Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)3 May 2016: A group of NGOs made recommendations for the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and a multi-level review system. Other recent contributions from civil society organizations and researchers include: the results of Together 2030’s Perceptions Survey; a brief on the synergies between development goals and climate action; a report on wetlands and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and a critique of the inaugural UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Forum on Financing for Development (FfD) follow-up (FfD Forum).

UN Member States should report to the HLPF every five years, similar to reporting to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), argues the Major Group of NGOs in its position paper submitted to the 2016 HLPF. It recommends that the HLPF hold all States accountable to setting aside requisite financial resources for domestic achievement of the SDGs, and for States’ efforts to assist other States to achieve the SDGs through means of implementation (MOI). Also on MOI, the paper highlights concerns about the “privatization of the sustainable development agenda,” saying criteria are needed to ensure that private sector intervention is in line with the public interest. On finance and investments, the paper calls for a “fair global economic and financial system,” including improved regulation of conduit banks and derivatives to address the illegal flow of capital and harmful tax competition, tax evasion and avoidance, as well as a shift in investments, a redesign of finance mechanisms, tax reform and proper regulation of economic and trade systems. The paper also addresses, inter alia: political will to change power relations and address collective interests, inequality and limits on the accumulation of extreme wealth; policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD); overexploitation of natural resources; and indicators.

Together 2030 also addresses the follow-up and review system, calling for four elements to guide the establishment of a multi-level review system. A position paper titled ‘Essential Elements for an ambitious, inclusive and participatory follow up and review of the 2030 Agenda’ presents recommendations for addressing: participation and inclusion; policy coherence, integration and interlinkages; clear processes and mechanisms of reporting and review; and support for implementing these processes. At the national level, Together 2030 discusses the preparation of voluntary country reports for the HLPF and the process of periodic national review. At the regional level, the paper argues that the regional level should reinforce “weak spots in the review architecture,” aspects that are not addressed in global or national reviews, as well as promote coherence, support trend analysis, and coordination of regional positions, among other recommendations. On a global review through the HLPF, the paper suggests all countries volunteer for at least three national reviews, with reviews at the HLPF involving meaningful discussion of each country’s report (rather than only presentations), and resulting in agreed action points.

Together 2030 also released the findings of its Perceptions Survey, highlighting that awareness about the 2030 Agenda does not translate into awareness about national plans. Survey respondents had a good level of awareness about the 2030 Agenda, the group finds, but lacked knowledge about implementation plans in their countries. The majority of respondents was unaware about their respective country’s process for preparing national reviews, and lacked information about how to engage in the review or influence the government on national implementation. Other findings highlight: the importance of language in access to information and participation opportunities, with English respondents showing greater awareness; and a desire to participate in national reviews via online or face-to-face consultations.

On development and climate synergies, Leo Horn-Phathanothai, World Resources Institute (WRI), writes that “delivering on the SDGs and climate objectives will require a mindset of partnership between two [separate] professional and policy communities” and economic transformation through local initiatives, risk taking, learning by doing and making course-corrections along the way. In a brief titled ‘Bridging Development Goals and Climate Action,’ he argues that “policy options exist to deliver on climate objectives while also advancing development,” but earlier cost-benefit analyses underestimated the co-benefits of climate action. Such co-benefits include synergies in forest management, energy security and infrastructure development, he writes. He stresses that countries at all levels of income have the opportunity to reconcile economic growth and climate goals.

Wetlands International highlights the links between the conservation and restoration of wetlands and the SDGs, underscoring that seven SDGs impact and are affected by wetlands (Goals 1, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15). ‘Act Now on Wetlands for Agenda 2030’ highlights the range of benefits provided by wetlands, and showcases innovative approaches to wetland conservation and restoration, making the case for increased investment in wetlands by governments, the private sector and others.

On financing, Ranja Sengupta and Bhumika Muchhala, Third World Network (TWN), argue that the first FfD Forum, which took place in April 2016, “witnessed a dismal performance” and failed to reach a substantive, intergovernmentally agreed outcome that lays a foundation for an effective review process for FfD outcomes and MOI for the 2030 Agenda. They highlight several contentious issues in negotiations, including on capacity development, official development assistance (ODA) commitments, the Global Infrastructure Forum (GIF), reference to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Doha Development Round, and illicit financial flows. [Major Groups Position Paper for HLPF 2016] [Publication: Essential Elements for an ambitious, inclusive and participatory follow up and review of the 2030 Agenda] [Publication: Together 2030: Perception Survey on Agenda 2030 National Reviews for HLPF 2016] [Publication: Bridging Development Goals and Climate Action] [Wetlands International Press Release] [TWN Website]