civil society (“spotlight” or “shadow” reports).

The Committee for Development Policy (CDP) will present key findings of its analysis of 2018 VNRs. Voluntary national reviews (VNRs) are an important innovation as a United Nations process for follow-up to the adoption of development agendas, in particular the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report analyses how countries addressed three key issues of the 2030 Agenda in the VNRs submitted in 2018: leaving no one behind; pursuing global partnership as means of implementation (SDG17); and quality education (SDG4). While the VNRs contain already many interesting examples as basis for mutual learning and sharing of good practices, the paper also identifies a need for more attention to these issues and more explicit discussions on strategies for their implementation.

Social Watch and Global Policy Forum are members of Civil Society Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that publishes the global Spotlight Report assessing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. This year’s report focuses on governance arrangements, structures and institutions, including attention to the limitations of the High-level Political Forum and the VNRs.

In the 2030 Agenda governments promised “accountability to our citizens”. Civil societies responded by multiplying their own national and regional “spotlight” reports and engaging with governments in a variety of ways about their findings. Social Watch helps to link those processes with the global follow-up and review.



Pedro Conceição, Director, Human Development Report Office, UNDP

  • Welcoming remarks and introduction

Prof. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Professor for International Affairs at the New School and Vice-Chair of the CDP

  • Presentation of findings from CDP’s analysis on 2018 VNRs, with focus on the findings on LNOB

Roberto Bissio, Coordinator of the Social Watch International Secretariat

  • Summary of findings from national and regional “spotlight reports” from civil society, including inter alia Guatemala, the Philippines and Tunisia and the regional report on the EU and its “externalities”

Barbara Adams, Board Chair of the Global Policy Forum

  • Findings from the 2019 Spotlight Report with a focus on governance challenges for the 2030 Agenda and the HLPF

Interactive dialogue with other participants.

Download the invitation and programme here.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

SDG indicators: Half-filling an empty glass?

19. Juni 2019 - 19:32

The UN Secretary-General’s progress report on the SDGs shows that many will be left behind by 2030, but omits any mention to the responsibilities of the rich.

By Roberto Bissio

UN progress reports on almost any issue on which the secretariat is asked to inform Member States tend to follow the classic glass-half-full formula: We are moving, but much remains to be done.

Not surprisingly, this approach is repeated in the latest draft of the UN Secretary General’s report “Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals” to be officially published in July as an input for the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) where the 2030 Agenda is going to be reviewed: “Progress has been made in a number of Goals and targets and a wealth of action has been undertaken;” however, progress has been slow on many Goals, (…) the most vulnerable people and countries continue to suffer the most, and the global response thus far has not been ambitious enough.” (excerpted from the Summary).

Further down, the report shows an even gloomier picture than what the summary depicts. Paragraph 8 of the draft acknowledges that “It is cause for great concern that the extreme poverty rate is projected to be 6 percent in 2030, missing the global target to eradicate it; hunger is on the rise for the third consecutive year; biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate with around one million species already facing extinction, many within decades; green-house gas emissions continue to increase; the required level of sustainable development financing and other means of implementation are not yet coming on stream and institutions are not strong or effective enough to respond adequately to these massive inter-related and cross-border challenges.”

After the adoption of the ambitious 2030 Agenda “ the global landscape for SDG implementation has generally deteriorated since 2015, hindering the efforts of governments and other partners. Moreover, the commitment to multilateral cooperation, so central to implementing our major global agreements, is now under pressure.” (paragraph 12). Such undermining pressure is not limited to a single country, but no names are given in the report.

