Authors: Andrew Griffiths (Head of Advocacy, Sightsavers – @griffithsar ), Javier Surasky (Coordinador del Area de Gobernanza para el Desarrollo, Cepei – @infoCEPEI) and Naiara Costa (Together 2030 International Secretariat – @naiaracc)
In July this year, governments will be gathering once again at the United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF) to review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in some volunteer countries. It will be the second review year after the adoption of this new United Nations sustainable development framework and yet another test for multilateralism.
So far, 44 countries (twice as many as last year) have volunteered to present national reports on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. On one hand, this perceived over commitment may indicate that governments – both from the North and the South, although the majority are developing countries – are taking the commitments seriously and want to share the initial outcomes of the implementation of what was defined as an “Agenda of the people, by the people, and for the people” (para 52).
On the other hand, the large number of volunteers may signal that governments are eager to present reports at this initial stage of the implementation – when the SDG indicators have just been adopted – to be “off the hook” as soon as possible and postpone real scrutiny of the challenges and barriers for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in their countries.
Either way, the sheer number presents a barrier to effective and coordinated civil society, given the meagre resources currently at our disposal. The implementation and accountability of the SDGs demands interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder approaches. The inclusion of different sectors of society will be critical for the generation of integrated and sustainable solutions.
We have identified six barriers that must be overcome to enhance space and collaboration among stakeholders to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at all levels:
- The information barrier – We have conducted a few surveys at Together 2030 that show there is still work to be done in disseminating and creating awareness about the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs at the community level. Of those civil society colleagues that are aware of the 2030 Agenda and its promises, some still do not know their role on its implementation at local and national levels.
- The organisational barrier – From our experience working in several countries, civil society is often fragmented. The interlinked and indivisible principles of the 2030 Agenda demand the establishment of common, multi-sectorial civil society (and multi-stakeholder) spaces at national level for discussion and building of trust and joint agendas. In several countries, civil society partners are already mobilising national coalitions to track the national implementation of the SDGs. CSOs similarly need to get smarter about collaboration, recognising the differences between the politics of participation, where collective action is essential, and the specificity of policy, where playing to one’s strengths is critical.
Governments will need to devise smarter ways of working together, doing away with the turf mentality and internalizing the fact that we all share the responsibility for this Agenda’s implementation.
- The accessibility barrier: This not only includes physical barriers but a large range of possible obstacles in the way of common work schemes. Accessibility means the setting up of enabling environments for participation, and governments should take the lead here, where stakeholders can come, contribute ideas, challenge decisions, engage on action and meaningfully participate in the accountability cycle. An enabling environment not only demands the removal of the stones that stand in the way of participation, but also demands that enough resources, at the right times, are put in place to make sure that all voices are heard and properly considered.
- The accountability barrier – We have been concerned about keeping up the global leadership momentum around the 2030 Agenda, especially considering the current challenges to multilateralism. The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs should not only be a “United Nations” Agenda, it should be a priority for all multilateral spaces as it is universal and shared, and we are greatly in need of common goals that unite us.
- The inclusivity barrier – The concept of “leaving no one behind” was a critical commitment of the 2030 Agenda and we will need to join forces to bring this to the highest political level, especially now when there is talk of banning people and building walls. This is especially important for marginalised groups, where the barriers for participation are often related to reduced voice and agency: this will only get worse without concerted effort.
- The trust barrier – We came from a silos and lack of dialogue working structures, a path that now we call “business as usual”. Different stakeholders still need to build reciprocal trust as a stepping stone to establish an equitable and constructive dialogue, create synergies and develop a new ecosystem approach for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
Volunteer countries have the opportunity and the duty to show how they are overcoming these barriers when they present their reviews at the HLPF. Utilising the VNR to build processes for multi-stakeholders’ participation, and promoting meaningful involvement of a wide range of them, is critical to achieve effective accountability mechanisms.
At the same time, non-state actors must develop capacities to work in multi-stakeholder partnerships regardless of the differences that may exist between them.
Governments, as those primarily responsible for their country’s development, should use all available means to dismantle each of the identified barriers: adopting laws to promote social participation; creating concrete economic incentives to facilitate wider adoption of sustainable multi-stakeholder involvement; working with the media to enhance social awareness concerning to the 2030 Agenda;ensuring human rights frameworks are inclusive and fully implemented; sharing user-friendly information in everyday language for the general public about SDGs implementation progress; and providing financial framework to the actions required to achieve them through national budgets. It’s time for the rhetoric to give way to concrete action. The solution to global challenges is not isolation, but working together to dismantle the barriers for a sustainable future.
About the authors:
Andrew Griffiths is head of advocacy at Sightsavers. He manages an international team in over 20 countries to influence public policy on issues related to avoidable blindness and disability rights. He co-chairs the Together 2030 initiative, alongside roles in other international coalitions and consortiums.
Javier Surasky is Cepei’s Governance for Development Research Area Coordinator and an International Law Professor at La Plata National University in Argentina. He is member of Together 2030 Core Group.
Naiara Costa leads the international secretariat of the Together 2030 Initiative. An international analyst, she has large experience on international advocacy at global, regional and national levels on sustainable development, human rights and social issues.
Together 2030 is a civil society initiative that brings together more than 450 organisations from 89 countries to promote national implementation and track progress of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.