The 2030 Agenda is explicitly grounded in human rights, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seek to realise human rights for all. Moreover, the pledge to leave no one behind reflects the fundamental human rights principles of non-discrimination and equality. In fact, analysis has shown that more than 90 % of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets are linked to international human rights and labour standards.
Implementing the SDGs therefore implicitly promotes human rights, and vice versa. They thus constitute two mutually reinforcing narratives, the SDGs being backup up by high-level political commitments, and human rights proving standards that in many cases are legally binding. The SDGs can in some ways be seen as a way of operationalizing human rights commitments.
By seeing the SDGs and human rights not as two separate narratives or two strands of work for governments, but rather as mutually reinforcing frameworks, states can find synergies in combing their efforts to implement the SDGs and human rights. This is true both at intervention level and reporting level. For example, by investing in quality education for all, states are contributing to the realization of the right to education as well as towards e.g. SDG 4 on quality education. Similarly, states and other actors can use the analysis, data and recommendations that are already being produced by institutionalised human rights mechanisms, for their SDG monitoring.
Monitoring and Reporting
The 2030 Agenda specifies that the purpose of the Follow-up and Review (FUR) mechanism is to ensure accountability and that FUR mechanisms should be inclusive, participatory, transparent, people-centred, gender-sensitive, respect human rights and have a particular focus on the poorest, most vulnerable and those furthest behind. These principles reflect the principles of the human rights-based approach to development, which should guide both the design and the operationalization of FUR mechanisms.
FUR mechanisms are voluntary and country-led. They do not foresee mechanisms for independent review or provisions of direct recommendations to States. Thus, highlighting how the SDGs are underpinned by international legally binding human rights instruments with institutionalised monitoring bodies adds a dimension of accountability that is otherwise absent.
While there is no uniform model for national FUR processes, it is clear that the breadth of the 2030 Agenda will require government coordination across a wide range of ministries and institutions to ensure coherence and systematic action.
The high degree of convergence between human rights and the SDGs and the existence of robust human rights reporting mechanism means that coordinating reporting efforts can ease the reporting burden of States. This can include:
- Systematised qualitative analysis and data through institutionalised reporting and monitoring mechanisms;
- Identification of specific and systemic implementation challenges, as well as recommendations and guidance to overcome these;
- Methodologies for innovative and participatory data collection, including exposure of inequalities through disaggregation of data and qualitative analysis;
- Expertise on developing national monitoring systems that are aligned with global standards, and best practice on peer review mechanisms, expert and thematic reviews;
- Best practice on systematic engagement of stakeholders in monitoring, reporting and follow up, guided by HRBA principles of accountability, transparency and access to information.
As independent State bodies, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) monitor and analyse the national human rights situation against international standards. NHRIs often prepare annual status reports on the general situation as well as analysis and research on specific human rights topics. Many NHRIs have a strong focus on discrimination and inequalities, and monitor the situation of particular groups of rights-holders and of vulnerable and marginalised groups.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a peer mechanism under the Human Rights Council, reviewing the human rights performance of all UN member states at regular intervals and providing recommendations to States to overcome human rights challenges. The UPR builds on inclusive multi-stakeholder reporting – including shadow reports by NHRIs - and preparation processes that can directly contribute to FUR but also inspire the design and working modalities of other FUR processes.
The human rights treaty bodies, the special procedures under the Human Rights Council and the supervisory bodies of the International Labour Organization (ILO) are institutionalized and regular mechanisms that monitor specific aspects of the 2030 Agenda and can immediately contribute to both country-specific and thematic FUR processes.
Tools and Methodologies
The Human Rights Guide to the SDGs allows the user to explore which human rights standards underpin which SDG. It is broken down by SDG indicator and lists all the relevant articles in the relevant human rights instruments.
The UPR-SDG Data Explorer is a searchable database that links recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It allows users to explore how UPR recommendations for specific countries, regions or groups of rights-holders are linked to the 169 targets contained in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
This is a practical guide by Amnesty International detailing how stakeholders can get involved in holding states accountable for their SDG commitments, including through a human rights based approach.