UNF Alert 16

November Monthly Monitor


Unresolved issues and challenges ahead

The President of the General Assembly (PGA), Mogens Lykketoft, has focused this year on achieving a successful COP in Paris and kick-starting implementation on the 2030 and FfD outcomes, as so far all that we have is what has been agreed on paper. The ECOSOC President, Korean Ambassador Oh Joon, is also tasked with FfD follow-up and the 2016 High Level Political Forum (HLPF). There are several outstanding questions that remain to be addressed, and there is a need to ensure coherence between these closely related strands. These include:

  1. Implementation, including the UN’s ability to deliver – governments need to follow through on the outcomes of the 2030 Agenda and Financing for Development agendas, and not fall back on old ways of working. There is a risk that some governments may revert to cherry-picking, renegotiating or reinterpreting parts of the agendas as they begin to put into place plans to implement. At the same time, member states are discussing through the ECOSOC Dialogue how to position the UN system to deliver on the 2030 agenda, recognizing the need to shift away from silos toward a more integrated way of working. Many questions are being asked about how UN member state committees, the UN system, and upcoming conferences can ensure the UN is aligning its work with the SDGs.
  2. Monitoring – deciding on global-level indicators as well as how to ensure adequate data are major outstanding challenges. There is a risk that the global indicator framework gets too bogged down in politics and does not incentivize implementation, especially in areas that governments and others may otherwise overlook. On data, developing countries are particularly concerned about getting data collection, availability and use right, as well as harnessing official and non-official sources. There is a risk that the reporting infrastructure becomes too prescriptive or too burdensome for developing countries with stretched budgets.
  1. Accountabilitythe process to review progress on the SDGs and FfD at the global level also remains to be fleshed out. Key questions include: what a simple and effective review process should be; how national level accountability will feed into the standing global level review at the UN in the years ahead; how to incentivize high-level and constructive government participation; and how to ensure that civil society, research institutes and other independent actors also have a role in evaluating progress, sharing lessons and correcting course.


The Inter-Agency Expert Group (IAEG) for SDG Indicators met in Bangkok from October 26-28, their last meeting. There are currently 224 proposed indicators, of which 159 are mostly agreed and 65 need further discussion; that list can be found here. Work on the 65 indicators that need further discussion will continue beyond the December deadline when the IAEG will finalize their report for submission to the Statistical Commission. Another IAEG workstream on disaggregation will continue until late November to prepare the chapeau text, identify targets where particular population groups are mentioned, and prepare proposals for disaggregation of current indicators. Results from the open consultation can be found here, and the IAEG work plan from now through March can be found here.

civil society statement presented at the end of the Bangkok meeting highlighted a few concerns with the process. Some were concerned that the indicators may fail to meet the ambition of hard-fought goals, for example, Goal 10 on inequality, and felt that other goals, including Goal 16, did not receive adequate discussion time. They expressed hope that the indicator framework would be a “living, breathing document which can be updated as countries pilot new indicators, learn from the process, and learn from each other.”

Global Partnership on Data for Sustainable Development

Launched in September 2015 by more than 70 governments, civil society groups, companies, international organizations, and expert networks worldwide, the Global Partnership on Data for Sustainable Development will strengthen data-driven decision making to help achieve the SDGs by 2030. The partnership aims to help address the data challenge by mobilizing and sustaining resources improve data and strengthen statistical capacity; connecting people, institutions and initiatives and breaking down barriers between them; building trust around data sharing; and bringing people together to solve problems related to data gaps, access, and use. On November 6, the UN Foundation was chosen by the Partnership’s Host Selection Committee to serve as the institutional home for the new initiative, which will be independently governed and will have an independent Secretariat.

Forthcoming SG’s report on follow-up and review

The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), the apex body for following up progress on SDG implementation at the global level, will meet annually to provide high-level political leadership, guidance and recommendations, and will do thematic reviews, including on cross-cutting issues. Its regular reviews will be informed by an annual progress report prepared by the SG, based on the global indicator framework and data produced by national statistical systems and information collected at the regional level.

The 2016 HLPF – the first of the 2030 Agenda period – is a major opportunity to set standards on how we do follow-up and review for the SDGs. And many feel that there is a need for further guidance and detail going forward. The Secretary-General will produce a report by December with final version in January, setting out recommendations and proposals for the follow-up and review architecture, including on organizational arrangements, voluntary common reporting guidelines, institutional responsibilities, thematic reviews, and periodic reviews. A UN DESA survey solicited inputs for the report through November 15.

While the SG’s report will provide important recommendations on the way forward, the ECOSOC President (Republic of Korea) will primarily lead preparations for the July 2016 HLPF, which will be a momentous session in terms of setting a precedent and providing learnings for future sessions.

ECOSOC Dialogue on Future of the UN Development System

On November 12, the outgoing Vice-President of ECOSOC (Argentina) briefed member states on the second phase of the ECOSOC dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the UN development system in the context of the 2030 Agenda. Phase I (December 2014-June 2015) focused on building a better understanding of the current state of play in the UN development system and potential drivers of change. Phase II (December 2015-June 2016) is expected to generate recommendations to ensure a UN development system that is fit to deliver on the promises of the 2030 Agenda. A workshop in early December will consider views from independent high-level panels of experts on the alignment and integration of the humanitarian, peace, and development pillars of the UN.

A group of high-level experts will advise the ECOSOC Bureau by putting forward options for strengthening the UN development system, and this roadmap lays out work plan and may be revisited as the process moves forward.

November Must Reads

  • Michele de Nevers of the Center for Global Development shares recommendations on how G-20 Leaders in Antalya Can Help Ensure a Successful Outcome in Paris: 1) Don’t treat climate finance like it’s aid; 2) Provide adequate funding to adaptation finance; and 3) Free the Green Climate Fund (and implement performance payments).
  • Paula Lucci writes for the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on SDGs: five challenges for city leaders, highlighting the areas where cities have an opportunity to lead: 1) Collecting good data; 2) Selecting priority targets; 3) Financing ambition; 4) Reforming government to address complex challenges; and 5) Leaving a lasting impact.
  • The Web Foundation recently published a blog on Five Things Governments Must Consider When Committing to Open Data following the recent Open Government Partnership summit in Mexico. Their research is summarized in five key takeaways: 1) High-level commitments need to be followed by concrete action, tailored to specific agencies and departments; 2) Change won’t happen overnight; 3) While the principles are overarching, the implementation is context-specific; 4) Bottom up may be best; and 5) Existing measurement systems may need adjusting.
  • Richard Kiplagat, COO of Africa Practice, writes about African private sector engagement for Ventures Africa in his blog Simply Doing Good: Why Africa’s Private Sector Should Embrace the SDGs. According to Kiplagat, getting Africa’s private sector invested and involved in implementing the SDGs will help to demonstrate Africa’s ownership of its “own growth and development story.”
  • Anna Patricia Valerio of Devex shares insights on internet searches about the SDGs, According to Google Trends. For example, “SDGs” only surpassed “MDGs” as a more popular search term in September 2015, and the term “Sustainable Development Goals” is most popular in India.

Look Ahead

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