CEPA 18 Discusses Implementing Governance Principles for SDGs
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The ‘Principles of Effective Governance for Sustainable Development,’ agreed at CEPA 17 and endorsed by ECOSOC in July 2018, are intended to help interested countries to build, on a voluntary basis, effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

During CEPA 18, the Committee considered operationalizing these principles, and heard presentations on governance mechanisms and initiatives from officials from the African Peer Review Mechanism , OECD, INTOSAI and the Praia Group on Governance Statistics.

12 April 2019: The UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) considered the operationalization of the 11 ‘Principles of Effective Governance for Sustainable Development’ during its 18th session. It also heard presentations on governance mechanisms and initiatives at the regional and global levels, such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) Development Initiative (IDI).

The Principles of Effective Governance for Sustainable Development, agreed at CEPA 17 and endorsed by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July 2018, are intended to help interested countries to build, on a voluntary basis, effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Developed by CEPA, the principles take into account different governance structures, national realities, capacities and levels of development, and respect national policies and priorities. They apply to all public institutions, including the administration of executive and legislative organs, the security and justice sectors, independent constitutional bodies and State corporations.

The principles are:

  • effectiveness: i) competence; ii) sound policy making; and iii) collaboration;
  • accountability: iv) integrity, v) transparency and vi) independent oversight; and
  • inclusiveness: vii) leaving no one behind, viii) non-discrimination, ix) participation, x) subsidiarity and xi) intergenerational equity.

During its meeting on 10 April, the Committee considered a note titled, ‘Relating the Principles of Effective Governance for Sustainable Development to Practices and Results,’ prepared by the UN Secretariat in collaboration with Committee members. Among other elements, the note comprises a draft framework for guidance on commonly used strategies to address important governance challenges, and refers to a list of strategies linked to the 11 principles. It also outlines a preliminary selection of the SDG global indicators related to the principles.

Addressing participants by video link, José Agusto Briones, Secretary General of the Presidency, Ecuador, noted that Ecuador is committed to operationalize the principles of effective governance and to forge partnerships. He said the country intends to be a pioneer in strengthening public institutions, has incorporated the SDGs in its national planning, and translated the adoption of the 2030 Agenda into state policy.

Commenting from the floor, CEPA members highlighted the need to raise awareness of the principles, including through education, and to promote ownership of the principles and their indicators. Some remarked that “cascading” the principles to the country level could be an appropriate way to proceed. Some also noted that “pressure” from civil society and other stakeholders could be needed to encourage governments to implement the principles, stressing the need to hold governments accountable. Many raised the current issue of politicizing the public service, which some qualified as a “dangerous trend that is not helping citizens’ trust in their public institutions.” A CEPA member said the Committee could promote public integrity codes and public ethics plans.

The indicator on measuring illicit financial flows is the only one remaining Tier 3 SDG 16 indicator.

On governance mechanisms and initiatives developed at the regional and global levels, Sara Hamouda, African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), informed participants that 38 countries have joined the APRM, which seeks to share experiences, reinforce best practices, identify deficiencies and assess capacity-building needs. She said the Mechanism has conducted 23 peer reviews. Hamouda noted that the review process conducted by the Mechanism includes: a deep analysis of a country’s cross-cutting issues; a country visit and consultation with national stakeholders; the preparation of a report that is checked for data accuracy by the government concerned; the submission of the report to Heads of State and Government through the APRM Secretariat; and the preparation of a national plan of action.

Hamouda said the African Union’s (AU) Assembly adopted a decision to integrate the APRM as an autonomous entity within the AU system, and to reposition the APRM to play a monitoring and evaluation role in the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the SDGs. On SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) in Africa, she reported that there is not enough official data or statistical capacity at the national level to properly measure progress in a cross-country comparable way. Among other APRM initiatives, she indicated that the Mechanism collaborated with the African Governance Architecture to draft the ‘African Governance Report’ issued in 2019. The report, she said, includes chapters on transformative leadership, the development-governance nexus, peace and security and the role of the Regional Economic Commissions.

Marcos Bonturi, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said the OECD is revising the 2010 ‘Recommendation of the Council on Promoting Good Institutional Practices for Policy Coherence for Development,’ and outlined 14 recommendations related to public governance. He noted that the OECD is preparing a policy framework for sound public governance to ensure that the recommendations are “in sync,” and explained that the framework is based on governance values and enablers, tools for effective and integrated policy design, and evaluation. He also noted the possibility of creating a platform to support tailored capacity building on matters such as institutional coordination, and policies to promote gender equality.

Speaking through video link, Archana Shirsat, Deputy Director General, IDI, said IDI is part of INTOSAI. She said IDI supports supreme audit institutions (SAIs) charged with providing oversight on government activities by providing capacity development. She reported that IDI supported 73 SAIs in different regions of the world on SDG preparedness, of which 47 have completed their audits and 11 have made reports available publicly. She said IDI will also support auditing SDG implementation, and is working on an audit model on which CEPA will be invited to contribute.

Also through video link, an official from the Praia Group on Governance Statistics remarked that measuring progress on the SDGs will be challenging for many countries, especially on Goals that were not included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), due to a lack of investment in national statistics systems. She said the ninth meeting of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) took place from 25-28 March 2019 in Beirut, Lebanon, and reported that there is only one remaining Tier 3 SDG 16 indicator, which is related to measuring illicit financial flows. Tier 3 SDG global indicators are those on which no agreed methodology for measurement are available. She welcomed the ongoing dialogue with CEPA, including on the indicators linked to the principles of effective governance.

CEPA was established by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and comprises 24 members who meet annually at UN Headquarters in New York, US. It convened its 18th session from 8-12 April 2019, focusing on the theme, ‘Building Strong Institutions for Equal and Inclusive Societies,’ in coherence with the themes of the 2019 session of ECOSOC and the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) on empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.

During its session, the Committee also discussed institutional aspects of SDG 16, mainly related to effectiveness, accountability and inclusiveness, as reported here. In addition, it considered topics related to building institutions to promote peaceful and inclusive societies and provide access to justice for all, enhancing the capacity of the public sector in core functional areas of administration and strengthening fiscal management at national and subnational levels. [CEPA 18 Webpage] [CEPA 18 Programme of Work] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on CEPA 18 Discussions on the Institutional Aspects of SDG 16] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on CEPA Preparations] [UN Webcast] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources] [Updated 1 August 2019: Report of CEPA 18 adopted by ECOSOC]

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