Localizing the SDGs

Assam SDGs Teams from China, Indonesia and India visit Assam to gain a state-level perspective on localizing the SDGs. Photo: UNDP India

UNDP China, India and Indonesia offices share experiences 

A three-day knowledge exchange brought together representatives from UNDP Offices in China, India and Indonesia to share best practices and knowledge on what it will take to achieve the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) in large countries that together account for 3 billion people -- about 40 percent of the world's population. A key takeaway from the exchange hosted by UNDP India was that it is critical that the SDGs be tied to the government’s existing activities, whether at the national, sub-national or district level. The SDGs are global goals that need to be achieved locally.

During the visit, participants interacted with India office colleagues, government counterparts and private sector partners to understand the various aspects of SDG implementation in India, across multiple stakeholders. Jaco Cilliers, Country Director, UNDP India called the trilateral exchange a “Valuable opportunity to learn from some of the most dynamic countries in the region, on what’s working in driving progress towards the SDGs.”  

Much of the discussion centred around operational issues in implementing the SDGs, especially at the last mile. It emerged that breaking down the SDGs into smaller blocks, isolating the goals with local relevance and sensitizing officials at the state and district levels to how the SDGs map onto their existing priorities and plans is crucial for a sense of institutional ownership at all levels of government. S.M. Vijayanand, former secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India, and former chief secretary, Government of Kerala, said that the SDGs are a “good candidate to action the adage of thinking globally and acting locally… local governments are better equipped to implement SDGs than anyone else because they reach the last mile”. Joy Elamon, Director, Kerala Institute of Local Administration demonstrated how the tools developed by UNDP and the Ministry orient local governments on SDG based planning.

In Delhi, participants visited the Ministry of Panchayati Raj to gain a first hand account of initiatives undertaken by the Central government to strengthen local governments in mainstreaming the SDGs. The discussion was led by J.S. Mathur, secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India. To gain a state-level perspective, representatives from the country offices travelled to Assam, one of the pioneers in localizing the SDGs at the sub-national level. K.V. Eapen, additional chief secretary, Government of Assam, emphasized the need for cooperation among various government departments and that it was essential to develop an implementation framework for the districts and villages to localize the SDGs. The point was made, again, on the need to streamline the SDGs with existing government priorities. The Assam chief minister’s vision of doubling farmer incomes, for instance, blends with several goals.

V.K. Pipersenia, chief secretary, Government of Assam, spoke of the need for innovation and flexibility, especially to bring in the private sector as a partner in achieving the SDGs. The SDGs in his view were an important framework within which to target and guide the efforts of the corporate social responsibility sector in the country. "The visit to Assam was particularly impressive. The India experience will be highly valuable to me and UNDP Indonesia in the future as it adds to my experience on enhancing values and project design, which will be very useful for future programme planning,” said Mohammad Ikhsan Modjo, Result Based Management Analyst, UNDP Indonesia.

The three teams also discussed how best to leverage UNDP’s wide country presence, convening power, and strong focus on policy advice, governance, and sustainability in their countries in a challenging and constrained fiscal environment. Alka Upadhyay, joint secretary, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, highlighted the value UNDP adds by providing high-quality technical assistance for government programmes. Exploring alternative business and funding models must be an ongoing process, and more and deeper partnerships with the private sector are increasingly necessary, they agreed. To facilitate a better understanding of private sector requirements and concerns in exploring partnerships with UNDP, two representatives -- Eric Savage, co-founder of Unitus Capital, and Chandan Bhawani, executive vice president at Yes Bank – spoke to participants on possible entry points for UNDP for private sector engagement. They described UNDP as an enabler and catalyst that could leverage its credibility and experience to bring all stakeholders on the same platform.

"The India CO has been working with the government, the private sector and the grassroots organizations so seamlessly and smoothly, and has been very creatively exploring the feasible mechanisms for UNDP to be more effective in the field... We will surely benefit from these experiences and continue the CO exchanges and project cooperation on advancing the SDGs,” said Ming Li, Programme Manager, UNDP China.

This was the second leg of a three-country exchange, where teams from each of these countries are making on-site visits to the others to a closer perspective of how they are assisting government partners in implementing the SDGs. As practitioners in middle income countries with large populations and similar developmental challenges, the three teams swapped valuable notes on the innovative -- and adaptable -- solutions they are collaborating with government to design.The third and final leg of the exchange will be held in Indonesia.



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