Peer Reviewers Highlight Recommendations for Germany’s SD Strategy
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

A team of independent experts shared insights from a peer review of Germany’s national sustainable development strategy.

The Strategy is Germany’s main framework for implementing the SDGs, and it includes SDG progress as an indicator.

Marianne Beisheim, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, noted that half of the Strategy’s indicators are off track; although the process is unique, it hasn’t yet delivered results.

12 July 2018: A team of independent experts shared insights from a peer review of Germany’s national sustainable development strategy, which was conducted at the midway point between Germany’s voluntary national review presentation in 2016 and its planned subsequent VNR in 2021.

The discussion took place at a side event hosted by the Permanent Mission of Germany in New York, US, on 12 July 2018, on the sidelines of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The government of Germany invited a group of international experts to conduct a substantive review of its 2016 Sustainable Development Strategy. As noted by Christoph Heusgen, Permanent Representative of Germany, the Strategy is Germany’s main framework for implementing the SDGs, and it includes SDG progress as an indicator.

The peer review was facilitated by the German Council for Sustainable Development, and the review group was chaired by Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and former Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and also experts from Belgium, China, Canada, France, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland and the UK. Following consultations in Germany in early 2018, the peer review group released a report with recommendations on improving the Strategy, as well as Germany’s implementation of the 2030 Agenda. They delivered the report to Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany, in June 2018.

When the group presented its findings to Merkel, she expressed a need to address an “existential angst” in Germany’s society.

Addressing participants at the side event, Clark stressed that “what Germany does matters to the world,” given its size and scale, its leading role in advancing sustainable development, and its “legacy issue” of a carbon-based economy. Clark reported that the peer reviewers found that the indicators within the Strategy should be better communicated to the public, it should have a higher level of ambition, the government should take further action on sustainable supply chains, and it should ensure education on sustainability at every level, so that everyone understands the consequences of their decisions. She also stressed Germany’s need for “social solidarity” in order to leave no one behind within the country. Clark recommended the peer review practice to all countries, to strengthen their national strategies and implementation.

Adolfo Arroso, Office of Mexican Presidency, said that in Germany the reviewers saw how hard it is to put the 2030 Agenda into action. Jan-Gustav Strandenaes, independent researcher, adviser and consultant, said the peer review invited by Germany is the only one of its kind in the world, but every country could benefit from such a process. Strandenaes stressed that leaving no one behind is not charity; he recalled that when the group presented its findings to Merkel, she expressed a need to address an “existential angst” in Germany’s society.

Moderating the discussion, Marianne Beisheim, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, noted that half of the Strategy’s indicators are off track; although the process is unique, it hasn’t yet delivered results.

Reflecting on the consultation process for the peer review, Farooq Ullah, Centre for Development Results, said it would have benefited from greater racial diversity. To make further progress on sustainable development, he emphasized that Germany should enact a new set of action plans to “cascade” the National Strategy down to departments and give them ownership over each part, “without constraining innovation,” and this should be coordinated at a high level of leadership, and included in budgeting processes. Finally, Ullah said that a country will “struggle very hard to achieve the first 15 Goals, if you don’t have SDGs 16 and 17 as prerequisites.”

Clark echoed the need for a clear action plan at the departmental level, “particularly in areas where things are off track,” and suggested charging the ministers with achieving results. She said that when a strategy is good, but the indicators are off track, it implies a need at the institutional level. This need could be addressed through benchmarks, increased ambition, and accountability via parliament and national auditing institutions.

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany’s former Minister for Development Cooperation, and a member of the German Council for Sustainable Development, gave remarks as well. She stressed the need for the government to address its off-track indicators, expressing support for anchoring sustainable development in national constitutions, and to make the HLPF more focused, with the ability to make decisions, through the 2019 review. She also highlighted governments’ responsibility to mobilize finances for sustainable development, cautioning against using ODA funds for refugee needs.

Stefan Contius, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, noted that the EU still does not have a European sustainable development strategy, but the incoming Commission may provide a better opportunity to advance one.

In an interactive discussion, participants asked about reconciling strategies at national and sub-national levels, and merging targets from various international agreements into policy and schedules, among other topics. [IISD Sources] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on Report of Peer Review] [SDG Knowledge Hub coverage of HLPF 2018]


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