Without the Organized Civil Society, Achieving the SDGs will be an Unsustainable Goal in Brazil

Author: SDG Strategy (@Estrategia_ODS)

The country whose performance is considered an international benchmark in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is at great risk of taking a very different route in regards to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Brazil is among the countries that will present the Voluntary National Reviews on the 2030 Agenda at this year’s High Level Political Forum and, unfortunately, what will be presented in New York is very worrying.

In fact, the content of the voluntary review still remains largely unknown: it was drawn up behind closed doors by the Federal Government, and not only does the civil society not know the content of the document but it also did not take part in its elaboration, although civil society representatives of the National Commission for the SDGs have been selected for that. Since April 25th 2017, the representatives await the effective installation of the Committee, as well as the opportunity to contribute to the elaboration of the Voluntary National Review, which is the Commission’s responsibility.

“[Brazil’s Voluntary National review]… was drawn up behind closed doors by the Federal Government, and not only does the civil society not know the content of the document but it also did not take part in its elaboration…”

Brazil is the only country in Latin America that has so far created a mechanism dedicated to the process of implementing the 2030 Agenda with balanced representation between government and civil society. The creation of the National Commission for the SDGs is undoubtedly a very important step in this process, but there are still few concrete indications as to how this advisory body’s engagement and relevance will effectively impact the process of implementing the SDGs in the country.

A recent civil society achievement was the creation of a Joint Parliamentary Assembly for the Support of the Sustainable Development Goals, as a result of the engagement and articulation of the Civil Society WG in the 2030 Agenda (GTSC A2030). Comprised of parliamentarians from the most diverse parties and political spectra, is challenging to build consensus on guidelines that will directly impact the SDGs; however, this is another relevant mechanism that requires deep action from civil society so that this space within the National Congress plays an important role in defending and ensuring compliance with the Agenda. 

What risks does Brazil face within the implementation of the SDGs?

The country is currently experiencing an unprecedented political crisis that, combined with a strong economic recession, directly impacts the course of the 2030 Agenda. As an Agenda that requires not only governance adjustments within the coordination of public policies, but also the expansion of public investments, the signs emanating from the Federal Government and the National Congress are worrisome.

For instance, fiscal adjustment measures taken by the government announce as a result significant setbacks in the three pillars of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – associated with the already recognized shrinking of dialogue between government and civil society.

Such concern lies both in the progress that refer to actions, legislation and public policies that go on the opposite direction of sustainable development, and in the way the current Brazilian government has guided the processes of implementation of the SDGs in the country.

What’s the way out at this time?

First, civil society has been developing its own national reviews, which will contribute to the discussions on the challenges to national implementation, such as the already launched Civil Society Light Report (Relatório Luz da Sociedade Civil) , prepared by GTSC A2030. Secondly, we reassure

that we must invest in the subnational implementation of this agenda, in the development of public policies within the territories where the citizens’ lives are built and where transformation actually takes place as sustainable development progresses.

Thus, while pushing forward the momentum of giving the 2030 Agenda the centrality it needs at the national level, in the local spectra we have a very important window of opportunity: the beginning of the new municipal administrations in 2017. Despite the specificities that characterize the government transitions, Brazilian cities are at the stage of multiannual planning (Planos Plurianuais). Civil society has been articulated and focused in order to take the SDGs as a guiding principle for the actions of subnational governments across the country.

It is true that, as we are in the second year of implementing this new Agenda, there is still an important process of sensitization, understanding and embracement of its precepts and value. Above all, this brings light to the “pedagogical” nature through which this agenda can and must be seen, serving as a tool so that the challenges that are long posed to our society are faced and, perhaps, overcome.

Reducing inequalities, ensuring gender equality, guaranteeing universal access to basic sanitation services, strengthening democratic institutions, reducing national rates of violence, for instance, are not new guidelines.

But with the SDGs, they gain the great opportunity to create an approach and build integrated solutions, promoting dialogue and very rich possibilities of cooperation between the different actors and sectors of society.

Developing and implementing an Agenda like the one we have will be unsustainable without a deep engagement of governments, corporations, organized civil society and academia. Each sector must fulfill their roles and responsibilities and act in collaboration with the rest.

Today, unfortunately, Brazil appears to move in the opposite direction of the Sustainable Development Goals. And Brazilian civil society has, in its broad diversity and more than ever, a fundamental role – not only through social control, but also as a producer of solutions, information and data – in an attempt to divert this path and put Brazil back on track of sustainable development without leaving anyone behind.


About the author: The SDG Strategy is a coalition that gathers organizations that are representative of civil society, the private sector, local governments and the academia in Brazil, in order to broaden and qualify the debate on the SDGs in the country and to mobilize, discuss and propose effective means for implementing this agenda. www.estrategiaods.org.br

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.

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