UNF Alert 17

January Monthly Monitor

What to look out for in 2016

As we begin this momentous New Year, and with the SDGs now officially “live”, below is an outline of some of the major milestones to look out for in 2016, why they matter, and potential fault lines.

Key milestones for SDG Implementation, and why they matter


SG’s Report on Follow up and Review

The advanced, unedited version of the Secretary-General’s Report on follow-up and review for the 2030 Agenda was released on January 22 and aims to help ensure that the global monitoring and accountability is anchored in the realities of people’s lives. It sheds light on the way forward for reviewing SDG progress, including the role of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) – the central platform on follow-up and review which will provide political guidance and recommendations on the basis of global progress towards the SDGs. It sets out proposals for voluntary national review guidelines; themes for the reviews; how different parts of the UN and other actors work together; and next steps on process.

One of the proposed approaches to “thematic” reviews would see the 2016 HLPF examine Goals 1 (End poverty in all its forms everywhere), 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all), 8 (Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all), 10 (Reduce inequality within and among countries) and 17 (Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development), although some observers and governments have already expressed opposition to clustering the goals in this way, noting this could perpetuate working in silos. A meaningful and simple way will need to be found to review progress.

The role of non-governmental actors has been much discussed, and on this, the report emphasizes the importance of engaging non-state actors saying that, “people should know about [global SDGs progress and the work of the HLPF] and understand and relate to its conclusions”. Civil society, researchers, academics and others need space to play an active role, and to keep up the pressure and hold their leaders to account.

The report draws from inputs by member statesUN agencies and other stakeholders. The formal version of the report and a PGA briefing is expected follow in late February or early March.



The Inter-Agency Expert Group for SDG Indicators has released its report for consideration by the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) at their annual meeting, March 8-11. It includes a list of 231 proposed global indicators of which several are still under review. Any changes to those indicators will be proposed in a background document by February. The report also covers background on the process for developing the indicator framework, a note on data disaggregation, and the plan for implementing the global indicators.

Following their consideration of the indicators, the UNSC will submit their technical recommendation to ECOSOC and the GA. Up until now, indicator development has been a technical process with countries represented by their National Statisticians. However, once the proposal enters the political process, the indicators may become the last battleground for member states to play out lingering political differences on particularly contentious targets. In recent statements, some member states have emphasized the importance of political oversight for the indicators and raised concerns around tracking indicators for targets where they lodged official reservations. Others have emphasized the need to preserve the integrity of the technical process and guard against politicization. Member states have not yet formally weighed in on the content of the proposed indicators.

Outside stakeholders have raised several concerns about how the indicator process has been structured, whether it has fostered a genuine discussion around what should be measured to drive meaningful implementation actions, rather than limiting to what can be measured, and whether the indicators match the ambition of the goals and targets. There are also outstanding questions around how disaggregation will be handled to give meaning to “leave no one behind”. 


PGA’s High-Level Debate on SDG implementation and climate change

Another major milestone this year will be the PGA’s High-Level Debate on SDG Implementation and Climate Change on April 21, an event to kick-start the conversation on SDG and climate action to be held the day before the formal signing of the Paris Agreement. Some observers have said this event could be a timely opportunity to look at the first 100 days of the SDGs, to ask what the top lessons learned from “early adopters” are, and what pitfalls to avoid. Others suggest this could be an opportunity for existing partnerships to come forward and say how they will transition from the MDGs to SDGs, how they will become universal in nature, and how they will contribute to the new agenda. Others have called for more focus on crosscutting themes like inequality, youth, data, and finishing the job on the MDGs. The level of participation at the moment seems to be very high, with many heads of state and government set to attend.


Financing for Development Forum

The Financing for Development (FfD) Forum will meet each spring, beginning in April 2016, in order to review follow-up of the FfD outcomes agreed in Addis Ababa, as well as the means of implementation targets in the 2030 Agenda. This forum is timed to coincide with the joint meeting of ECOSOC and the World Bank and IMF, given their critical role in development finance, building capacity in developing countries, and following up on outcomes from Addis like the global infrastructure platform. There will also be an event on the infrastructure platform in Washington, DC in mid-April.


World Humanitarian Summit

The first ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) will take place in Istanbul, Turkey from May 23-24, 2016. An initiative of the Secretary-General and managed by the UN Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Summit’s goals are to reaffirm commitment to humanitarian principles, inspire concrete actions, and share innovations and best practices. The SG appointed a High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, co-chaired by Kristalina Georgieva and Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak, which released its recommendations in mid-January to help frame the discussion at the World Humanitarian Summit.

Many observers have referred to the WHS as the “last missing piece of the 2030 framework” (along with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the 2030 Agenda, the Paris climate agreement, and the WSIS outcome.) Some countries have called for linking humanitarian and development issues more closely, citing the need for a stronger operational push in fragile states and protracted crises in order to get to the last mile on poverty eradication.  


Istanbul Program of Action Midterm Review

In Antalya Turkey from May 27-29, immediately following the World Humanitarian Summit, least developed countries (LDCs) and their development partners will gather at the highest political level to assess the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPOA)The review aims to bolster support from the international community toward LDCs for achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Climate Agreement by sharing best practices and lessons learned; by identifying obstacles, constraints and the actions needed to overcome them; and by identifying policy priorities and the contributions from actors at various levels. Ambassador Benedicte Frankinet of Belgium and Ambassador Jean-Francis Zinsou of Benin will co-facilitate informal intergovernmental consultations for the midterm review.


