The continuing COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts remain the key context for the 2021 United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). While civil society organisations (CSOs) often stand in the front lines of pandemic response and despite challenges, CPDE and its members remain steadfast in efforts to contribute to the advancement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) as enshrined in the Agenda 2030.
The Ministerial Declaration paints an urgent picture of the challenge before us. However, we see a gap between the evidence presented at the HLPF, especially the Voluntary National Reviews (VNR), and the reality on the ground based on the evidence gathered by our members. Our findings show that out of the 45 countries covered by the CPDE study, only 46.7% found that budget allocations were aligned to the SDGs; only 60.0% found information on SDG implementation publicly accessible; and only 6.7% had access to funding for increased stakeholder engagement. This differs greatly from the rosy pictures governments often portray during the VNR presentations at the HLPF.
Towards an effective COVID-19 response
While the Ministerial Declaration contains a recognition of the importance of addressing the pandemic and its associated challenges, CPDE is concerned that such recognition does not translate to adequate commitments to address the urgent need for free and equitable access to COVID-19 related technologies and health care services. Our platform reminds that the persistence of COVID-19, the insufficient responses across countries, and the lack of genuine multi-stakeholder collaboration, risks back rolling earlier successes of the SDGs.
We call on governments to implement a COVID-19 response based on global solidarity and ensure that COVID-19 vaccines and medical products are available to everyone worldwide. Intellectual property rights should be suspended temporarily for this purpose, so that production technology and know-how can be shared widely. CPDE emphasises that social and economic recovery efforts must consider the highly uneven impact of the pandemic on different sectors and actors in the economy if they are to be effective. These efforts should prioritise women and all sectors that do not have social protection. Economic stimulus must reach micro, small, and medium enterprises first before big business.
Transparency and accountability in Covid-19-related actions of governments and donors is needed to ensure an inclusive response. It is also important to ensure that civil society knowledge, expertise, and initiative are put to use to address the pandemic. It is therefore critical that governments stop using pandemic containment as a pretext for monitoring and suppressing political dissent.
Download our 2021 CPDE VNR study here.
SDGs off-track and under further threat
We provide testimony that poverty rates have increased, reversing the trend of poverty reduction for the first time in decades. We share the concern that the goal of eradicating poverty by 2030 is slipping from our reach, along with the principle of leaving no one behind in our efforts to generate inclusive, sustainable development for all.
The recognition that “the world is a long way off from achieving the goal of peaceful, just and inclusive societies and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions as well as from achieving responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making at all levels” must be supported by action at all levels to reverse the trend of shrinking and closing civic space all over the world. While we support the emphasis placed on inclusive development grounded in the realisation of Human Rights for all, this sentiment must extend beyond international declarations and be bolstered at the country and local levels.
We welcome the declaration reaffirming commitment to international cooperation, multilateralism, and solidarity, particularly in line with accelerating multi-stakeholder partnerships that are grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the principles of Effective Development Cooperation. We welcome and highlight the reaffirmation of “strong political commitment to create an enabling environment at all levels,” mentioned in particular relation to Goal 9 to facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing countries. However, this should not be limited to Goal 9, but a commitment to be applied across all goals. Along this line we reiterate that there is no enabling environment without structured, transparent, and accountable civil society engagement, particularly of marginalised communities, rural peoples, indigenus peoples, people, and cultures affected by such development endeavours.
Business-as-usual approaches were insufficient prior to the pandemic, and more so as the world battles multiple crises while trying to get the SDGs on track. We must emphasise the importance of civil society engagement in the 2030 Agenda implementation by formalising and institutionalising CSOs’ participation in governance structures. This requires supporting and strengthening civil society participation through enabling laws, mechanisms, resources, and capacity development for civil society, especially those from marginalised groups – workers, including those in the informal sector, as well as rural communities and indigenous peoples.
Development financing that meets country needs
We highlight the Ministerial Declaration’s call to urge developed countries to fulfil their ODA commitments to developing countries and to scale up those efforts to play a meaningful role in eradicating poverty and inequality. We support the urgency to scale up means of implementation for developing countries by mobilising resources for addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as the COVID-19 recovery process and overall implementation of the SDGs.
Integrated National Financing Frameworks can serve a valuable purpose as long as they are viewed through, promote, and respect the effectiveness principles. We share the concern that compounding debt burdens might cripple economic recovery and therefore encourage initiatives aimed to reduce or completely remove debt burdens in countries most in need. We welcome the recognition that South-South and Triangular Cooperation can and must make important contributions to the implementation of Agenda 2030, but also that there is a need to improve effectiveness of these cooperation modalities. We also note the reference to processes underway to modernise ODA and in particular the proposal for a new measure on Total Official Support for Sustainable Development. Along this line, we wish to place strong emphasis on the affirmation “that any such measure will not dilute commitments already made.”
With these references in the Ministerial Declaration, CPDE emphasises the democratic ownership of the agenda and the need to translate the 2030 Agenda into local plans, programs, and monitoring efforts together with civil society, and to ensure that local priorities inform national plans and the VNR process.
Governments must review and align national and local budgets according to the country’s SDG strategy and priorities, by implementing participatory budget processes that will make sure the needs of local communities are heard. In reporting progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda, the links between specific policies and programs, budget allocations, and results must be explicitly and clearly mapped out. Systemic barriers to the SDGs at the international level, such as unjust trade and investment treaties, tax competition, and financial deregulation must be fully understood and addressed.
Finally, we reiterate with great emphasis the need to scale up solidarity and urge States to translate the contents of the Ministerial Declaration into real world country-level implementation.#