October 2016: Civil society organizations (CSOs) have released publications on data and indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and on means of implementation (MOI) for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The FUNDS Project released a study of the Millennium Development Goals Fund (MDG-F) experience, with lessons learned for the SDGs, while the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) reflected on cities’ role in the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.

The Global Network of Freedom of Information Advocates (FOIAnet) has provided input on indicators for SDG 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels), in particular the indicators for target 16.10, which aims to “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.” FOIAnet suggests ways to reflect implementation in efforts to monitor progress towards this indicator, including by reporting: whether a country has adopted guarantees; the extent to which guarantees align with international standards; and national steps to implement these guarantees.

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) released an article titled ‘Environment is the weakest link in the SDGs indicators.’ The authors find that more of the “Tier 3” indicators (those lacking a methodology) depend on environmental data than other types of data. Eric Zusman, Tetsuro Yoshida and Simon Høiberg Olsen highlight key challenges that have led to poor environmental baselines for measuring progress towards the SDGs: international processes’ shorter track records with environmental data (e.g. the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) only included one goal focused on sustainable development); the complex, costly nature of measuring environmental phenomena; data quality and quantity concerns; and the ways in which environmental data transcend physical and political boundaries. On ways forward at the national level, the article suggests leveraging existing processes to improve data quality and coverage, and investing in capacity building for environmental data.

A second IGES article argues for broader view of MOI for the SDGs, noting that “most SDGs are in fact means themselves.” Moreover, investments needed to meet the SDGs may “seem high in absolute terms,” but not in comparison to gross domestic product (GDP), global financial assets and “the overall expected benefits.” The authors recommend: increasing focus on the interlinkages and synergies among Goals to enhance implementation effectiveness and reduce costs; strengthening capacity for integrated planning and implementation; and prioritizing spending for capacity building.

Successful implementation of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement depends on making rights visible again and recognizing people as rights holders, not just stakeholders.

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung published a perspective piece by Ken Conca, arguing that successful implementation of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change depends on “making rights visible again and recognizing people as rights holders, not just stakeholders.” He further recommends: evaluating policy initiatives for their extra-territorial, cross-border reach and resulting impacts on local communities; and safeguarding the rights and safety of environmental defenders who challenge governments or transnational economic agents.

On lessons learned from the MDG-F experience, the FUNDS Project released a study by Stephen Browne and Thomas Weiss. The authors recommend designing a new, multi-partner fund under the UN Development Programme (UNDP) or the UN Development Group (UNDG) that adopts several features of the MDG-F, such as empowerment of the UN field system under the resident coordinator (RC), local identification and oversight of projects, joint programming principles and effective monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and knowledge capture. They suggest that this mechanism: assist individual countries in formulating national development strategies and monitor arrangements in line with the SDGs; help UN country teams to assist individual countries; be resourced by partners making multi-year pledges; and governed by a multi-stakeholder steering committee.

Following the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), Paula Lucci, ODI, highlights a growing urban community focused on sustainable urban infrastructure, juxtaposed with limited high-level backing, suggesting that leaders were less focused on the New Urban Agenda than on the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. Lucci also highlights Habitat III’s lack of a monitoring framework, targets and indicators, recommending using the SDGs at the city level, and the limited financing to deliver the New Urban Agenda. [FOIAnet Update] [IGES Article on Environmental Indicators] [IGES Article on MOI] [Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Publication] [Supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Lessons from the MDG-F] [ODI Blog]