Making the #SDGs Work: The Role of the #PublicSector

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Since 193 Member States of the United Nations formally adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals on September 25, 2015; many conversations have emerged on practical ways to ensure these goals resonate from the big buzz of the adoption ceremony into action and subsequent impact on many of the world’s citizens.

The Public Sector consists of the government and any other organization owned or controlled by the government. The role of the public sector in achieving success in the SDGs cannot be overemphasized because it may be practically impossible to achieve any of the goals without the Public Sector through active involvement.

Leading the action

The governments that adopted the SDGs have in principle, taken responsibility for full implementation at the various country levels. Each member state will be expected to continue widespread consultation through action-oriented dialogue with all stakeholders to determine country specific priorities, develop a plan of action, key performance indicators and appropriate frameworks for monitoring and evaluation.

Policy Integration

It will be expedient to incorporate the SDGs into various national policies by bringing all levels of government into place and assigning specific goals to each sector. For the goals to succeed, responsibilities and governance at the Federal, Regional/Provincial/State and Local levels are required. Accordingly, there may be needs to formulate or revise set policies at the country levels with the SDGs in mind just, as the support of parliaments would be important.  The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon urged legislators to go back home and back the goals up by writing laws and programs that promote the achievement of the goals. The sector is thus saddled with the responsibility of creating the most conducive laws and environment for the start off and success of the SDGs. Goals should be at the centre of the agendas of all Member States from the onset of the 15-year period.

Encourage direct stakeholder participation

One way everybody can be included in the SDGs is allowing direct participation from all stakeholders. The people’s voice should count, as they did through the 3-year consultation process that saw the development of the SDGs, in whatever strategy and national framework the governments will adopt to achieve the SDGs. Tax payments must be encouraged and measures to fight against tax evasion at all levels must be created. To succeed with this, incentives should be provided to mobilize an all-stakeholder approach to the goals especially for the private sector, to ensure active participation and commitment.

Financing and Accountability

The report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Funding estimates that between US$5trillion-$7trillion must be invested annually at a global level to achieve the SDGs. In order to provide the needed infrastructure such as: water, agriculture, telecommunications, power, transport, building, and industrial and forestry; the public sector has a key role to play in providing sustained domestic funding and giving incentives to the private sector and other stakeholders to rally support.

Another crucial means to achieving the SDGs is accountability by setting up monitoring committees to ensure the step-by-step implementation of country-specific SDG priorities and tracking progress. There should be quality and dependable data collection systems in all Member States to ensure accurate progress and in turn create appropriate sources of information for citizens to follow progress and also task governments on slow performance. The public sector is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring a clamp down on all forms of corruption that could hamper the success of the goals. Furthermore, donor assistance funds and taxpayers’ funds should be used judiciously.

A Case for Africa

SDGs will only succeed if they can succeed in Africa (Africa Progress Panel 2015, Global Goals, African Realities: Building a Sustainable Future for All). Although the SDGs differ from the MDGs because of an improved structure yet, it is obvious that the goals give more attention to Sub-Saharan Africa than the rest of the world and so, Africa must record outstanding success in implementation to achieve success by 2030. Therefore, in addition to general roles world governments should play in making the goals work, African governments will do better to play some more specific roles.

Improved Governance

United Nations’ Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Funding listed a crackdown on corruption as vital to raising funds for the SDGs. Sadly, 10 African countries have been listed among the 10 most corrupt in the world (Transparency International Corruption Barometer 2014) therefore, corruption could be a major threat to achieving the goals on the continent if urgent steps are not taken to curb it as implementation strategies are being formed. African governments should make the fight of corruption a priority if they are to achieve the goals by 2030 as planned. The governments should fight both governmental and populace corruption, crack down on illegal financial flows, ensure transparent economic systems, and ensure proper utilization of funds allotted for the SDGs. Accountable, transparent, and efficient people should be placed at the helm of the affairs to carry out the SDGs and proper monitoring and proper data collection devices should also be put in place. Furthermore, the African Public Sector must device means to end terrorism, political instability, and conflicts on the continent while each government should ensure the peace and security of its country if the goals are to survive.

Provide Adequate Infrastructure

The UN has identified the importance of infrastructural development in achieving the goals as infrastructure is more than just roads but also about housing, irrigation, reliable energy, water, logistics and even communications. The 17 goals are all tied to the provision of proper infrastructure though there is a dearth of adequate infrastructure in African countries. Infrastructural development is primarily a public sector activity and thus, should be given priority by the sector. Therefore, African governments should strive to invest in infrastructural development by establishing policies that will encourage private partnerships in development, they should also provide access to knowledge and innovation and more importantly, encourage and invest in science and technology.

Invest in Education and Capacity Development

Education is crucial to the development of any economy. For Africa to achieve the SDGs, sound education policies that will wipe out mass illiteracy and give room for the utilization of the educated for the implementation of the goals, are urgently needed. This is because robust investments in education  – both infrastructure and teacher development – will give room for self-development of citizens to match individual potentials. Also, proper awareness and education on the goals as well as incentives for international corporations to support educational investments and transfer of international skills will be required. Furthermore, Investments in Research and Technology as well as technological development are also crucial to achieving the SDGs.

Encourage Foreign Direct Investment

The estimated funding requirement per year for infrastructure alone for Africa to achieve SDGs is approximately $93 Billion US Dollars and the continent presently spends only $45 Billion annually on infrastructure courtesy of domestic efforts and donations from international donors and the private sector (Amadou S.Y., 2015: A Crucial Year for Financing Development in Africa), it is clear that the continent can no longer depend solely on donations if it is to achieve the SDGs. Therefore, the Public Sector should augment donations and private partnerships with good strategies on attracting Foreign Direct Investments. Foreign Investors can create more jobs and be encouraged to invest in building infrastructure too if given the right incentives. As various governments gather again from October 2015 to discuss Post-2015 SDGs Agendas, it will be important for them to note and be reminded that the success of the goals begins with the government and/or public sector.

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