Speaking at the OECD last May, Ambassador David Donoghue, former UN Co-facilitator of the 2030 Agenda, said: “Much is being emphasized about the synergies between the different SDGs, and rightly so, but not much attention is paid to the trade-offs.”

The trade-offs between different priorities competing for scarce budget resources, for the limited attention of policy-makers or the interest of the media rarely emerge in the official debates, but they are permanently highlighted by the independent reports of civil society on implementation of the 2030 Agenda ... or lack of it.

The research report, The Hidden Dimensions of Poverty, fundamentally challenges global conceptions of the nature of poverty. This participatory research, led by ATD-Fourth World and the University of Oxford, has sought to refine the understanding and measurement of poverty by engaging with people directly experiencing poverty, practitioners and academics.

The 2030 Agenda recognizes that poverty is multidimensional. However, apart from income poverty, hitherto these dimensions have not been well-specified, several of them have gone unrecognized, and the ways in which they all interact to shape the experience of poverty has not been properly understood.

Since 2016, 142 countries worldwide have submitted Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) as part of the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF), reporting on progress made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the action plan of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The VNRs play a prominent role in the annual Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) HLPF with both criticism and acclaim. However, it’s important to consider how VNRs are taking hold beyond the formal sessions in the HLPF every year. The VNRs elucidate gaps in the global indicator framework and are appearing in discussions of UN Country Teams (UNCTs), the UN Statistical Commission and the Committee for Development Policy (CDP).

Photo: Coordinadora ONGD.

Every year since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in 2015, governments are invited to present Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) on their progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) of the UN. This process is heralded by some as a great opportunity to hold governments accountable to their actions and by others as a beauty contest riddled with misrepresentation and power imbalances. Civil society organizations in many countries produce their own alternative “spotlight reports,” playing with the name of “shadow reports” traditionally given to such independent voices in the Human Rights context.

An event titled “National Reports on 2030 Agenda: What do They (Not) Tell Us?,” jointly hosted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Committee for Development Policy (CDP), Global Policy Forum (GPF) and Social Watch, explored these tensions and sought to identify opportunities to improve reporting, monitoring, follow-up and accountability in these national review processes.

Photo: FES

“There needs to be an examination of the hardware of the 2030 Agenda, rather than an upgrade of its software” concludes the 2019 Spotlight Report launched on Thursday, 11 July during the High Level Political Forum that reviews the United Nations 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. The meeting was co-sponsored by Global Policy Watch, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). Under the title of “Reshaping governance for sustainability”, the civil society report explores transforming institutions, shifting power and strengthening rights. The launch event showcased the ideas presented by a variety of the report’s authors.

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