SDG Knowledge Weekly: Regional Pathways to Sustainable Development
Photo by IISD/ENB | Sean Wu
story highlights

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) released a report on pathways to SDG achievement in the Asia-Pacific region, prior to the 5th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD).

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) hosted the 30th Regional Seminar on Fiscal Policy and released the report, ‘Fiscal Panorama of Latin America and the Caribbean 2018: Public policy challenges in the framework of the 2030 Agenda’.

The International Peace Institute (IPI) released case studies on countries in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions.

UNICEF published a paper on progress against child-related SDG indicators, finding that Europe has significant data gaps compared to other regions, despite generally continued progress.

In recent weeks, significant attention has been paid to European policies and EU budget reforms. This week’s brief examines reports and events in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) regions. It also reviews a global UNICEF study with regional findings on data for child-related SDG indicators.

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) published a policy report titled, ‘Scoring the Sustainable Development Goals: Pathways for Asia and the Pacific.’ The authors argue that comprehensive institutional reform and more ambitious national-level policies are needed in order to achieve the SDGs’ “transformative potential.” They highlight that not focusing on the “big picture” – instead selecting certain goals or targets to incorporate into national strategies – can lead to the continuation of a siloed approach to SDG implementation, which may result in turf battles. The report then outlines cross-cutting policy approaches for “winning goals” in the region (on resilience, decarbonization, sustainable consumption and production, ecosystem services, pollution, and chemical and waste management), and makes recommendations for stronger governance mechanisms.

Separately, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) convened the 5th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) from 28-30 March 2018, in Bangkok, Thailand, on the theme ‘Transformation Towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies.’ The forum served as a regional preparatory meeting for the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), to be convened at UN headquarters in New York in July, under the same theme. A joint report by the same title was released by ESCAP, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and UN Development Programme (UNDP). It takes stock of risks in the Asia-Pacific region to elucidate human systems’ vulnerabilities, highlights resilience’s presence across the SDG framework and outlines how to build various capacities (anticipatory, adaptive, absorptive, and transformative) to mitigate risk. Daily APFSD coverage by IISD Reporting Services is here, a write-up on the SDG Knowledge Hub is here, an APFSD press release on the conclusion of the forum is here, and a Devex write-up on resilience in the Asia-Pacific region is also available.

The ADB released a working paper by Ulrich Volz, SOAS University of London, on achieving sustainable development pathways through green finance, which is still a niche market in the region. The paper, titled, ‘Fostering Green Finance for Sustainable Development in Asia,’ delves into financial governance in the region and reviews the state of Asian banks’ and institutional investors’ current lending practices. To improve on current practices, Volz makes recommendations around sustainability disclosure, environmental risk analysis and internalization, harnessing public funding, and directing finance through policies such as green lending requirements and quotas.

Pivoting to sustainable development finance in the LAC region, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) convened the 30th Regional Seminar on Fiscal Policy from 26-27 March 2018, in Santiago, Chile. Coinciding with the seminar, ECLAC launched a report, titled, ‘Fiscal Panorama of Latin America and the Caribbean 2018: Public policy challenges in the framework of the 2030 Agenda.’ The report focuses on SDG target 17.1 (domestic resource mobilization) and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). It calls attention to public revenue and spending trends, and notes obstacles such as tax systems’ weak redistributive capacity and high economic inequality in the region. Against a context of increasing gross public debt despite reductions in public spending and upticks in economic activity, the report illustrates taxation alternatives and tax policy reforms that can accelerate progress towards a selected set of seven SDGs. An ECLAC press release on the report is also available.

Looking ahead, ECLAC will convene the second meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development from 18-20 April 2018, in Santiago, Chile. Its conclusions will be submitted to the HLPF. The Forum was established at ECLAC’s 36th session, held in May 2016, as a regional follow-up and review mechanism for implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Addis Ababa Action Agenda. A preview announcement of the forum is on the meeting’s special website, and an article on the region’s efforts to implement SDGs, featuring ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena, is available on Devex.

Reviewing sustainable development in the Middle East, Mona Christophersen zooms in on Lebanon in a report released by the International Peace Institute (IPI). The paper, titled, ‘Pursuing Sustainable Development under Sectarianism in Lebanon,’ finds that, although “sectarianism is impeding political processes in Lebanon, the SDGs can provide an opportunity” to make progress in a range of areas. To accelerate such progress and work towards SDG attainment, the authors identify several priority areas for reform, including: the country’s governance system, social contracts, transparency and inclusion, and education. The report is part of IPI’s SDGs4Peace project, which produces case studies on how countries operationalize the linkages between peace and the SDGs. The project also released a case study on Myanmar, authored by Christophersen and the Fafo Research Foundation’s Svein Erik Stave.

Comparing regions, UNICEF finds in a new report that many European countries lack data on child-related SDG indicators, despite generally being “on track” to meet the Goals. By contrast, sub-Saharan Africa has the most complete data, but appears to be the most “off track” in meeting the targets. The report titled, ‘Progress for Every Child in the SDG Era,’ is the first in UNICEF’s data tracking series, and provides an early assessment of national-level progress towards 44 child-related indicators. It examines progress through five dimensions of children’s rights, which in turn are mapped to the SDGs: 1) survive and thrive (SDGs 2 and 3 on hunger and health); 2) learning (SDG 4 on education); 3) protection from violence (SDGs 5, 8 and 16 on gender, labor and peaceful societies); 4) life in a safe and clean environment (SDGs 1, 3, 6, 7 and 13 on poverty, health, clean water and sanitation services, energy sources, and climate); and 5) a fair chance in life (SDG 1 on poverty eradication). Individual country profiles show the data gathered, and the report’s executive summary is available here. Mark Hereward describes UNICEF’s methodology in a blog that distills how to “translate the vastness of the SDGs” into a language that non-experts can understand.

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.


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