Experts Prepare to Discuss Institutions for Inclusive Societies at CEPA 18
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The 18th session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration will convene from 8-12 April 2019.

In preparation for the meeting, the UN has issued documents on: progress on institutional aspects of SDG 16 related to access to information, transparency, participation and accountability; principles of effective governance for sustainable development; and building institutions to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, among other topics.

Committee members are expected to hear a presentation from the UN Secretariat on preparations for the July and September 2019 sessions of the HLPF, and have invited a number of 2019 VNR countries to present their progress on institutional aspects of SDG 16.

1 April 2019: The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) issued a series of organizational documents and substantive reports in preparation for the 18th session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA 18). The session will consider the theme, ‘Building Strong Institutions for Equal and Inclusive Societies,’ in line with the theme of the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) on ‘Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality.’ It will also discuss SDG 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions), which is one of the Goals being reviewed in-depth during this year’s HLPF.

CEPA 18 will convene from 8-12 April 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. According to the session’s programme of work, Committee members will hear a presentation from the UN Secretariat on preparations for the July and September 2019 sessions of the HLPF. They are also expected to: take stock of progress on the institutional aspects of SDG 16; discuss effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels; identify and assess emerging challenges; and recommend further policy actions. In this context, the programme notes that a number of the countries scheduled to present Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) during the 2019 HLPF have been invited by the Committee to present their progress on institutional aspects of SDG 16.

CEPA 18 also will revisit the 11 “principles of effective governance for sustainable development,” which were agreed at CEPA 17 and endorsed by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in resolution E/RES/2018/12 of July 2018. The 11 principles are intended to help interested countries, on a voluntary basis, to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They are: i) competence, ii) sound policy-making, iii) collaboration (Effectiveness); iv) integrity, v) transparency and vi) independent oversight (Accountability); vii) leaving no one behind, viii) non-discrimination, ix) participation, x) subsidiarity and xi) intergenerational equity (Inclusiveness).

Discussions will aim to identify and review technical guidelines to operationalize these principles. Per the programme, the Committee also will consider linking the principles with related work on SDG indicators to help interested governments gauge the extent of effective governance for sustainable development at national and subnational levels. It will also discuss underlying issues in promoting security and access to justice for all and ways to support the institution-building in these areas.

In preparation for these discussions, the UN Secretariat, in collaboration with some Committee experts, issued a note titled, ‘Relating the principles of effective governance for sustainable development to practices and results.’ 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 includes a section on linking the principles to the SDG global indicator framework, and states that the framework could constitute a useful tool for assessing progress, trends and gaps in building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. It also outlines a preliminary selection of the global indicators relating to the principles of effective governance.

The note calls on the Committee to reflect on whether it would like to contribute any views on the global SDG indicator framework in the lead-up to its 2020 comprehensive review. Per the note, the comprehensive review of the global SDG indicator framework will include open consultations taking place between May and July 2019 to discuss the preliminary list of possible deletions, replacements, adjustments and additions of indicators.

Also in advance of CEPA 18, in preparation for its discussion of progress on the institutional aspects of SDG 16, the UN Secretariat prepared a note titled, ‘Progress on institutional aspects of Sustainable Development Goal 16: access to information, transparency, participation and accountability.’ The report takes stock of national developments on selected institutional principles highlighted within the targets of SDG 16: transparency, inclusive and participatory decision-making, and accountability. The note also discusses challenges related to defining and measuring progress on these principles. An SDG Knowledge Hub summary of this note is available here.

Other preparatory documents include a paper drafted by CEPA members titled, ‘Building institutions to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and provide access to justice for all.’ The paper considers underlying issues in promoting access to security and justice for all, including in relation to peacebuilding. It analyzes successes and shortcomings of past security sector reform programmes and initiatives in countries, and includes a set of recommendations on ways to support SDG 16. It also discusses, inter alia: contemporary approaches to security and justice; learning from the failures of justice reforms; and approaches for a way forward.

The authors note that while the review of the UN peacebuilding architecture highlighted some important successes in approaches to peacebuilding, it showed that the UN was far less successful in turning short-term gains of stopping violence into longer-term peacebuilding. According to that review, it says, these shortcomings are the result of factors such as a silo approach coupled with short-term solutions, a poor understanding of peacebuilding, and an unwillingness to reach beyond States and to engage with civil society and non-State entities and actors.

CEPA is responsible for supporting the work of ECOSOC concerning the promotion and development of public administration and governance among UN Member States, notably in support of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs. The Committee was established by ECOSOC and comprises 24 members who meet annually at UN Headquarters in New York. [CEPA 18 Webpage]

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