Written by Shannon Kindornay, Adjunct Research Professor at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs based in Ottawa, Canada (@skindornay) and Sarah Twigg, a consultant with the International Finance Company, part of the World Bank Group, based in Sydney, Australia.
As negotiations continue in New York on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will guide efforts across countries for the next 15 years, a number of key questions remain on how to effectively follow-up and review efforts to realise the goals across low, middle and high-income countries, as well as non-state actors, such as the private sector, civil society and international organisations.
The universal nature of the agenda suggests that all states have responsibilities both at home and abroad for realising sustainable development outcomes. It is also clear that states also have common but differentiated responsibilities, which will need to be integrated into the follow-up and review process to effectively capture the various contributions and responsibilities of UN Member States to realising the SDGs.
Furthermore, the question of follow-up and review is complicated by the likelihood that countries will have space to identify their own national level priorities under the agenda. While this will likely improve the relevance and applicability of the SDGs across countries, this approach raises the question of how the follow-up and review framework can be structured to provide meaningful reporting on global progress while still being relevant for capturing national achievements across different types of countries and priorities.
A recent report by ODI, looks at how the follow-up and review mechanism could work in practice, taking into consideration the issues raised above. It looks at the essential components needed to make the SDG agenda a success, and focuses on the follow-up architecture, who is responsible and for what. A number of key messages emerge:
First, follow-up and review processes should include all stakeholders responsible for realising sustainable development outcomes. In addition to government reporting, this means that non-state actors should also be responsible for reporting back on their progress and that there is a need to ensure space exists for their effective participation in the High Level Political Forum, as well as regional and national level follow-up and review mechanisms. To this end the framework should recognise that different actors will be responsible for delivering different things, and should be reviewed through different mechanisms.
Second, the follow-up and review process should incorporate existing global, regional and national mechanisms, building from what works and reducing duplication of efforts where possible. This means making use of existing thematic and regional review mechanisms within the UN system, and incorporating existing reporting structures into the SDG review process.
Third, ensuring the relevance and applicability of a universal agenda to all countries will require differentiated application of sustainable development targets, a point also recently raised by colleagues at European Centre for Development Policy Management. To this effect, the paper proposes four sets of targets for differentiated application: universal targets that apply to all countries; global minimum standards that are only measured in relevant countries; implementation targets which capture countries’ individual contributions to global partnership and the means of implementation; and nationally-determined targets.
Finally, the paper concludes that in order to be seen as a success, the SDGs will require near universal endorsement and should articulate a vision for sustainable development that applies to all people, addresses global public goods and outlines where collective action is needed to achieve national level sustainable development outcomes.