This report is called “Special Edition” in its title and the UN secretariat added a long and balanced qualitative preamble as well as sections on “Looking beyond the data” and “Accelerating implementation” at the end. As in previous years, the heart of the report conveys the information provided by the global indicators framework for the SDGs. The additional sections are made necessary because “for more than half of the global indicators, data are not regularly collected by most of the countries or there is no established methodology to measure them. This impacts our ability to fully understand SDG progress and challenges.” (paragraph 21)

Many will be left behind

Following the World Bank estimates about the number of people living under the now re-baptized “international poverty line” (USD 1,90 per day), the report states that “the share of the world population living in extreme poverty declined to 10% in 2015, down from 16% in 2010 and 36% in 1990” which is what the SDG indicators database shows. Yet, the report warns that the pace of reduction “has slowed”, echoing World Bank estimates published in October 2018. Thus, the world is “not on track” to eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. According to those same estimates, poverty is actually increasing in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nine out of ten people in extreme poverty will be living in Africa by 2030, displacing South Asia as the region where poverty concentrates, but this trend is not mentioned in the report.

There is a growing academic/scientific debate about the reliability of poverty estimates and many researchers and some countries, like Mexico, already use multidimensional poverty indicators, where income is only one of the dimensions (health, housing, sanitation, education are among the others). SDG 1 promises in its title to “ End poverty in all its forms everywhere” and target 1.2 promises to halve by 2030 the proportion of people “living in poverty in all its dimensions”. Yet, the cumbersome process of agreeing on the global indicators framework has stalled the Multidimensional Poverty Index, that could have warned about this slow-down much earlier. Tracking the MPI was deemed a responsibility of national statistical offices, most of which lack the capacity to do so.

What about inequalities?

The World Bank is also the source of the inequalities figures produced for Goal 10: “In more than half of the 92 countries with comparable data over period 2011-2016, the bottom 40% of the population experienced growth rate faster than the overall national average.”

Actually, a closer look at the income growth of the bottom 40 and the national average, shows that for more than one third of the countries with data, the positive or negative difference was of less then 0.5 percent, which should be rounded up to zero, considering the margin error of these measures. Further in one third of the countries with data income of the bottom 40% actually decreased, making the poor poorer. In many of them the national average decreased even more. Is it fair to count those countries where the income of the poor was reduced less than the national average as meeting the promise of target 10.1 to “progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average”?

Ultimately, the SDG database shows only that in 28 countries, comprising 13% of the world population, the bottom 40% had growth rates at least one percent higher than the national average. Only in 11 countries was the growth of the poor 2% higher than the national average: Uganda, Viet Nam, Iran, Uruguay, Moldova, Colombia, Peru, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Guinea and North Macedonia.

The Progress Report 2019 is clearly aware of the limitations of the indicator it quotes and it therefore balances the initial statement by saying that “Income inequality continues to rise in many parts of the world” and “In many places, the increasing share of income going to the top 1 percent of earners is of significant concern.”

No source is given for these statements, which clearly are NOT based in the Global Indicator Framework, where neither the Gini index for income nor the Palma ratio (between the income of the top ten and the bottom 40) have been accepted as indicators for the Goal on inequalities.

Do emissions count?

When it comes to discussing climate change, the Progress Report states that “with rising greenhouse gas emissions, climate change is occurring at rates much faster than anticipated and its effects are clearly felt world-wide.” And it quantifies that “In 2017, greenhouse gas (GHGs) concentrations reached new highs, with globally averaged mole fractions of CO2 at 405.5 parts per million (ppm), up from 400.1 ppm in 2015 and 146% of pre-industrial levels. Moving towards 2030 emission objectives compatible with the 2 °C and 1.5 °C pathways require peaking to be achieved as soon as possible, followed by rapid reductions.”

This is not surprising to any informed reader, as such information makes headlines in newspapers around the world. But the official global indicators framework for the SDGs has no data whatsoever on GHG emissions or concentrations, following a pattern of leaving out indicators that could point fingers at developed countries, which are also the main donors of the UN agencies that choose the indicators.

There is only one indicator for SDG 13 that has an agreed methodology and data for a sizeable number of countries and it counts the number of countries implementing national and local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. As of 31 March 2019, a total of 67 countries.

