IntroductionThe 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires a new culture of “shared responsibility,” described by the UN Secretary-General as based on agreed universal norms, global commitments, shared rules and evidence, collective action, and benchmarking for progress. This includes new forms of solution-oriented, inclusive and integrative multi-stakeholder partnerships, which will be a key element of Agenda 2030 and efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Surely the UN does not expect national governments to implement the SDGs on their own, but while the importance of engaging civil society is mentioned, little guidance is given for providing the structures for doing so. That may be partially due to low awareness about the crucial role that civil society plays, including being at the front lines of working with citizens in achieving the SDGs every day.
One, development challenges and by implication, the new goals are dynamic. They require constant learning and adaptation, which means evaluative thinking must be embedded into day-to-day conversations and actions. What do I mean by that? Let’s take the target of sustainable food production and resilient agriculture practices (target 2.4). Embedded in the target is a recognition of the effects of climate change. Response strategies have, wisely, not been set, as they will have to change depending on context and conditions. Therefore, policies and program design need to include evaluation to test response strategies and use real-time feedback to make necessary changes. Independent evaluation can assess how effective these feedback loops are working as well as take a dispassionate look at results and performance.
The SDGs needs to build on but grow beyond simple models of causality like log frames or results chains, and push targets to focus on systemic outcomes. The challenge is to find indicators that are measurable but also capture results at higher levels. For instance, MDG 5 on maternal health included a target that focused attention on skilled birth attendance. This was a measureable indicator, though not sufficient – as evaluations have shown that by itself, this measure will not have the desired effects on maternal mortality rates. As Will Allen put it, complex adaptive systems are composed of “components in the system [that]co-evolve through their relationships with other components.” This means that typical cause-and-effect analyses need to be replaced with a much finer understanding of multidirectional effects. Once more in Allen’s words “indicators of progress in a complex system are better seen as providing a focus around which different stakeholders can come together and discuss, with a view to potentially changing their practices to improve the way the wider system is trending.”
This September, 193 countries around the world will commit to ambitious new global goals to improve the lives of the world's people and the planet. The 17 new goals, called the Sustainable Development Goals, will seek to end poverty, hunger, inequality and climate change by the year 2030, and build a sustainable, prosperous and peaceful world, for all. Learn More
Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development