The principal objective of the meeting as explained by Dr. Ibrahima AIDARA, Economic Governance Program Manager at OSIWA is to develop the mechanism needed to involve citizens in the implementation of the SDGs.
By Isidore Kpotufe
From 10-11 August 2016, the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), both members of the Open Society Foundations, an international grant-making network working to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens, organized a workshop aimed at building a governance and accountability mechanism for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event took place at the Kempinski Hotel, Accra, Ghana and was attended by key Civil Society actors and agencies within the United Nations (UN) system.
The SDGs are set of 17 aspirational goals and 169 targets spearheaded by the UN and adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit held in September 25–27, 2015 in New York, USA.
The principal objective of the meeting as explained by Dr. Ibrahima AIDARA, Economic Governance Program Manager at OSIWA is to develop the mechanism needed to involve citizens in the implementation of the SDGs. In his Welcome and Introductory remarks, Dr. Ibrahima noted that this intervention is necessary so as to facilitate the meaningful participation of citizens, especially marginalized groups in efforts to monitor and track the achievement of the global goals and hold governments and partners accountable.
The meeting brought together about 40 participants whose works hover around the SDGs to deliberate and chart a path for the design and development of such citizen-driven mechanisms. There were panel discussions about the following general broad themes:
- SDGs – What implications for Africa’s Transformative Development;
- Status of the SDGS; Monitoring and Reporting Requirements;
- National level engagement strategies;
- Mapping out of existing instruments and sharing best practices;
- African Peer Review Mechanism – Afro-barometer;
- Measuring Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies: SDG16;
- Counting critically – SDG ‘follow-up and review’ – interlinkages between indicators, monitoring and evaluation;
- What to monitor to ensure – no one is left behind – African Perspectives;
- Monitoring SDGs – Role of Parliaments;
- Developing a Citizen Driven Model.
Participants collectively agreed that access to credible data and information is key to holding governments accountable. And to achieve the 17 Goals over the next 15 years of implementation that accountability is imperative.
Representatives of agencies within the UN System, notably the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) generally agreed that all the 17 Goals are connected to their Strategic Plans: sustainable development, democratic governance, accountability and peacebuilding, climate and disaster resilience, inclusive development and human rights. SDGs Number 1 on poverty, Number 10 on inequality and Number 16 on governance are particularly central to UNDP’s current work and long-term plans.
Participants also observed that the Goals are inter-connected and therefore require an integrated and inter-sectoral implementation approach. Having an integrated approach to supporting progress across the multiple goals is crucial to achieving the SDGs.
Isidore Kpotufe represented IMANI at the workshop. He was part of the participants of the panel on “National level engagement strategies.” He stressed that the SDGs are a framework for Policymaking and not policy objectives unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is for National governments to decide how to go about their implementation based on their own national contexts, according to Isidore. It is also true that the review of a country’s progress toward the Goals will be strictly voluntary. The review of progress towards achieving the goals is in practice an important accountability tool. What this means is that the success of the SDGs will take a great degree of reliance on citizens who will have to hold their leaders and governments to account and remind them of their commitments. He noted that Civil Society must build strategic alliances with Government, Populace and Private Sector to work towards achieving the 17 Goals by 2030.
Isidore spoke about the constant noninvolvement of young people in the global discourse which he considers a “disappointment” as he noted that the overall success of the SDGs arguably depends on youth engagement. “Therefore it is important to create avenues for practically engaging the youth. To do this, we must engage Artists, Sports men and women, Market women and other relevant bodies in public awareness initiatives”, he said.
Isidore also made the following recommendations:
The development actors including the UN and National Governments must support the setting up of National SDGs Forum comprised of key policymakers, implementing agencies, civil society (youth, women & girls, research institutes, faith-based organizations) and private sector whose functions will be:
- to monitor the implementation status of each goal using the respective indicators;
- remind the government of its government by publishing quarterly state of implementation reports;
- review implementation strategies;
- and advice the government with policy design and implementation strategies.
The SDGs are crucial for the global development Agenda, thus require the involvement of all. In this context, participants agreed to forge partnerships and alliances. The Open Society Initiative for West Africa indicated they would support projects strategically designed to contribute towards the achievement of the SDGs. IMANI has already started implementing projects aimed at advancing the Global Goals.
Isidore Kpotufe is Head of Communications at IMANI.