SDG Coordination Mechanism

SDG Coordination Mechanism
Overview
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The implementation of the 2030 Agenda requires a solid institutional framework to steer implementation of the 2030 Agenda, leverage interlinkages between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and assure that the 2030 Agenda and National Plans are fully integrated. 

The Agenda recognises the essential role of effective, accountable, transparent, participatory and inclusive institutions in achieving the SDGs (SDG 16.6, SDG 16.7), tasking national Governments with the primary responsibility of shaping institutional arrangements for implementation and review of progress. It will be therefore critical at the national level to understand how to adjust national frameworks to deliver on the SDGs in an integrated and coherent manner, depicting synergies among the goals and minimizing the trade-offs. Institutional arrangements shall consider national circumstances, such as the political environment; existing institutions and their mandates; national policy frameworks for sustainable development; actors and stakeholders; and any other factors that might steer SDG implementation, including budgeting and planning processes. 

The format of the institutional arrangements varies from country to country; however, it can be noted that member States have tackled this task in two main ways: either creating new institutions, or repurposing and assigning new responsibilities to already existing ones, often set up during the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) era, like National Councils for Sustainable Development (NCSD). 

Existing institutional coordination mechanisms can be classified into four groups  depending on which level of governance and under which leadership the coordination responsibility lies: a) inter-ministerial entities: i) under the Head of State or Government leadership; or ii) under the leadership of a specific ministry; b) arrangements refer to a single unit located in the office of: i) the Head of State or Government; ii) of specific ministry. All approaches can be found within the AP reporting countries. 

Creating inter-ministerial structure can favour a whole of Government approach, mobilising different parts of Governments around the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in a coherent and integrated manner. Many of the countries that have established new mechanisms have opted for this system, as it eases integration. 

Background

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The aspirational nature of the 2030 Agenda, along with the broad scope and interlinked nature of the SDGs calls for rethinking governmental strategies and for applying different approaches to governance, based on the principles of accountability, innovation, integration, and collaboration. The multi and cross-sector nature of the SDGs covering multiple policy areas, requires, in fact, strong collaboration among of all parts of government, along with institutions, the business sector and the Civil Society (CSO). Leaving no one behind (LNOB) necessitates a whole of government and a whole of society approach, by which all ministries, public agencies and public at large are involved in the decision-making process, become the norm. Finally, the limited resources available at the national level require a special focus on budgeting and financing to ensure an effective implementation of the SDGs.

While Governments are aware of the interdependency among sustainable development issues and of the benefits of integrated approaches, achieving a high degree of coherence, integration and coordination among the international, national and local levels as well as across institutions and levels of governance remain cumbersome. 

To meet the global goals, institutions shall reflect the nature and the main principles of the SDGs, such as universality: harmonizing domestic and foreign policies; integration: breaking down the siloes of ministerial arrangements; aspiration: welcoming innovation and going beyond business as usual; and leaving no one behind: engaging a broad range of stakeholders, including marginalised groups [1]. 

The 2030 Agenda delineates a holistic perspective for sustainable development. Environmental conservation and protection, economic growth and development and social protection are inter-related and universal challenges that call for integrated and innovative approaches. Solid collaborations, partnerships and coordination across sectors and institutions are therefore needed to ensure that the main pillars of sustainable development and cross-cutting issues like gender, health, and climate change, for instance, are mainstreamed into national development programmes and policies. 

Fostering integration, in fact, assumes strong cooperation among institutions at all levels and engagement of non-state stakeholders in the decision making. Integrated approaches to SDG implementation allow for shying away from trade-offs among SDGs and related targets, promoting a more efficient, coherent and balanced allocation of resources. This can be accomplished only by addressing systemic issues that undermine institutional work. Breaking down silo approaches, enhancing opportunities for institutions and stakeholders to interact and find synergies, managing policy trade-offs and exploring interconnections among SDGs are key to addressing systemic flaws. The transformational nature of the 2030 Agenda urges Governments not to act solo, but rather engage at multiple level of governance and across manifold sectors. 

Policy integration can be defined as the management of cross-cutting issues that goes beyond individual institutional responsibilities and established policy fields [2]. Policy integration ensures that the progress made towards one goal will positively impact the achievement of another one. The 2030 Agenda stresses the importance of strengthening policy coherence to achieve the SDGs (SDG 17.14) and ensuring that no one is left behind. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) as a policy approach that enhances systemic integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development during all phases of national and international policy making [3]. PCSD aims at strengthening Governments’ capacity to balance economic, social, and environmental aspects in the policy making; discern trade-offs; and harmonize domestic and international policy objectives.

Integrated policy making necessitates establishing vertical and horizontal coordination mechanisms, to ensure effective dialogue and collaboration among national, subnational, and local level, as well as between different actors and stakeholders, including CSO.

