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Effective co-ordination of national implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a challenge faced by both developed and developing countries.

This article identifies six features of effective SDG co-ordination mechanisms that point the way forward for SDG co-ordination mechanisms.

Effective co-ordination of national implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a challenge faced by both developed and developing countries. As the South African SDG Hub, a national SDG co-ordination mechanism supported by the South African Government and hosted at the University of Pretoria, we recently released a briefing note on features of effective SDG co-ordination mechanisms.

Drawing on reports by, amongst others, the United Nations Department of Economic Affairs, Partners for Review and a consortium led by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC), we identify six good practices.

Drawing on successes during the era of the MDGs, the buy-in and advocacy of heads of state or other high-ranking political office-bearers are seen as a first requirement for the effective realisation of the SDGs. Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines provide clear examples of how high-level political buy-in translated to the successful realisation of the development goals.

The effective national realisation of the SDGs, secondly, seems to depend on the extent to which national SDG implementation planning promotes national policy coherence. Effective SDG co-ordination mechanisms promote coherence between the SDGs and national development priorities by using the national priorities as the point of reference. In this way, these mechanisms draw on the localising thrust of the 2030 Agenda itself, in terms of which it seeks to take into account “different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities”.

According to an analysis of 43 Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) submitted to the 2017 High-Level Political Forum, a large group of countries – thirdly – views inclusive co-ordination mechanisms as a good practice. Since the adoption of the SDGs, countries have developed a relatively large variety of institutional co-ordination mechanisms. The body that co-ordinates Thailand’s implementation of the SDGs convenes a collection of institutions that represent the public and private sector, academia and civil society. Brazil’s advisory body consists of sixteen representatives from the federal, state, district and municipality levels of government, as well as representatives from the private sector, civil society and academia.

The capacity for effective communication is identified as a fourth good practice. A key task of national SDG co-ordination mechanisms is effectively communicating with its stakeholders. This includes, importantly, ensuring the regular and transparent flow of relevant information to both government and non-government actors. In terms of government departments, both horizontal and vertical communication channels should be established. The former refers to communication to national line departments, whereas the latter refers to communication to government departments on provincial and local levels.

A fifth emerging good practice is the establishment of reporting mechanisms to ensure accountability to stakeholders, over and above VNRs. These mechanisms ideally include both data and qualitative assessments on progress and challenges. A particularly interesting case in this regard is the mechanism that Germany established to enable the peer review of its Sustainability Strategy. Parliaments have an important role to play in ensuring domestic sustainability.

Lastly, it is clear that a truly effective national co-ordination mechanism cannot be effective without an adequate budget. Building on the good practices outlined above, funding for at least co-ordination, stakeholder engagement, policy coherence initiatives, communication and reporting needs to be considered.

Distilling features of effective SDG co-ordination mechanisms will remain an incomplete exercise, as synthesising data from existing reports is a subjective process and developmental contexts differ. Yet, based on the available literature, these six features of effective SDG co-ordination mechanisms point the way forward for SDG co-ordination mechanisms.

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