In order to say something meaningful about SDG 13, the Progress Report brings into this chapter an indicator from SDG1 about the losses from climate-related and geophysical disasters in the period of 1998–2017: 1.3 million lives and direct economic losses estimated at almost $3 trillion.

The report also registers an increase of 17% in global climate finance flows in the period 2015–2016 compared with the period 2013–2014, using estimates from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Yet, the report does not mention transfers from developed to developing countries, even target 13.a of the SDGs clearly wants to “implement the commitment undertaken by developed-countries (…) to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020” to support mitigation needs of developing countries. The corresponding indicator is still classified as “Tier III” by the IAEG-SDGs, meaning that there is no agreement yet on its methodology. Using OECD data, OXFAM calculated net climate-specific assistance to be between $16bn and $21bn per year.

From Millions to Thousands

The Progress Report on SDGs sounds the alarm that “biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate with around one million species already facing extinction, many within decades”. This information is provided by the still unpublished report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services on the state of biodiversity on Earth. The report will have 1,500 pages, produced by 145 authors from 50 countries, and it sums up about 15,000 scientific papers on the threats against life in the age of humans.

Yet, this research is not part of the official global indicators framework, that uses for its estimates on biodiversity losses the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. With a different methodology, the Red List website announces that “more than 27,000 species are threatened with extinction”, a figure 40 times smaller than the estimate quoted in paragraph 8 of the progress report.

Unsustainable consumption

The 2030 Agenda is explicit in mentioning that all countries should take action towards sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12), “with developed countries taking the lead”. Further, Target 8.4 promises to “improve resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation” again “with developed countries taking the lead”. This is consistent with the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” that the 2030 Agenda reaffirms.

The Progress Report quotes UNEP’s “Global Resources Outlook 2019” per capita average global figure of 12 tons of resources extracted per person in 2015 (up from 8 tonnes in 1990), but it fails to mention what the Outlook says in the following paragraph: “High-income countries consume 27 tons of materials (per capita) on average, which is 60 per cent higher than the upper-middle countries and more than thirteen times the level of the low-income group (at two tons per capita).”

Decoupling is only mentioned in the Progress Report to celebrate that “global CO2 emissions intensity declined by more than 20% between 2000 and 2016 to 0.30 kg carbon dioxide per dollar, showing a general decoupling of CO2 emissions and GDP growth”.

But it fails to mention that absolute emissions grew in that period (as many more dollars were added to global GDP than the efficiency gains). Even worse, as the Outlook explains “Global material productivity (the efficiency of material use) started to decline around the year 2000, and has stagnated in recent years. Even though material productivity improved rapidly in both the old and new industrialized countries, the simultaneous shift in shares of global production away from economies that have a higher material productivity, to economies that have a lower material productivity explains how difficult it is to bring about a rapid improvement in global material efficiency.”

In the global indicators framework for the SDGs, domestic material consumption (DMC) is an accepted indicator, while “material footprint” is yet to be accepted. As Eurostat explains, DMC does not “provide an entirely consistent picture of global material footprints because they record imports and exports in the actual weight of the traded goods when they cross country borders instead of the weight of materials extracted to produce them.” The material footprint, technically called “raw material equivalent” (RME) of the EU imports in 2016, according to the Eurostat estimates, were 2.5 times higher when expressed in RME than the imports recorded in the material flow accounts on which DMC is based.

By failing to see these aspects and only providing global averages, the Progress Report hides the responsibility of developed countries in current global un-sustainability instead of encouraging them to take the lead.

Investing in data

The Progress Report 2019 concludes that “investing in data is essential for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda” and it suggests two lines of action: to increase investment in national data and statistical systems (with support of international resources when necessary) and to “strengthen partnerships with all data producers” to better use new technologies.

Yet, by departing from the global indicators framework in order to provide the most meaningful insights on progress and the lack of it, the UN secretariat implicitly passes the message that informed qualitative analysis cannot be replaced by an accumulation of numbers.



