SDG Knowledge Weekly: Transparency and Accountability in the 2030 Agenda
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Transparency International published a paper on corruption and the SDGs in Afghanistan.

Australia’s National Sustainable Development Council previewed a baseline assessment of country progress at the 2018 Australian SDGs Summit.

Other recently released, accountability-related tools and reports addressed gender, agriculture and finance.

This week’s brief looks at a number of tools and approaches that seek to drive transparency and accountability in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Recently announced resources approach transparency and accountability through the lenses of corruption, gender equality, agriculture, and financing for sustainable development. This brief also reviews recent releases on the monitoring and review process for the SDGs.

The SDGs acknowledge that corruption can be a hindrance to sustainable development, with target 16.5 calling for the substantial reduction of the practice, as well as bribery in all forms. Transparency International’s Marie Chene writes on Medium that civil society actors and activists can monitor corruption using alternative indicators and data sources, which also chart corruption’s impacts on SDG achievement. She also highlights the role of civil society actors in increasing accountability through peer reviews of countries’ Voluntary National Review (VNR) reports, which are submitted to the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), and conducting parallel reviews and shadow reports that complement—and potentially challenge—countries’ official VNRs.

Transparency International released one such country-level “shadow report” for Afghanistan. The report titled, ‘Policy, SDGs and Fighting Corruption for the People: A civil society report on Afghanistan’s Sustainable Development Goals,’ builds on a series of analyses conducted in 2017, which uses a common methodology to examine country progress towards SDG 16. Looking particularly at SDG targets 16.4 (reduce illicit financial and arms flows), 16.5 (substantially reduce corruption and bribery) and 16.10 (ensure public access to information), the report outlines how corruption negatively impacts on development through poor service provision and insecurity. It highlights Afghanistan’s progress on these thress targets, such as anti-money laundering efforts and the establishment of institutions to protect against corruption, but flags that, in practice, there is an implementation gap and low inclusion of civil society in anti-corruption legislation. A Transparency International press release is available.

Also on target 16.4, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) announced a new initiative to measure illicit financial flows in Africa during the 49th session of the UN Statistical Commission, which was held from 6-9 March on the theme, ‘Better Data, Better Lives.’ The SDG Knowledge Hub’s story on that session’s discussion of the SDG indicators is here.

Turning to gender and accountability, as covered on the SDG Knowledge Hub, the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation, in partnership with Women Deliver and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), launched the ‘Practice Guide to Auditing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Gender Equality’ on the sidelines of the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 62), which is currently convening in New York. The guide reviews international commitments to gender equality and supports supreme audit institutions (SAIs) by developing an approach to ensure accountability and institutions’ meeting their commitments.

In the boardroom, BlackRock recently sent letters to 367 companies that have fewer than two female board members, asking these companies to justify the gender imbalance, Bloomberg has reported.

At the regional level and on agriculture-related SDGs, a research article in Sustainability informs the development of a “composite baseline index of the agriculture-related SDGs in Southern Africa to guide progress reporting.” The paper summarizes agriculture’s presence across the SDG framework, and uses data for eight indicators under five SDGs (1, 2, 6, 7 and 15) to develop the index for 13 southern African countries for which data on all indicators were available. The authors note that, in the face of data limitations and constraints, the results may be used to ensure accountability in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as a range of national investments and commitments prioritize agricultural developments. Further, the index can be used to track progress towards implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

On monitoring and accountability in the context of the broader 2030 Agenda, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) published the collaborative report titled, ‘Progressing National SDG Implementation: An Independent Assessment of the Voluntary National Review Reports Submitted to the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in 2017.’ The report aims to strengthen accountability by highlighting best practices in reporting, as well as gaps (notably around data). Highlights of the paper’s launch event and a detailed summary of the report by contributing author Nathalie Risse are available on the SDG Knowledge Hub.

A baseline of Australia’s SDG progress has been developed, with a dashboard to track 72 targets and 133 indicators.

The above knowledge products all point to the importance of transparency and data availability. These two pillars have been the focus of Australia’s approach to SDG implementation, as highlighted by Lisa Cornish on Devex. The 2018 Australian SDGs Summit was convened on 13 March 2018, in Melbourne. Previewed during the event, a baseline assessment of Australia’s progress towards the SDGs uses four methods to create a dashboard examining trends for 72 targets and 133 indicators. The document is being developed by the National Sustainable Development Council with the Monash Sustainable Development Institute and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). With robust data and publicized findings, interested stakeholders can track the status of their priority goals, and become increasingly empowered to hold their governments accountable when progress is lacking.

On finance and accountability, Eurodad’s María José Romero writes on UNCTAD’s Investment Policy Hub that public-private partnerships (PPPs) will be less favored than standard public procurement processes if there is increased transparency about their costs. Although PPPs increasingly are used to finance development projects and can enable cross-sector collaboration, the cost of “capital, profit expectations by the private partners and transaction costs associated with the negotiation of complex PPP contracts” can detract from cost efficacy. The blog suggests that PPPs’ accounting practices can create a false narrative in governments’ balance sheets, and calls for increased transparency around PPPs and the disclosure of their long-term fiscal implications.

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

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