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[1] “Sustainable Development Goals Best Practices for Institutional Structures” available online at: https://www.bccic.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/SDG-Best-Practices-for-Institutional-Structures-Policy-Brief-BCCIC.pdf

[2] “Working Together: Integration, institutions and the Sustainable Development Goals” Available online at: http://workspace.unpan.org/sites/Internet/Documents/UNPAN98152.pdf 

[3] “Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development 2018 Towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies. Towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies”. Available online at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/9789264301061-en.pdf?expires=1539679286&id=id&accname=ocid195767&checksum=43A31FF2C5B6F2AD0688B0EB787E316B 

Policy Coherence

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Horizontal coherence refers to the ability of institutions to work across their policy domains. As afore mentioned, cross sectoral integration is critical to address cross-cutting issues, as well as the interlinked nature of the global goals. SDG implementation goes beyond the competences of individual departments, moving from a silo approach to multi stakeholder one and overcoming sector boundaries by bringing together all relevant ministries to identify gaps and synergies.

Alignment to International Conventions is thus also critical to ensure integrated and coherent policies. While the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) 2015-2030 [4] (Sendai Framework), and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (AAAA) have all been adopted under separate global processes, they require global concerted action to address concerns such as climate change, DRR, or finance for sustainable development in a holistic manner, recognising their linkage to the SDGs. For instance, with respect to climate change, shifting the focus and the burden of climate action from one ministry, such as the environment one, to encompass other key sectors and line ministries, will broaden the spectrum of climate action policies and activities. 

Enhanced vertical coherence means promoting concerted actions among local, subnational, national and international levels. In fact, while it is national Governments to set country goals and priorities, local Governments oversee their implementation on the ground and can steer advancement towards sustainable development. Localizing the SDGs implies the involvement of communities and all layers of society, especially of the most marginalized groups, in SDG implementation. Local governments are ergo pivotal in making the 2030 Agenda a reality for individuals and communities. 
Several are the SDGs that highlight the importance of engaging local communities, especially in achieving the environmental SDGs (SDG 6.b; 13b, 15c). Furthermore, SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities puts forward a novel approach to sustainable development that centres on the linkages among the rural, urban and regional layers of governance. SDG 16 also stresses the importance of creating a multi-layered system that can bridge the gap among citizens and their national Governments. 

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[4] “Sustainable Development Goals Best Practices for Institutional Structures” available online at: https://www.bccic.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/SDG-Best-Practices-for-Institutional-Structures-Policy-Brief-BCCIC.pdf

Stakeholder Engagement

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The involvement and participation of all segments of society is critical to achieve the SDGs. The 2030 Agenda devotes several targets to participatory and inclusive societies, promoting “responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making at all levels” (SDG 16.7), asking Governments to regard the broad society as a partner in governance. Establishing mechanisms and spaces for meaningful engagement not only strengthens people’s political rights, but it helps shaping policy development. 

The 2030 Agenda necessitates national Governments to adopt a new type of leadership, the so-called whole of society approach that invests in a diverse a broad set of stakeholders, mobilizing and harnessing people’s participation in the decision making. Multi-stakeholder participation, in fact, fosters sustainable decisions as it gives the opportunity to those affected by the decision to express their views, going beyond governance as usual and building a whole of society approach for SDG implementation. Inclusion, accountability and transparency shall be at the core of the consultation process, ensuring that all affected stakeholders, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, and identity, have adequate means and information to participate in the process and influence the decision-making. 

Engagement is often seen by Governments as a one-off exercise which may create dissatisfaction among stakeholders, so institutionalisation is very critical, requiring political will at all levels and going beyond the political cycle. Effective engagement demands organizational and political leadership; support and commitment to meaningful engage stakeholders; it needs specific mechanisms and channels for sustaining the communication with stakeholders; and it requires institutional responsibilities and resources to be allocated. Engagement is a process that calls for a shift in paradigm within Governments and institutions: it is of utter importance in fact that their personnel share a common understanding of how engaging with stakeholders contributes to their mandate; who are relevant stakeholders; what kind of decisions need their inputs; and what quality of the engagement entails.

Data and Monitoring

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A compelling and efficient national monitoring system is a key element of good governance. Reliable, timely, and accurate data availability is essential for countries to set priorities, review progress and develop informed policies for sustainable development Monitoring is the process of collecting data based on a set of predetermined parameters or indicators. By comparing indicator data, it is possible to monitor and track progress, and thus assess the effectiveness of implementation policies. Monitoring, in fact, is a key component of the 2030 Agenda, as it provides essential information for effective follow up and review. By evaluating progress toward implementation, it helps policy and decision-makers identify challenges and opportunities, set priorities for more effective and efficient implementation, depict interlinkages among the goals, and communicate on progress. Moreover, reliable data can spur public and private investments, and catalyse political commitment and advocacy. Monitoring is also instrumental for sharing best practices and support inter-sectoral integration of goals and targets. 