Kategorien: english, Ticker

Political Declaration for the HLPF and the SDG Summit – from Zero to Second Draft

17. Juni 2019 - 14:09

By Elena Marmo

Download UN Monitor #04 (pdf version).

The Political Declaration for the High Level Political Forum will be adopted by Heads of State and Government (HOSG) at the General Assembly’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit in September 2019. With the aim of reaching consensus, Member States have started negotiations and are now deliberating a second draft of the Political Declaration. The Declaration is currently titled, “Gearing up for a Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development: Political Declaration of the SDG Summit” and is divided into three sections: “I. Our Commitment, II. Our World Today, III. Our Call to Accelerated Action.”

The negotiations are being co-facilitated by Ms. Sheila Gweneth Carey, Permanent Representative (PR) of the Bahamas and Mr. Olof Skoog, PR of Sweden. The second draft of the Political Declaration was distributed in the PGA’s letters on 10 June 2019 and the next meeting to discuss the Political Declaration will take place on 17 June 2019. Some key areas of note and concern are becoming apparent based on observations in changes from the zero draft of the document to a second draft.

New Inclusions

Overall, the second draft shows more references to gender equality (paras. 6,9,18,23c) and vulnerable and marginalised groups (paras. 4, 23a) as well as highlighting issue areas of “access to inclusive and quality education, healthcare, food security and improved nutrition, safe drinking water and sanitation, reliable sustainable energy and quality and resilient infrastructure for all.” (para. 7). Additionally, some references to the development/humanitarian nexus have been incorporated (paras. 19, 23f, 23g).

Further, in para. 23i the declaration now calls for “high-quality, timely, reliable, disaggregated data and statistics” as well as support to “countries who face the greatest challenges in collecting, analyzing and using reliable data.” This may provide some additional leverage for UN Country Teams (UNCTs) and Regional SDG Fora as well as add some credibility to the Voluntary National Review (VNR) process with data autonomy and disaggregation creating a potential to shift asymmetrical power distribution inherent in data collection and analysis.

UN SG’s Progress Report, GSDR and Trade-offs

An interesting area highlighted in the Political Declaration pertains to utilising the Secretary-General’s Progress Report and the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) to inform section two, “Our World Today” and section three, “Our Call to Accelerated Action.” While the report is not yet publicly available, drafts have been circulated and the report’s main findings were presented at the UN Deputy Secretary-General’s informal briefing on the Global Sustainable Development Report and the Special Edition of the Secretary-General’s SDG Progress report.

The second draft of the Political Declaration, in para. 17 enumerates the GSDR’s entry points for transformation and transformative levers (or tools) to achieve the SDGs. Central to the report is a recognition that between the SDGs there exist not only synergies and interlinkages but also trade-offs. A nod to this is included in para. 23d of the second draft—“we will strive to equip institutions to better address the interlinkages, synergies and trade-offs between the Goals and targets to ensure a whole-of government approach that can bring about transformative change in governance and public policy”. While it remains unclear what trade-offs Member States have in mind, this can potentially open broad and useful discussions regarding trade-offs between social, environmental, and economic goals and the practices that engender them: like illicit financial flows, land use, extractive industries, and rapid industrialisation to name a few. While the discussion moves in the right direction of acknowledging that economic development gains cannot be accepted at the expense of social and environmental losses, the envelope can be pushed a bit further to expose practices and policies that might be impediments to achieving the SDGs.

