As the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development started its first review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) July 11-20, civil society coalitions from around the world brought to New York their own findings, calling on member states to take note of these.

Because the Forum is the UN’s central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda adopted by world leaders on September 25, 2015. It is slated to adopt a Ministerial Declaration to provide political leadership, guidance and recommendations on the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and follow-up; keep track of progress of the SDGs; spur coherent policies informed by evidence, science and country experiences; as well as address new and emerging issues.

Independent monitoring and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its structural obstacles and challenges are, therefore, key factors for the success of the SDGs. It is for this reason, the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development together with other civil society organizations and networks has produced the first annual Spotlight Report assessing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the structural obstacles in its realization.

“The report puts a spotlight on the fulfilment of the 17 goals, with a particular focus on inequalities, responsibility of the rich and powerful, means of implementation and systemic issues,” says Social Watch.

Among the questions it poses are: What are currently the main obstacles to achieving the SDGs? Are there transnational spill over effects that influence or even undermine the implementation of the goals? Are the current policy approaches, as they are reflected, inter alia, in the 2030 Agenda, an adequate response to the challenges and obstacles (or are they part of the problem)? What has to be done? Which specific policy changes (at international level) are necessary?

The findings of several of the national reports have been published in the  Spotlight Report released July 12 today at the United Nations

“We should not be talking any more about domestic or home affairs on the one hand and foreign affairs on the other,” commented Juerg Staudenmann from Alliance Sud, the coalition of Swiss development NGOs. “They are now one and the same. All action needs to be assessed with regard to its impact in the world, not just on one specific country only.”

The civil society report for Switzerland highlights, precisely, the negative impact on developing countries of the secrecy of the Swiss banking system, which encourages damaging tax evasion, corruption and illicit financial flows.

Shadow reporting is a well-established tool of civil society when it comes to holding governments accountable. Since implementation of the 2030 Agenda is just starting, the main focus in the alternative reports presented is to devise and discuss methodologies and indicators, to monitor governments’ efforts on drafting national strategies and to identify obstacles that can impede progress towards the SDGs.

“There are obstacles for the accomplishment of various SDGs and their targets in the Mexican framework for the energy sector,” explained Areli Sandoval, from Equipo Pueblo. The Mexican constitution has been reformed “to prioritize hydrocarbons over any other use of the lands concerned”.

Sandoval expressed concerns “about the lack of human rights and sustainability approach in some aspects of the current Mexican legislation, policies and programmes”. She mentioned examples regarding policies on food, housing, sexual and reproductive health, security and drugs.

Sandoval’s demand for “meaningful civil society participation in the design of the national implementation plan and the SDGs national indicators and follow up mechanism” echoes what many other civil society coalitions want to happen in their countries.

In Egypt the new development strategy was not discussed by parliament or through public participation, informs Mahinour El Badrawi, from the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights. She explains that although the Government presents itself as “a leading country in the 2030 development process, and participates in the National Voluntary Review Process, its plan lacks measurable indicators for success, a road map for reaching its goals, or even consistency between rhetoric and implementation.

For example, although the 2014 constitution sets a minimum spending level on Health and Education, the 2016-2017 public budget does not meet that minimum, nor is it recognized as a goal in the Government‘s 2030 Vision. The plan also relies heavily on public private partnerships without attempting any reform that reverses the decades of crony capitalism and corrupt institutional practices that have resulted in economic crisis, impoverishment, and public unrest since 2011.

Fiscal issues were also raised by the report from Social Watch Philippines, asserting that “tax injustice is imbedded in the system and as a result unregulated corporate activities harm people and the environment”. Marivic Raquiza explains that “while more than 26.3 percent or about 27 million Filipinos live in poverty, the benefits from growth are concentrated in the hands of few billionaire families, the less than 1 percent who dominate the political economy”.

Wolfgang Obenland introduced the German civil society report, a result of the joint efforts of the national coalitions of environmental and development NGOs. “According to the 2030 Agenda, no country can consider itself having achieved sustainable development,” he explained.

“We need to move away from the notion that Germany is a trendsetter regarding sustainability. In large areas, this country is not a pioneer, but is severely lagging behind. The world does not expect Germany to be a pioneer, but it expects that we finally acknowledge the urgent need for action that exists with respect to our agricultural, trade, and transport policies and in many other areas. And that we draw meaningful consequences from this.”

Obenland found it ironic that, as a result of the accounting of support to refugees as part of official development assistance (ODA), “in 2015 the number one recipient of German ODA was… Germany”.

Roberto Bissio, from Social Watch, summarized the contributions of many NGO coalitions that could not come to New York to present their findings personally. He cited the Peruvian report as illustrative of the dilemmas in many countries:

“Peru has experienced sustained economic growth, due largely to rising prices of gold, copper and other minerals, but virtually the entire territory has been given in concession to mining, oil, and logging companies, frequently in conflict with local populations.

“Income poverty has decreased, but multidimensional poverty has worsened. Progress has been made in circulation of money and electronic and telephone connectivity, but increased levels of crime are taking over streets and cities and corruption resulting from the influence of corporate power reaches every part of the government.”

Thus, in the words of Peruvian writer, artist and social scientist Héctor Béjar, “the road to achieving the 2030 goals is hazy and full of obstacles”. [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 July 2016]

Analysis by J Nastranis.

Source: IDN-InDepthNews. IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.