National Statistical Systems (NSS) are at the core of the data and monitoring process. Responsibility on data collection and monitoring data at country level, in fact, lies with member States, who are accountable for reporting on national progress on the Sustainable Development Goals to custodian agencies that ultimately organize the data and report on global progress toward Sustainable Development Goals. While the Sustainable Development Goals may represent an unprecedented statistical challenge, solid collaboration and close coordination with National Statistical Offices (NSO), institutions producing official statistics, and other data producers are thus critical to create robust national monitoring systems. 

The 2030 Agenda has put pressure on National Statistical Offices, in terms of the quantity and the quality of the data to be collected to effectively monitor progress. National Statistical Offices are at the core of data collection, coordination, reporting and validation of statistics for the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainable Development Goals are tasked with the responsibility of providing statistics to international bodies and identifying appropriate data sources and methodologies to produce national and global sustainable development goal indicators. It is thus critical for institutions and the United Nations system to increase their support to Sustainable Development Goals in the collection, use and dissemination of data and official statistics. Capacity-building for closing the gap in statistics is deemed necessary to increase data monitoring at country level, to better document and identify national progress, and accelerate Sustainable Development Goal implementation.

Budgeting

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Effective public financial management is at the core of good governance. Budgets are to be regarded as a natural starting point for Governments for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, as it will not be possible achieving the SDGs if budgets are not aligned. Poor alignment of resources in fact, can weaken national development strategies. Even though performance budgeting and spending reviews are effective tools to mainstream the SDGs into national budgetary process [5], they are rarely applied in the context on the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs are seldom regarded as the overarching framework to inform the national budget process. Integrating the SDGs into budgeting processes requires political support and to be recognized by the broad society as a national priority on the political agenda. 

However, circumstances for a successful integration of the SDGs into budgetary processes may differ country to country. First of all, it depends on the broader SDG implementation strategy of a country, how the SDGs have been translated into the national context: having a national implementation plan makes it easier including the SDGs into national budgets. Secondly, the degree of involvement of the Ministry of Finance. Effective engagement of the Ministry of Finance represents a key factor in SDG implementation, due to its role of setting national fiscal priorities and adjusting budgetary processes. It strengthens coherence creating a link between the SDGs as medium-term strategic goals and the national budget; however, it may not be sufficient to reduce conflicting expenditure [6].

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[5] ”SDG Index and Dashboards Report 2018 – Global Responsibilities”, available online at: http://www.sdgindex.org/assets/files/2018/00%20SDGS%202018%20G20%20EDITION%20WEB%20V7%20180718.pdf 

[6] ”Integrating SDGs into national budgetary processes”, available online at: https://www.iddri.org/en/publications-and-events/study/integrating-sdgs-national-budgetary-processes 

Supreme Audit Institutions

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Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) by monitoring the legality, accountability and effectiveness of public expenditures, rend an independent overview of national budgeting and public financial management (PFM). For such reason, SAIs are key players in the enactment of the SDGs. 

The International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) [7] has identified four approaches for SAIs to the SDGs: i) evaluating national Governments’ preparedness to implement, monitor and report on SDG progress; ii) engage in performance audits to evaluate the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of policies and programmes direct to the SDGs; iii) support achievement of SDG 16; iv) and being role models of transparency and accountability. 

SAIs can help accelerate SDG implementation in several ways. To start with, SAIs can enhance transparency of national budgets. Indicator 16.6.1, in fact, suggests an evaluation of primary government expenditures as a percentage of the approved budget, disaggregated by sector as a defining element of effective, accountable and transparent institutions. While audits normally have been performed by sector, SAIs are capable to provide a more comprehensive and integrated picture of the investments made by the different actors on a specific matter. 

SAIs are also essential actors in the fight against illicit financial flows (SDG 16.4), as they perform audits on tax and custom agencies and in preventing fraud and corruption (SDG 16.5). Furthermore, SAIs support improvement of the overall Government’s performance by informing national Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) systems with independent assessment of the effectiveness of sectoral policies and programmes to implement goals and targets. SAIs can leverage the opportunity of posing questions about national baselines, for instance, whether they have been set, or whether national strategies have been adopted and enacted ; about national follow-up and review mechanisms and how to secure means of implementations (MoI) that have established new mechanisms have opted for this system, as it eases integration.

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[7] For more information, see: Auditing Sustainable Development Goals Programme, available online at:  http://www.idi.no/en/idi-cpd/auditing-sustainable-development-goals-programme 

SDG Coordination Mechanism