Financing the 2030 Agenda

An area for concern within the Political Declaration relates to financing for the SDGs and partnerships. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) is noted in both the zero draft and second draft. Para. 9 in the zero draft reads: “International public finance can play a critical role in this respect, complementing domestic resource mobilization, in line with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda” but was changed to para. 11 in the second draft, reading as “We…commit to accelerate the implementation of commitments across the seven action areas of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.” While recognising commitments made across the AAAA, this change downplays the vital role of public financing central to underpinning multilateral nature of the 2030 Agenda, as is the responsibility of Member States in ensuring sufficient financing for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The zero draft of the Political Declaration included references to challenges associated with mobilising sufficient funding in both the second section (para. 18) and third section (para. 23b). The zero draft notes: “the mobilization of sufficient financing remains a major challenge. Investments critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals remain underfunded. Systemic risks are increasing and parts of the multilateral system are under strain.” However, this paragraph was entirely struck from the second draft, leaving only a reference to financing for the Agenda in para. 23b, wherein it states: “governments, the private sector and other stakeholders need to increase the level of ambition in domestic public and private resource mobilization”. Not only does this build on the aforementioned obfuscation of Member State responsibility, but it also shifts the burden of financing the 2030 Agenda to other actors. The consequences of this burden shifting are explored in detail in “A Fatal Attraction? Business Engagement with the 2030 Agenda.”

It is anticipated that the negotiations for the Political Declaration will continue leading up to the High-level Political Forum in July and possibly beyond.

Political Declaration, Political Significance

The SDG Summit and the Political Declaration are approached with much anticipation and expectation as the HLPF meets only every four years at Summit level and under the auspices of the General Assembly. The SDG Summit is part of a week from 23-27 September 2019 of  high-level meetings on Climate Change, Financing for Development (FfD), Universal Health Coverage (UHC), the elimination of nuclear weapons, and a review of the SAMOA pathway for small island developing states (SIDS).

In a May 30, 2019 Letter the President of the General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, notes that the five Summits are: “linked in their ambition to fast-track efforts towards zero-poverty and lives of dignity for all, on a safe, healthy, and peaceful planet”. Deputy Secretary-General (DSG) Amina Mohammed also emphasised the significance of this Summit week at a joint meeting of UN development entity boards: “we are working with the PGA, ECOSOC and the co-facilitators to ensure that the five September summits lead to mutually-reinforcing outcomes to take SDG implementation to the next level”. At a briefing on this high-level week the DS-G again reiterated its political significance noting that through the week: “leaders from government and beyond can send a clear signal to the world: we are taking the decisions that will get us back on track”.

Many Member States, UN Agencies, and civil society organisations agree that the world is not on track to achieve the SDGs and their targets. In the Secretary-General’s Progress Report on the SDGs, he notes “the global response thus far has not been ambitious enough” and that progress on many of the goals lags behind. However, the Political Declaration at present offers merely a restating of the 2030 Agenda and a variety of recommitments, without offering a manifest alternative way forward. This calls into question whether or not accelerated action is needed or instead a new way forward altogether, and whether or not the Political Declaration and SDG Summit will meet their expectations this September.

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State of emergency: UN convenes Financing Forum while a new wave of debt crises threatens to derail sustainable development

17. April 2019 - 13:12

By Bodo Ellmers and Tove Ryding
This blog was first published by Eurodad here.

This week, governments will meet at the United Nations in New York for the Financing for Development Forum, and the challenge is very clear. Too little progress has been made towards achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs), which to a large extent is the consequence of lacking finance. The 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda, a UN framework adopted at the same time as the SDGs, which is supposed to ensure money flows toward development and the achievement of the SDGs, is not fulfilling its objective.

Political differences at the Addis Summit meant that fundamental institutions, such as a multilateral debt workout mechanism to prevent and resolve debt crises, could not be agreed upon. Developing countries have repeatedly called for developed countries to engage in a negotiation about setting up such a mechanism. It would fill a gaping hole in the international financial architecture, by providing an effective insolvency framework for states. So far, developed countries have refused to negotiate about this, causing it to become a highly pressing issue.

A task force of international agencies, including the UN. , World Bank and IMF have just released a new Financing for Sustainable Development Report, which highlights that a new wave of debt crises has begun to strike. 40% of low income countries have severe debt problems, and also in richer countries, private and public debt levels are soaring. Consequently, global debt levels have reached new record highs.

