20 July 2017 – Taking the temperature of a nation’s health on issues such as poverty reduction, ending hunger, achieving gender equality, building better infrastructure and protecting the oceans is a massive undertaking.
But that’s precisely what dozens of countries around the world are doing this week at the United Nations, where they reviewed progress toward the global body’s 15-year benchmarks known as the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.
But a thorough accounting at the national level isn’t much good without insights from local governments, according to the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development, known by the acronym nrg4SD. In a new report, “SDGs at the Subnational Level: Regional Governments in the Voluntary National Reviews”, the group argues that not enough countries are asking their regional, state and provincial counterparts for input.
The group does point to a few key models that are already proving their worth, however. The report highlights Belgium and Kenya as strong examples of how nations should engage on this issue going forward.
This week’s set of national progress reports, known as Voluntary National Reviews, are prepared by national governments, so it’s their prerogative whom to consult when collating the data, crunching the numbers and coming up with conclusions. But nrg4SD argues that not including local governments in the conversation misses a significant part of the picture, because they are often the public-sector arm providing key services such as education, health care, water and sanitation that must be measured in the annual SDGreviews.
However, in a survey of 12 regional governments from eight countries that presented this week at U. N. Headquarters, only half indicated that they had been consulted by their national governments. (A similar report analyzing subnational involvement in the Voluntary National Reviews was released this month by the United Cities and Local Governments network.)
In Brazil, the national government formed a National Commission for the Sustainable Development Goals in October. But it did not convene any meetings of that commission until just weeks before this month’s New York meeting — by which time Brasília already had put the finishing touches on its national report. This oversight represented a missed opportunity, nrg4SD analysts suggest, as the state of São Paulo has its own SDG-implementation strategy and its own statistical office.
The story was brighter in Kenya. There the Council of Governors, which represents the executives of the country’s 47 counties, prepared a standard template to submit the requisite information to Nairobi, where a special technical committee oversaw coordination of the country’s SDGs review. Similarly, county-level development plans, mandated under the Kenyan constitution, increasingly incorporate the SDGs into their long-term goals.