7 February 2019: The European Parliament has issued a study that it considers to be the first “comprehensive comparative overview” of SDG governance arrangements in the 28 EU member States. The study reviews arrangements undertaken to implement the SDGs, and provides examples of best practices and recommendations.

Titled ‘Europe’s Approach to Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: Good Practices and the Way Forward,’ the study was written by: Ingeborg Niestroy, Public Strategy for Sustainable Development (ps4sd); Elisabeth Hege, Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI); Elizabeth Dirth, Earth System Governance Project; and Ruben Zondervan, Earth System Governance Project. It was overseen by Gonzalo Urbina Treviño, European Parliament.

At the country level, the study’s chapters discuss: commitment and strategy for SDG implementation, monitoring and review; leadership and horizontal coordination; stakeholder participation; knowledge input through science-policy interface mechanisms, SDG budgeting, and impact assessments for sustainable development; and long-term perspective. Among other topics, it also examines how parliaments at the national and European levels have integrated the SDGs into their work, as well as interparliamentary collaboration.

The study finds that:

  • A majority of EU countries have or are about to update their National Development Plan or their Sustainable Development Strategy with the SDGs;
  • Half of the countries have clear coordination mechanisms between ministries, often with the leadership of the prime minister, but vertical coordination remains weak;
  • Extensive efforts are made to improve stakeholder participation;
  • Most EU member States have regular SDG progress reports and indicators, but there is room for improvement on target setting and independent review;
  • Sustainability impact assessments and budget checks are rare, but many countries are planning to undertake efforts in this direction; and
  • In an increasing number of countries, parliaments have special committees or arrangements related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

At the EU level, the study notes that the European Commission has not developed an SDG implementation strategy yet, and has not “fulfilled its intention to mainstream the SDGs in all policies,” in particular through better regulation tools, and other instruments such as structural funds. Regarding horizontal coordination, it indicates that the Commission has a good basis in its “regular practice,” but there is room for improvement and “dynamization.” On stakeholder involvement, it notes that the Commission’s Multi-stakeholder Platform on the SDGs was able to produce a joint statement in 2018, showing that “an ambitious EU approach to sustainable development” is supported by civil society, business and other groups.

On SDG implementation in parliaments, the authors find an increased awareness of sustainable development. They report that: activities related to the 2030 Agenda took place in 22 national parliaments, and activities are planned in three additional countries; and nine parliaments have specific institutional arrangements on sustainable development or the 2030 Agenda. It indicates that while the European Parliament was “an early mover” at the EU level regarding commitment to the 2030 Agenda, it has not yet succeeded to respond to related challenges and opportunities “in a satisfactory way.”

Among other recommendations, the authors suggest to: have joint, multi-level governance mechanisms between the EU and member States to tackle complex issues “beyond silos; ” and use interparliamentary dialogue and collaboration between the European Parliament and national parliaments for cross-fertilization to advance SDG implementation. At the EU level, it proposes to: develop a comprehensive post-2020 SDG implementation strategy; integrate the SDGs in the EU’s economic monitoring and budgeting processes, including in the investment priorities of the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF); scale up the use of peer learning mechanisms at all levels of governance; and promote the use of the EU’s Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP) to reform policies and institutions in coherence with the 2030 Agenda.

The study was presented during a public hearing on ‘The Remaining 12 Years: EU Action Towards Achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,’ which took place on 7 February 2019, in Brussels, Belgium.

Other reports and papers related to SDG implementation at the EU level issued recently include the 2019 EC report on policy coherence for development, and the EC reflection paper ‘Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030.’ [Publication: Europe’s Approach to Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: Good Practices and the Way Forward’]