The lack of political ambition at the Addis Summit is co-responsible for the problem. During the Summit, developing countries pushed for an intergovernmental tax agency to be set up under the UN, to address illicit financial flows and international tax dodging. Global solutions to these problems could have boosted the available levels of development finance significantly. For example, it is estimated that governments lose around US$500 billion in revenue every year, when multinational corporations use international loopholes to avoid taxes.

Another outstanding issue is the fulfilment of developed countries’ commitments to provide development aid to the world’s poorest. Just last week, preliminary figures showed that the level of development aid is dropping again, with the poorest countries being hardest hit. Furthermore, donor countries are increasingly reluctant to provide aid as grants, and using scarce aid resources for ‘blending’, which means subsidising private loans with aid, and thereby imposing more debt on poor countries. Furthermore, public-private partnerships have been promoted to leverage private investments in infrastructure and services in poor countries. However, in addition to creating new inequalities, they’ve often turned out to be expensive time bombs of hidden debt as faulty contract designs tend to put all the financial risks involved on the public side of the partnership.

Following the insufficient levels of tax revenue and development aid, debt-creating finance has been used to raise money. Developing countries have embarked on a borrowing boom, and issued expensive high-yield bonds on financial markets. With the interest rates on safe assets in Europe remaining near or below zero, these bonds became very popular among rich country investors looking for yields.

And that brings us back to the debt emergency. As a matter of urgency, governments must negotiate an international agreement on responsible lending and borrowing to prevent sovereign debt crises. Similarly, when a crisis is unpreventable, an orderly and rules-based procedure is the best way to address any insolvency in a speedy, fair, responsible and sustainable manner. The resistance of developed countries towards developing these solutions is hard to understand and an irresponsibility as such.

This week’s Financing for Development Forum provides a unique opportunity for governments to start fixing the unsolved problems from Addis. It is one of the few operational multilateral spaces where all nations are represented on an equal footing, and global agreements on economic governance can be made. But for progress to happen, we will need a large coalition of progressive governments to push for change.

It is hard to imagine us moving forward without Europe taking a leading role. But unfortunately, European nations have in the past not always played a constructive role in UN negotiations on economic matters. Just last month, EU countries voted against a UN Human Rights Council Resolution, which aimed to ensure that human rights are protected in cases of debt crises and austerity.

The 2019 Financing for Development Forum is governments’ chance to reinforce their effort to prevent the Sustainable Development Agenda from falling off the tracks. It is time for Europe to come to the UN’s negotiation table and actually help develop global solutions. This is the only way to ensure that we achieve the SDGs, stop climate change, protect human rights, and avoid that the next wave of debt crises derails the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

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UN Partnership Forum 2019: “Partnerships Driving Inclusive Implementation of the SDGs”

10. April 2019 - 15:40

By Barbara Adams and Sarah Dayringer

Download UN Monitor #03 (pdf version).

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Partnership Forum will hold its annual session at UN headquarters on 11 April 2019. This year it will focus on partnership efforts supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda is the subject of review by the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) annually under ECOSOC and at summit level every four years (including 2019) under the auspices of the UN’s highest political body, the General Assembly.

The HLPF has a multiyear programme clustering the SDGs year by year but SDG 17, essential for the implementation of all SDGs, is reviewed every year. Framed as a goal to “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development”, what was conceived as a global partnership led by States is being re-interpreted to emphasize partnerships with as many actors as possible. However, this shift has not been guided or governed by principles, criteria, and independent assessment and oversight. The 2030 Agenda indicator by which to assess the value of multi-stakeholder partnerships, which was meant to build on “experience and resourcing strategies”, measures only financial resources (17.17.1). This quantity not quality approach favours big business and big NGOs (see Global Policy Watch briefing #24: “The semantics of partnerships”).

