The 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment: a dif­fer­ent strat­egy for a dif­fer­ent time

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL - By Ali­cia Bárcena (Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of the United Na­tions Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

The 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment and its 17 Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) was adopted two years ago by the 193 mem­ber states of the United Na­tions as a col­lec­tive and trans­for­ma­tive call for ac­tion to shift the course of our shared destiny to­wards a more equal and sus­tain­able devel­op­ment pat­tern.

Since then, coun­tries have taken sig­nif­i­cant steps to en­gage in this new path, as they are fully aware that the Agenda calls for a par­a­digm shift. In Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean alone, at least 16 coun­tries have en­hanced their in­sti­tu­tional frame­works (Ar­gentina, Ja­maica and Venezuela, as an ex­am­ple) or cre­ated new en­ti­ties (Mex­ico, Chile, Aruba and Ba­hamas, to name a few) to fa­cil­i­tate the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the 2030 agenda. Coun­tries have also de­vel­oped frame­works for multi-stake­holder di­a­logue in or­der to in­te­grate the SDGs into their na­tional and sub-na­tional devel­op­ment plans, in­vest­ment and fis­cal frame­works, Colom­bia and Gu­atemala be­ing a case in point. And coun­tries such as Belize, Costa Rica, Saint Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines, and Ecuador have sought in­no­va­tive ways to in­te­grate the SDGs into their pub­lic ac­counts.

At a global level, 66 coun­tries - that is 1 in 3 mem­bers states of the United Na­tions - will have pre­sented their Vol­un­tary Na­tional Re­view by July 2017 in the con­text of the High Level Po­lit­i­cal Fo­rum (in the case of Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean this fig­ure amounts to 14 out of 33 coun­tries, al­most 50%). 16 oth­ers coun­tries have al­ready signed up to do so in 2018.

More­over, 5 re­gional fora on Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment have been es­tab­lished as re­gional plat­forms to sup­port the im­ple­men­ta­tion, fol­lowup and re­view mech­a­nisms for the 2030 Agenda and the Ad­dis Ababa Ac­tion Agenda. For in­stance, the Fo­rum of the Coun­tries of Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment held its first ses­sion in Mex­ico City this past April, and gath­ered close to 800 par­tic­i­pants from gov­ern­ment, civil so­ci­ety, pri­vate sec­tor and other ac­tors to pro­mote peer-learn­ing and share progress and ex­pe­ri­ences in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Agenda and strengthen col­lab­o­ra­tion and co­or­di­na­tion among re­gional ac­tors.

Also, in or­der to ef­fec­tively track the progress to­wards the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the SDGs and sup­port data-driven de­ci­sion-mak­ing, coun­tries will have to ad­dress chal­lenges of col­lec­tion, dis­ag­gre­ga­tion and dis­sem­i­na­tion of data and sta­tis­tics. This im­plies strength­en­ing the ca­pac­i­ties of their na­tional sta­tis­tics sys­tems and de­vel­op­ing data ecosys­tems to have a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach to global in­di­ca­tor frame­works. Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries are tak­ing ac­tion in this realm and are in the process of de­vel­op­ing a re­gional in­di­ca­tor frame­work that will mea­sure re­gional pri­or­i­ties while com­ple­ment­ing the global frame­work.

This progress, paired with un­prece­dented en­thu­si­asm, com­mit­ment and po­lit­i­cal back­ing to­wards the 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment are in­deed cause for great op­ti­mism among those of us who ad­vo­cate for struc­tural change in the devel­op­ment model of our na­tions.

How­ever, the eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity in which the 2030 Agenda is be­ing cur­rently im­ple­mented is not very en­cour­ag­ing. The global econ­omy has not re­cov­ered fully from the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis, and growth in both trade and GDP con­tinue to stag­nate at lev­els much lower than those seen in past decades. De­spite progress, in­equal­ity is ris­ing. The in­crease in the flow of refugees or im­mi­grants in the past cou­ple of years has cre­ated ten­sions in des­ti­na­tion coun­tries and is one of the fac­tors con­tribut­ing to the rise of po­lit­i­cal par­ties whose plat­forms thrive on na­tion­al­ism, pro­tec­tion­ism and xeno­pho­bia, stray­ing fur­ther and fur­ther away from the tra­di­tions of tol­er­ance and in­clu­sive­ness in demo­cratic so­ci­eties.

In Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean, coun­tries are fac­ing ever-in­creas­ing de­mands on ever-tighter bud­gets. De­spite the ef­forts of tax ad­min­is­tra­tions in the re­gion, tax eva­sion re­mains ram­pant (2.4% of GDP for VAT and 4.3% of GDP for in­come tax, rep­re­sent­ing a to­tal of US$ 340 bil­lion in 2015) and il­licit flows con­tinue erod­ing the tax base. The rich do not pay their fair share of taxes and nei­ther do multi­na­tion­als. Fur­ther, tax sys­tems in the re­gion are not pro­gres­sive be­cause of the high share of gen­eral taxes on goods and ser­vices in the re­gion’s to­tal tax rev­enues.

Also, pri­vate flows have be­come the main source of fi­nanc­ing for Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean de­vel­op­ing coun­tries (FDI rep­re­sented in the last decade an av­er­age of some 52% of pri­vate sec­tor fi­nan­cial flows in the re­gion) as well as re­mit­tances (which rep­re­sent 24% of to­tal net pri­vate fi­nan­cial flows in the re­gion, ex­ceed­ing 10% of GDP in some economies of Cen­tral Amer­ica and the Caribbean), while there has been a de­cline in more tra­di­tional forms of fi­nanc­ing for devel­op­ment such as of­fi­cial devel­op­ment as­sis­tance (ODA). In­deed, ODA flows cur­rently rep­re­sent 0.25% of re­gional GNI, a sig­nif­i­cant drop from the 0.4% that was the av­er­age for the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

In this con­text, the road to the at­tain­ment of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs seems filled with hur­dles. But dif­fer­ent times re­quire dif­fer­ent strate­gies, and in or­der to at­tain our com­mon vi­sion by 2030 we need to con­tinue work­ing – to­gether - in ad­dress­ing global chal­lenges. A key chal­lenge of the 2030 Agenda’s devel­op­ment fi­nanc­ing ar­chi­tec­ture is to mo­bi­lize pri­vate re­sources and chan­nel them to­wards the SDGs. Pri­vate and pub­lic re­sources must there­fore be com­bined to achieve the lever­age re­quired to maximize the im­pact for devel­op­ment. How­ever, pub­lic and pri­vate flows obey a dif­fer­ent logic and re­spond to dif­fer­ent in­cen­tives. And do­mes­tic re­source mo­bi­liza­tion is nec­es­sary but not suf­fi­cient to ef­fec­tively re­spond to coun­tries’ devel­op­ment needs. The global con­text in which mo­bi­liza­tion of do­mes­tic re­sources oc­curs mat­ters. There­fore, an en­abling ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment is es­sen­tial to at­tain the 2030 Agenda. And this will re­quire a pro­found change in the means of im­ple­men­ta­tion, in­clud­ing in the global trade sys­tem and in the con­di­tions for the trans­fer of knowl­edge and tech­nol­ogy from de­vel­oped to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. Also, these ef­forts should be ac­com­pa­nied with the pro­mo­tion of new and in­no­va­tive in­stru­ments and mech­a­nisms for fi­nanc­ing devel­op­ment.

In sum, the po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment and ac­tions un­der­taken to im­ple­ment the 2030 Agenda in the past two years are a first step in the right di­rec­tion, but ad­dress­ing the global im­bal­ances that still af­fect dis­pro­por­tion­ately de­vel­op­ing coun­tries should be the sec­ond. We need to keep the mo­men­tum go­ing and take ad­van­tage of the at­ten­tion this new agenda cur­rently has gen­er­ated to en­gage all coun­tries, de­vel­oped and de­vel­op­ing, and all sec­tors of so­ci­ety to take ac­tion that ben­e­fits all, thus en­sur­ing real and mean­ing­ful progress to­wards sus­tain­able devel­op­ment.

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