High-level Thematic Debate Discusses Means of Implementation For the SDGs
The United Nations General Assembly convened member states and representatives from other international organizations and civil society on April 21st to discuss achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under the theme “Action at All Levels: National Implementation,” member states presented their initial approaches, strategies, and expectations regarding the translation of the SDGs into national policies. Expert panels addressed key components of this process, discussing areas such as finances, technology, and data. A high-level reception examined climate action in the context of sustainable development as a prelude for the signature of the Paris Agreement that was to take place the next morning.
The debate was framed around the strategies and mechanisms required for implementing the SDGs. As explained by the President of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Agreement, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda offer a roadmap, but they require specific instruments to achieve sustainable development and to address humanitarian and migrant crises. In this sense, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson highlighted the interconnection between these elements, noting that neither the SDGs nor the climate agenda can be achieved without the other. Civil society representatives from youth, the private sector, and democracy and human rights advocacy stressed the integrated nature of the SDGs and the need to develop instruments and partnerships that are really transformative in connecting the SDGs to inclusive and effective policies that “leave no one behind.”
An interactive dialogue on poverty eradication, financing, and sustainable development focused on the need for investment, cooperation, and resource mobilization among countries and stakeholders to meet the SDGs. Specifically, the participation of the private sector is critical, and using official development assistance to leverage private sector investment is a clear path forward. National policies and financial processes for the SDGs and the Paris Agreement need to be integrated. Experts also addressed the need for international cooperation in tax and financial matters as a key component of the economic and financial dimension of the SDGs implementation. Experts agreed that as international cooperation is essential to succeed in the sustainable development agenda, it is also necessary to combat illicit financial flows, to identify harmful tax competition, and to develop mechanisms that regulate tax abuses.
In terms of technology, the dialogue centered on its use to address communities’ needs and development problems, and called for increased commitment to support investment in science and technology. As noted by moderator Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute, technology brings both opportunities and challenges. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP explained the work of the SDGs Technology Facilitation Mechanism and its role in providing the regulatory framework to allow technology to take its rightful place in the implementation of the SDGs, adding that technology development requires public policy and the right investment environment. Questions on the balance between technology and policy and finance still need to be addressed, as noted by Rachel Kyte CEO, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL).
The panel on the data revolution and the SDGs, moderated by Amina Mohammed, Minister of Environment of Nigeria, reflected on the data demands of the 2030 Agenda. The recent agreement of the global indicator framework for the SDGs provides important instruments for follow up and progress review, but additional regional and other indicators are still required. Furthermore, big data and other new and non-traditional sources should also be part of the process. Emphasis should also be made on accountability and the inclusion of all vulnerable groups, as well as on bridging data gaps and informing citizens for policy decision-making.
Discussions on this topics will continue in July with the meeting of the High-Level Political Forum for the follow up and review of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The focus will be the identification of critical issues and the establishment of a political framework to ensure that the SDGs are implemented.
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