The attention to UN engagement in partnerships has the potential to re-position the ECOSOC Partnership Forum from a market place of practices to a policy-shaping body. While it may be a forum to develop the understanding of UN partnerships, it does not deliver the accountability and oversight needed. Its orientation / DNA is to promote partnerships, side-stepping the essential first step of assessing in what circumstances partnerships are a legitimate approach or an effective modality (see remarks of Barbara Adams at the 2018 ECOSOC OAD segment, on “Strengthening partnerships and stakeholder engagement”).

Its emphasis on promotion implicitly allows a pick and choose approach, without robust indicators of impact and effectiveness apart from the results of resource mobilization.

Since the last Partnerships Forum, UN discourse has demonstrated a shift from an exclusive focus on the private sector to multi-stakeholder partnerships and UN reports have enumerated the constituencies of civil society, academia, foundations as well as the private sector as partners.

The importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships is emphasized in the Partnerships Forum concept note:

The last decade has seen partnerships in the field of sustainable development burgeoning and diversifying at an accelerated rate. Sustainable Development Goal 17 … recognizes the critical importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships for the achievement of the SDGs in all countries.

However, the UN gatekeepers/interlocutors are those with private sector experience and lack substantial engagement with a diverse array of constituencies, especially those with a public interest commitment and non-profit experience. By illustration, this year the Partnership Forum is co-organized by the United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP) and the United Nations Global Compact, two such interlocutors, together with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA).

2019 Partnership Forum Agenda

The 2019 Partnership Forum will showcase good practices and lessons learned on the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships in driving inclusiveness and impacts under the overall theme of “Partnerships Driving Inclusive Implementation of the SDGs”. The agenda will include:

  • multi-stakeholder partnerships and partnership platforms led by national governments to draw concrete recommendations on ways to address existing gaps in SDG implementation, and to catalyse value-additions and accountability for different stakeholders;
  • ways to enhance the effectiveness of UN-associated partnerships in the context of ongoing UN development system (UNDS) reform; and the role of the United Nations Country Teams (UNCTs) and UN local networks, including the Global Compact Local Networks; and
  • an update on the work of the UN Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG) – formerly known as UN Development Group or UNDG – Strategic Results Group on Partnerships.

Additionally, UN partnerships are one of the six priority areas of the UN development system reform (see Global Policy Watch briefing #15: “The UN development system: Can it catch up to the 2030 Agenda?”).

UN development system reform and partnerships

More recently attention to UN partnerships arrangements has escalated with the Secretary-General’s reform recommendations for the UN development system. His December 2017 report, “Repositioning the United Nations development system (UNDS) to deliver on the 2030 Agenda” (A/72/684), asserted that “partnership efforts remain fragmented and overly focused on ‘projectized’  activities” and that the UN “must do better to manage risks and ensure oversight” (para 131).

The report outlined six partnership-focused work streams and made concrete proposals for improving UN partnership engagements, including measures to ensure increased transparency and accountability (paras 130-143).

  1. UNSDG to agree on a system-wide approach to partnership
  2. Strengthen system-wide integrity, due diligence and risk management, including the 10 Global Compact principles on for private sector engagement
  3. Considerations of Global Compact leadership on ways to improve governance at the global level, its impact, and its oversight of Global Compact Local Networks
  4. Reinvigoration of UNOP as the global gateway for partnership
  5. A system-wide compact with the international financial institutions
  6. Efforts to invigorate UN support for South-South cooperation

In May 2018 Member States responded positively to the Secretary-General’s reform proposals on re-aligning its leadership, capacities and accountability mechanisms to meet the demands in delivering on the 2030 Agenda by adopting resolution A/RES/72/279 “Repositioning of the United Nations development system in the context of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system”. This resolution included attention to the importance of partnerships but did not endorse any concrete directions regarding the Secretary-General’s proposals for partnership arrangements.

With the adoption of the reform resolution attention has shifted to its implementation and the UNDS will report on progress to Member States on 21-23 May 2019 at the ECOSOC operational activities for development segment.

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