panama_flag13 January 2016: The Permanent Mission of Panama, in collaboration with several other governments, held a panel discussion on the ethical implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Panelists and participants highlighted the need for transparency, accountability, access to justice, social inclusion and addressing inequalities.

The panel discussion, titled ‘Ethics and the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),’ took place on 13 January 2016, in New York, US, and was organized in collaboration with the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Costa Rica, Finland, Germany, Kazakhstan, Palau and Qatar.

Opening the event, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the fundamental principles underpinning the SDGs are interdependence, universality and solidarity. He said that the 2030 Agenda’s “underlying moral code,” which demonstrates its “profound ethical foundation,” is the imperative that no one must be left behind; the people who are hardest to reach should be given priority. He added that the UN system hopes Member States will apply these principles and values when they translate and integrate the SDGs into their national planning. He also noted that the follow-up and review processes overseen by the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF) will allow for reflecting on the application of these principles, and their impact.

UNGA President Mogens Lykketoft highlighted the principles of inclusion, public participation, and responsible multi-stakeholder participation, and said SDG implementation needs to be based on transparency, accountability and a commitment to leave no one behind.

Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President Oh Joon underlined that Goal 10 (Reduce inequality within and among countries) and Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions) have a strong connection to ethics. Although “governments are not churches,” he said, ethics is about laws and regulations. Therefore, Member States should ensure access to justice for all, and ask themselves if they have the right “rules of the game” and a level playing field both domestically and internationally. Oh highlighted upcoming events that will address ethical aspects of SDG implementation: ECOSOC’s Annual Youth Forum (February 2016); the ECOSOC Partnership Forum (March 2016); a special meeting of ECOSOC on inequality (30 March); the Financing for Development (FfD) forum (April); and the next HLPF session (July).

Yerzhan Ashikbayev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said sustainability must have social fairness at its core. He called for: the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) to evaluate the UN’s ethics in SDGs implementation; ministers to oversee the ethical dimension in SDGs’ national implementation; and making all implementation mechanisms and structures accountable for implementing the SDGs in an ethical manner.

Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact (UNGC), cited the need for global solidarity in implementation, and for businesses to engage “in the right way” through a commitment to operating responsibly. She said the UNGC’s ten principles define responsible business, and the UNGC will launch initiatives spanning all the SDGs, to support responsible implementation.

Cobus de Swardt, Transparency International, highlighted three critical elements of successful SDG implementation: citizen participation; open data; and eradicating corruption. On citizen participation, he said today’s technology makes it impossible to turn back the clock on citizen participation. On data, he noted that security concerns should not override the need for data openness. He added that the SDG indicators should not be “reopened” for political negotiation. On corruption, de Swardt called for implementation of SDG 16, highlighting the harsh consequences of illicit financial flows (IFFs).

Bernardo Kliksberg, UN Development Programme (UNDP), spoke of an “ethics of emergency,” calling for an urgent response to hunger, malnutrition, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, climate change, and inequality.

In the ensuing discussion, Member States: said ethics are not a luxury that some cannot afford, but the foundation for development; echoed the need to eradicate corruption; and highlighted ethical challenges caused by inequalities, which are caused in turn by development issues. [UN Press Release] [Meeting Webcast] [Deputy Secretary General Remarks] [IISD RS Sources]