We Need to Break Silos for the Sustainable Development Goals

The SDGs are bringing a new era to development. Photo: ADB
The SDGs are bringing a new era to development. Photo: ADB

By Susann Roth

The transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals will require partnerships and a new view on development.

The High Level Panel of Eminent Persons meeting in Bali, which looked at the post 2015 development agenda, explored a variety of issues. One of the key messages of the meeting Bali meeting is that the MDGs were remarkably successful in forging a common purpose and in drawing attention to key human development issues. However, in its simplicity of articulating development challenges as single problems, the MDGs did not capture the synergies and links between goals. Health is a striking example where least progress has been made in Asia and the Pacific, despite the high economic growth and great success in poverty reduction.  

The meeting emphasized that partnerships are essential to work across sectors and stakeholders. This is another important message from the meeting, which ran under the headline “Global Partnership and Cooperation for Development.”  The roundtables during the outreach day discussed the many aspects of the challenges of our globalized world, which are becoming more complex and crosscutting in nature, while stakeholders become more diverse and play more roles. The private sector for instance discussed under the UN Compact the opportunities to foster partnerships and what role the private sector can play -- they were not involved in the formulation of the MDGs at the time. 

The post 2015 agenda needs to be built on strong and clear principles. But the question is how can we build global partnerships among stakeholders with different and sometimes opposite interests? We need strong and clear principles, which guide the partnerships and we need governance structures, which re-enforce these principles, at the same time. The principles, agreed on in Bali are equity, sustainability, solidarity, respect for humanity, and shared responsibilities in accordance with respective capabilities. 

All noble principles, but what means  ‘shared responsibilities in accordance with respective capacities’? I hope this relates only to the financing and not to the other principles since they would then become toothless. 

The roundtable of the academia with Jeffrey Sachs, showed that the protection of the environment had gained significance in the post 2015 development agenda. We could see this development already at the Monrovia meeting meeting. In Bali the strong focus on the environment and the need for a people-centered and planet-sensitive post 2015 agenda, which needs to be grounded in a commitment to address global environmental challenges, strengthen resilience, and improve disaster preparedness capacities, made it on the top list of key messages.  

The next step is to design a new agenda, which corrects the silos and enables and renews partnerships.

And again the need for partnership to promote global cooperation in line with each country’s level of capacity and responsibility to act was highlighted. I wonder who will measure and decide on the capacity and the responsibility to act.

The need to merge the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post 2015 agenda was strongly advocated and the message was clear about the need to address the management of world’s production and consumption. The Government of Indonesia, for example, stated that they see the new agenda to be called "Sustainable Development Goals."  

The key message on the means of implementation also focused more on the “what” than the “how”. Greater commitment to improve and use country systems and the global system was highlighted as well as the need for ownership of the new agenda at all levels. Adequate, stable and predictable financing as well as efficient use of resources was mentioned. That led to lots of discussions on resource mobilization from tax havens and enhancing domestic resource mobilization in time of declining ODA and fiscal austerity in Europe and the US. For Asia and the Pacific, ODA was never actually a big chunk of its development financing and very unevenly distributed to Afghanistan, which is getting the most of it. This means that Asia and the Pacific should be able to rely a lot on its own resources in the future. 

The need for data and better accountability in measuring results is crucial, of course, when we talk about governance and evidence-based policymaking. This was highlighted as important for the new agenda. What’s not clear is: Who will fund the needed capacity development for better statistics in times of resource scarcity, knowing that funding capacity development for statistics was never very “attractive” for development partners? 

The next step is to design a new agenda, which corrects the silos and enables and renews partnerships.