High awareness but limited role of civil society in SDG implementation – CPDE study




 NEW YORK, USA – A recent study showed there is a high level of awareness among civil society groups on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Voluntary National Review (VNR) process, but this has not yet been translated into meaningful participation.  

The VNRs serve as inputs to the High-level Political Forum (HLPF). The process is to be voluntary, state-led, undertaken by both developed and developing countries, and shall provide a platform for multistake-holder partnerships, including through the participation of major groups and other relevant stakeholders.

 “The VNR implementation framework is yet to effectively integrate and implement principles of effective development cooperation (EDC) that will ensure meaningful civil societyparticipation,” suggested the study which surveyed eighteen respondents from 16 countries.

Conducted by CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), the study involved the global network’s partners in countries whose governments will be presenting their VNRs at HLPF in New York from July 9 to 18. 

In terms of democratic ownership of the process, 94 percent are aware that a VNR process is undertaken by their government. Almost 78 percent said there are VNR consultations with non-government entities but these are not necessarily formal consultations, and the extent to which CSO input is taken into consideration is not clear. 

In the aspect of accessibility and transparency,  94 percent said they were familiar with the government entity responsible for implementing the SDGs in their country and 78 percent were aware that an SDG implementation strategy in place in their country but only 61 percent said that information on SDG implementation is accessible to them.

A number of positive aspects have been noted by 60 percent of  respondents in the course of implementing the SDGs. Of which, 39 percent cited the establishment of multi-stakeholder processes as a positive impact .

Majority of the respondents, however, cited that implementation remains to be government-centric, weaknesses in development policy objectives, lack of resources to communicate with stakeholders and the absence of a clear system for implementation to be hindering factors in cascading the SDGs in their countries. 

While  61 percent of respondents concluded that the VNR processes can still do much better by consulting with civil society, this remains to be a challenge in reality.

CPDE Co-chair Beverly Longid have raised issues of repression and militarisation to be critical bottlenecks for civil society in many countries. CPDE Co-chair Beverly Longid raised the issue of repression and militarisation.

“Governments have not really gotten down to the communities about the SDGs even as they have already aligned their development agendas. It is important that communities become the owners of the SDGs,” said CPDE Co-chair Meja Vitalice in his intervention in one of the HLPF sessions. 

The study pushed for the realization of meaningful CSO engagement to ensure the application of effective development cooperation principles in the implementation of SDGs. It recommended the following specific actions:

  • Improve mechanisms for civil society engagement of the SDG implementation, monitoring and review at country-level to optimise civil society contribution to development

  • Make VNR process accessible, participatory, and transparent

  • Utilize inclusive processes to strategise unlocking bottlenecks in SDG implementation


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