P4R Examines Whole-of-Government, Whole-of-Society Approaches in 2030 Agenda Reviews
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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P4R, a transnational multi-stakeholder network that seeks to help develop effective global and national review and accountability mechanisms for achieving the SDGs, issued papers of the whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches.

The paper on the whole-of-government approach investigates specific experiences in implementing the whole-of-government approach as part of the 2030 Agenda.

The paper on the whole-of-society approach analyzes participation of non-State actors in the 2030 Agenda review process at the national level, and explores ways to make participation meaningful.

March 2019: A discussion paper released by Partners for Review (P4R) on the whole-of-government approach notes that to sustain impetus for implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, efforts need to go beyond merely creating an institutional framework. It calls for the creation of new dynamics for collaboration throughout policy cycles, across sectors and between levels of government. Prior to the publication, P4R issued a paper focusing on the whole-of-society approach.

Authored by Karina Cazarez-Grageda, the paper titled, ‘The Whole of Government Approach: Initial Lessons Concerning National Coordinating Structures for the 2030 Agenda and How Review can Improve their Operation,’ investigates specific experiences in implementing the whole-of-government approach as part of the 2030 Agenda, and explores how review processes can help countries improve policy coherence, among other benefits. The paper was based mainly on interviews with members of the P4R network, including representatives from eight countries (Belize, Finland, Georgia, Guatemala, Jordan, Mongolia, Switzerland and Uganda) and from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Per the paper, released in March 2019, a whole-of-government approach implies that various parts of the government work together to facilitate synergies, manage trade-offs and avoid or minimize negative spill-overs, in line with the “indivisible economic, social and environmental pillars” of the 2030 Agenda. Throughout its chapters, the paper: describes the main characteristics of some existing coordinating structures involved in implementing and reviewing the 2030 Agenda; identifies entry points for participation in the review process by parliamentarians, sub-national government representatives and non-governmental actors; provides examples of country experiences in integrating the whole-of-government approach; and investigates whether the voluntary national review (VNR) process has changed working and coordination dynamics at the national level. VNRs were called for in the 2030 Agenda to facilitate the sharing of national experiences on SDG implementation, and are presented yearly at the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) when it is convened by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) each July.

Meaningful participation demands transparency, commitment and accountability.

The paper defines “review” as a process in which different stakeholders are engaged in a joint assessment of progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda. Based on the results of the study, the paper outlines the benefits of reviews, including in terms of: tackling structural and functional limitations that may hamper continuous and coherent implementation and review of the 2030 Agenda; improving the operation and coherence of individual coordinating structures; making government actors aware of the 2030 Agenda; defining roles and functions for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda within government; and creating a space for engaging parliamentarians as they often approve new strategies and management changes that can impact SDG achievement, such as aligning national budgets with the SDGs.

On the impact of VNRs at the country level, the paper reports that:

  • In countries such as Guatemala and Finland, VNRs helped to make the “whole of government” and the “whole of society” aware of the countries’ strengths and weaknesses in implementing the 2030 Agenda;
  • The VNR consultative process enabled some governments to identify needs to raise awareness, both within and outside government, and needs related to capacity strengthening to boost implementation;
  • VNRs helped governments: focus their awareness-raising efforts; show civil society how their work could help achieve the 2030 Agenda; and identify existing data, gaps in data and needs for statistical capacity on the SDGs;
  • VNRs proved useful in improving coordination within the government. For instance in Switzerland, the review made government actors aware of the 2030 Agenda, and helped to define “who should do what” for its implementation.

Preceding the release of this discussion paper, P4R issued, in October 2018, another paper titled, ‘The Whole of Society Approach: Levels of Engagement and Meaningful Participation of Different Stakeholders in the Review Process of the 2030 Agenda.’

Also authored by Cázarez-Grageda, the paper draws on experiences from P4R members to analyze participation of non-State actors in the 2030 Agenda review process at the national level, and explores ways to make participation meaningful. It includes sections on: the participation of non-State actors in the review process; roles, incentives and levels of participation; conditions that make participation meaningful and how these contribute to the more effective review of and follow-up on the 2030 Agenda.

The paper finds that government officials are interested in involving non-State actors in the review process, while non-government actors are also interested in being involved. It notes that there is overlap of roles among different stakeholder groups, which can open up opportunities for cooperation and synergies. According to the author, meaningful participation demands transparency, commitment and accountability, and must be inclusive and representative. The paper also notes that participation by multiple actors can emerge when there is genuine interest in engagement, space for collective work and co-creation of knowledge.

According to the paper, the most “outstanding” challenge across the different levels of participation is a lack of effective coordination strategies – whether is it coordination for multi-stakeholder consultations, for aligning the agendas of different stakeholders or for simultaneously working with multiple stakeholder partnerships at the national and sub-national level.

P4R is a transnational multi-stakeholder network that seeks to help develop effective global and national review and accountability mechanisms for achieving the SDGs. It focuses primarily on institutional coordination (the whole-of-government approach), stakeholder engagement (the whole-of-society approach) and addressing data challenges. The network was established on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), and involves representatives from government, civil society, the private sector and academia. [Publication: The Whole of Government Approach: Initial Lessons Concerning National Coordinating Structures for the 2030 Agenda and How Review can Improve their Operation’] [Publication: The Whole of Society Approach: Levels of Engagement and Meaningful Participation of Different Stakeholders in the Review Process of the 2030 Agenda]

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