High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

The High-Level Political Forum is the primary forum mandated to provide leadership and guidance on implementation and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda. It will conduct both state-led and thematic reviews, and will include inputs from other stakeholders, UN entities, regional bodies, and others, though details remain to be fleshed out. The July 2016 HLPF will be particularly significant as it is the first meeting of the SDG era, and will likely set a precedent for how future review processes are structured. Already, nine countries have volunteered to be among the first to be nationally reviewed: Estonia, Finland, Germany, Madagascar, Morocco, Norway, Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone and Venezuela.

The President of ECOSOC (Republic of Korea) will play an integral role in shaping what the first session looks like. Key challenges for the HLPF will be: incentivizing high-level participation, creating space for external actors to play a meaningful role, ensuring linkages between the Addis and SDG agendas, and leaving flexibility for the HLPF to correct course along the way.


Habitat III Conference

Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, will take place in Quito, Ecuador, from October 17-20, 2016. With 54.5% of the world’s population residing in urban areas, Habitat III aims to build on the work of the two previous Habitat conferences (Habitat I in Vancouver, Canada in 1976 and Habitat II in Istanbul, Turkey in 1996), harnessing renewed political commitment, assessing progress and identifying emerging challenges for sustainable urban development. The conference will define a new urban agenda for the UN for the next 20 years, and many are calling it one of the first major “tests” for the SDGs.


Selection of the next Secretary-General

As the UN transitions from the MDG period to the SDGs period, it will also see a transition in leadership:  the selection of Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s successor. Assuming that term lengths remain the same, the next SG will lead for a decade, covering much of the 2030 period.

There is a real risk that the SDGs will get lost among the many other priorities on the global agenda, and the risk is compounded when we realize that the first few years are the most important in setting the UN and its members on path to achieving the SDGs by 2030. 

The process is also notable because for the first time, the Security Council and the General Assembly have agreed to increase transparency in the selection process. On December 15, 2015, the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council sent a joint letter to member states soliciting nominees and officially kicking off the formal process to select the next SG. Currently, three candidates have been nominated by their host countries – Srgjan Kerim (Macedonia), Vesna Pusic (Croatia), and Igor Luksic (Montenegro) – and their CVs are available to the public. The PGA is expected to begin organizing informal interactions – which will be open to the press and public – with nominees and the GA in March or early April. The Security Council will then consider the nominees in July. We expect the Security Council to receive additional nominating letters in the coming weeks and months.


Longer-term Positioning of the UN Development System (ECOSOC Dialogue) 

At the same time efforts are underway to ensure the UN system can help deliver on the SDGs. The ECOSOC dialogue on the longer-term positioning of the UN system will propose ways to support SDG implementation. Major challenges include funding arrangements and integration of the UN’s development, humanitarian, and peacebuilding pillars. Another challenge is that SDG such as on inequality or sustainable consumption and production do not have an institutional home. Discussions on UN system funding, organizational arrangements, governance, partnership approaches, capacity and impact will occur over the next few months, with the next session taking place in late February.

January Must Reads

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) published Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals, a guide to SDG implementation for stakeholders in December. It offers guidance on how to measure performance, convene a multi-stakeholder dialogue, and prepare a roadmap for SDG planning, providing a set of tools to support the design of sector- and goal-based strategies.

The World Bank recently issued a working paper, Trajectories for Sustainable Development Goals: Framework and Country Applicationswhich presents applications of the SDG framework in ten countries (Ethiopia, Jamaica, Kyrgystan, Liberia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Senegal and Uganda). The paper investigates how policies and financing should be designed to speed up development outcomes by: benchmarking recent outcomes for SDG target indicators, projecting 2030 outcomes for selecting indicators, and assessing options for accelerated progress.

Debapriya Bhattacharya of the Centre for Policy Dialogue in Bangladesh and Southern Voice on Post-MDG International Development Goals published a think piece for The E15 Initiative titled Post-2015 International Development Agenda in the Context of Interlocking Trade and Financing in the LDCs. Bhattacharya assesses the overlap between available financing instruments and modalities and LDCs’ trade interests, arguing that LDC issues should be prioritized for the success of various mechanisms.

David Waskow and Jennifer Morgan at the World Resources Institute (WRI) discuss the key provisions of The Paris Agreement: Turning Point for a Climate Solution, which include: long-term goals and signals; a commitment to return regularly to make climate action stronger; a response to the impact of extreme climate events on the most vulnerable; the transparency needed to ensure action takes place; and finance, capacity building and technology to enable real change. The blog contains a helpful infographic of the COP21 outcomes as well as other highlights from the conference.

Shanta DevarajanWolfgang Fengler and Homi Kharas of The Brookings Institution make a variety of predictions for the coming year inForecasting 2016: It’s complicated.

Claire Melamed of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) reminds us of the tasks ahead in her blog SDGs Week One: A Progress Report on ODI’s new site Deliver2030.org, highlighting data, indicators and follow-up and review as some of the remaining pieces of Agenda 2030 that are ripe for influence.

Adrian Lovett of the ONE campaign discusses recent OECD figures on development assistance that show The aid pie is growing, but the poorest countries get a smaller slice in his latest post for The Guardian. While countries are spending more money on housing refugees in their own countries, less aid is directed to LDCs. Lovett poses a solution: world leaders should pledge half of their aid to LDCs, otherwise the road to achieving Agenda 2030 will be off to a rough start.

Maam Suwadu Sakho-Jimbira of IPAR “Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale” and the Post-2015 Data Test blogs for Southern Voice on Post-MDG International Development Goals on Data – Key to successful SDG implementation and monitoring in Senegal, highlighting important considerations for data and SDG implementation. She argues that predictable funding, technical assistance, and domestic resources are integral for building national statistical capacity and addressing data gaps.

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