Canada's Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development released the first audit report of a national government's preparedness to implement the SDGs.
The report shows that the Canadian federal government still needs to develop a governance structure, implementation plan, and system to measure, monitor and report progress in domestic SDG implementation.
Similar audit reports will be released by Supreme Audit Organizations of up to 80 countries in the coming months.
24 April 2018: The Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development of Canada’s Office of the General Auditor has released a report on Canada’s preparedness to implement the SDGs. The audit concludes that the Canadian federal government is not adequately prepared to implement the SDGs because, at the end of the audit, no governance structure, implementation plan or system to measure, monitor and report progress were in place.
To implement the SDGs domestically, national governments must not only take direct action, but also support implementation by other actors including cities, local communities, business and civil society organization, and develop a system to measure, monitor and report on progress. To assess – or audit – whether national governments are taking the necessary steps to fulfill these responsibilities, the International Organization of Supreme Audit Organizations (INTOSAI) developed a framework, and more than 80 audit organizations committed to performing such assessments. The audit for Canada based on the INTOSAI framework was presented by Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Julie Gelfand, who is part of Canada’s office of the Auditor General.
The audit report titled, ‘Canada’s Preparedness to Implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,’ concludes that the Canadian federal government is not adequately prepared to implement the SDGs. According to the report, at the end of the audit period in November 2017, no governance structure for implementation or implementation plan existed, only limited national consultations and engagements had occurred, and no system to measure, monitor and report on national progress was in place. However, the report notes that Canada’s federal budget, published after the audit concluded, provides for the establishment of an SDG Unit to support coordination of SDG implementation, and support for Statistics Canada to expand monitoring and reporting activities relating to SDG implementation.
On federal leadership, the report recommends:
- Establishing a federal governance structure that clearly articulates roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities of other responsible and accountable federal organizations;
- Developing an inclusive communications plan and engagement strategy to raise awareness of the SDGs, and consult and engage other levels of government and Canadians, including measures to report the results of consultations and take them into account when establishing national targets; and
- Establishing and communicating an implementation plan to achieve national targets and the SDGs in Canada, including: clearly defined and attributed accountabilities for involved federal organizations; provisions for effective cooperation with other levels of government and with relevant stakeholders; clear national targets; coherent actions, which will collectively achieve the national targets; and a system for measuring results and for monitoring and reporting national progress in SDG implementation.
The report further recommends that lead federal organizations and departments should analyze the extent to which their policies and programmes could contribute to SDG implementation in Canada, in order to set realistic targets and identify policy and programme gaps.
In ‘The Commissioner’s Perspective’ published by the Office of the Auditor General, Julie Gelfand concludes that three years after Canada committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda the audit shows that “Canada has yet to complete some of the fundamentals—such as establishing a governance structure and plan—to position itself to deliver on this international commitment.”
The report on Canada’s readiness to implement the SDGs is the first of a series of national audits in different countries expected to be released in the coming months. In early 2018, the government of the Netherlands released a report, also aligned with INTOSAI’s framework, finding that the Government needs to focus more on the importance of policy coordination and cooperation between central and local governments, the connection between the SDGs and the national budgetary cycle, and the need to better include SDGs and sustainable development in general in primary and secondary education.
Canada is expected to present its first Voluntary National Review on progress on SDG implementation at the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), taking place in July. To prepare that report and strengthen SDG implementation, Global Affairs Canada recently launched a portal for consultations and laid out its plan for SDG implementation. [Office of the Auditor General of Canada New Release] [Publication: Canada’s Preparedness to Implement the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals] [The Commissioner’s Perspective]