18 July 2017
Colombia, Finland Highlight Ways to Maintain Momentum on SDGs
Photo by IISD | Lynn Wagner
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Colombia and Finland presented their progress on SDG implementation since their 2016 Voluntary National Reviews, highlighting approaches they have taken to maintain the momentum for the SDGs.

Satu Santala, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland, noted that while Finland and Colombia are different, they face similar implementation challenges, including on: engaging stakeholders in a meaningful way; breaking down silos; and ensuring timely data collection and availability.

14 July 2017: During a side event of the 2017 session of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), Colombia and Finland presented their progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation since their 2016 Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). Both countries highlighted approaches they have taken to maintain momentum for the SDGs.

Finland and Colombia organized the event titled ‘One Year after the VNR: How did Colombia and Finland Keep the Momentum in Boosting Action for Sustainable Development?’, which took place on 14 July 2017 at UN Headquarters in New York, US. The event took place one year after an HLPF side event co-hosted by the two countries on sharing good practices on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

María Emma Mejía, Permanent Representative of Colombia, remarked that Finland and Colombia have been cooperating on SDGs at the political and expert levels since 2015. Claudia Vasquez, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombia, provided an overview of initiatives undertaken by Colombia to address SDG challenges. On measurement, she said Colombia carried out an assessment of available information for the SDG global indicators and found information was available for 54% of the indicators, while 16% of indicators had no data or methodology defined. Vasquez added that her government organized 15 workshops with government entities to define and prioritize indicators to include in Colombia’s monitoring mechanism and undertook a prioritization exercise to focus on results-based indicators. She also noted preparation of a work plan to improve or define methodologies for the SDG indicators for which no information is available and the development of a National Statistical Plan.

Vasquez said that all 63 local development plans reviewed by Colombia’s National Planning Department had incorporated the SDGs.

On SDG implementation at the sub-national level, Vasquez said local governments in Colombia have a direct impact on the implementation of 110 out of the of the 169 SDG targets. She said the “Territorial Toolkit,” a policy instrument for local government planning, includes a chapter on the SDGs. Vasquez reported that all of the 63 local development plans (32 in departments and 31 in main cities) selected by the National Planning Department to analyze the toolkit’s efficiency had incorporated the SDGs. She stressed the need to prioritize SDGs according to the sub-national level realities.

On policy coherence, Vasquez said the Government of Colombia recognized an opportunity to position the SDGs as an “integrating axis” of all international and national agendas, noting, for instance, that 68 SDG targets are related to the Colombia Peace Agreement, and 92 targets are integrated in Colombia’s National Development Plan. She said her country is in the final stage of designing a long-term policy framework to be part of a National Council for Economic and Social Policy (CONPES) document, which will include information on monitoring and reporting, statistics, strategies to support local authorities on implementation, and stakeholder participation.

Vasquez identified the participation of all stakeholders in SDG implementation as Colombia’s biggest challenge. She reported that Colombia is launching a pilot project to measure the private sector’s contribution to the SDGs in four cities (Bogotá, Cali, Medellin, and Barranquilla), and is planning, in collaboration with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), four regional meetings with civil society in the second semester of 2017. Colombia is also working with the Government of Sweden on the creation of a web portal containing information for each SDG and target, including regional disaggregation, and 
SDG implementation related information.

Annika Lindblom, Secretary-General, Finland’s National Commission on Sustainable Development, stressed the importance of communication for SDG implementation and maintaining momentum. She said that, according to the Eurobarometer, 73% of the Finnish population has some knowledge of sustainable development, including on the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda.

Lindblom said, since the 2016 VNR, Finland has adopted an implementation plan for the 2030 Agenda, which the Parliament approved on 2 February 2017. The plan includes focus areas (carbon neutral and resources wise Finland; non discriminating, equal and competent Finland) and policy principles (long-term action and transformation, policy coherence and global partnership, ownership and participation) that go beyond the current term of the Parliament. The plan also addresses: follow-up and review; and “resources, coordination and responsibility of administrative branches for implementation.” On follow-up and review, Lindblom said: the government reports to the Parliament annually, and the Parliament gives recommendations to the government and Ministries; her country hosted the event ‘The state and future of Sustainable Development in Finland;’ and Finland will report every four years to the HLPF, with the next VNR scheduled for 2020.

On participation, Lindblom described the Finnish ‘Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development’ – an approach that includes a vision and eight shared objectives and that incorporates operational commitments from various organizations – as the most important tool for Finnish society to engage in the 2030 Agenda. She reported that the commitments have tripled in one year, amounting to 700 operational commitments to date. She also informed that Finland established the Youth 2030 Agenda Group, which comprises 20 young people from different regions and backgrounds.

Lindblom noted that stakeholders from civil society, business, and the research community were involved in the definition of SDG indicators, and the follow-up and review system is anchored in the eight objectives of the ‘Society’s Commitment.’ The system is composed of ten indicator “baskets,” each of which contains four to five indicators to be updated once a year, based on inputs from authorities and the public. A monitoring platform will be made available on the sustainable development website of the Prime Minister’s office (kestavakehitys.fi).

Satu Santala, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland, said that while Finland and Colombia are different, they face similar implementation challenges, including on: engaging stakeholders in a meaningful way; breaking down silos; and ensuring timely data collection and availability. She later reflected on the session, noting the importance of the VNRs, learning between countries and moving from a whole-of-government approach to a whole-of-society approach to maintain momentum for implementation. She further highlighted the importance of integrating the 2030 Agenda in national planning and of strong engagement from parliaments, the private sector, civil society, youth groups, and other actors. On measurement, data collection and availability, she suggested starting with what is available in the country and making improvements “as the country is moving along.”

During a question and answer session, moderated by two youth delegates, Ilmi Salminen, Finland, and Sajith Wijesuriya, Sri Lanka, participants discussed institutional fragmentation, policy coherence in governments, limited financial and capacity resources for implementation, and engagement with the private sector and parliaments, among other topics.

Presentations from the 44 countries that have volunteered for the VNRs are taking place at the HLPF from 17-19 July 2017. [Meeting Webpage] [HLPF 2017 Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Finland Reporting to Parliament on SDG Implementation] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on 2016 Event on Sharing Good Practices Between Colombia and Finland on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda] [IISD Coverage of HLPF 2017] [IISD Sources]

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