Integrated Approaches to Implement the SDGs: Inspiring Examples from the Global South

Months after the historical approval of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris climate agreement, decision-makers and citizens from all over the globe gathered in Kenya last week for the second edition of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) to tackle some of the most critical issues facing humanity and our planet. This “World Parliament for the Environment” provided a vibrant platform to reflect on the implementation of the new transformative agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Even though environment issues have shifted from the margins of attention to the centre of decision-making through the 2030 Agenda, their implementation remains a big challenge for both developing and industrialized countries. As we have learned from 15 years of experience with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a holistic approach is vital to ensuring successful implementation of global goals. Sectoral and silo-based planning approaches proved to be one of the key obstacles in achieving the MDGs, where policy coherence and coordination across sectors and departments was often lacking. Now, as we take on the 2030 Agenda and a broader set of global development goals for the next 15 years, a holistic approach is even more essential. This discussion was at the heart of a side event on “Implementing the SDGs through Integrated Approaches” at the recent UNEA 2 in Nairobi, which was co-sponsored by the Brazilian Government and the UNDP World Centre for Sustainable Development (RIO+ Centre).

This side event focused on presenting and discussing tools that can be used by all countries to advance the 2030 agenda through holistic approaches that eradicate poverty and accelerate environmentally sustainable growth, and was attended by over 100 representatives of governments, multilateral organizations and civil society groups.  It emphasized the critical role of multi-stakeholder engagement and comprehensive data systems to inform the design and implementation of integrated SDG policies. Speakers and senior officials from the Governments of Brazil and Colombia shared examples of governance and institutional mechanisms that promote more coherent policy implementation within and across sectors at all government and society levels.

The issue of multi-stakeholder engagement is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include 17 goals, 169 targets. They build on the MDG experience, with the vision of “finishing the unfinished business” of ending poverty, fighting inequality and injustice and tackling climate change by 2030. To avoid fragmentation and the possibility of having one goal advance at the expense of another, integration and cross-sectoral interactions will be fundamental.

The good news is that we are already witnessing how countries in the Global South are adopting innovative mechanisms to better coordinate and design sustainable development policies that generate wins on all three fronts, social, economic and environmental, while minimizing negative impacts from trade-offs. These integrated approaches and tools are fostering policy convergence and coherence to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs, and could be also adopted in industrialized countries. For instance, the Brazil and RIO+Centre side event at UNEA 2 brought attention to the innovative approaches by Brazil and Colombia related to early implementation of the SDGs. In Colombia, for example, all national, regional and sector strategies and plans under an overall green growth strategy have been mapped and closely aligned with the SDG targets and indicators through extensive stakeholder consultations. In Brazil, a Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan has been prepared, and extensive efforts are underway to reduce the country’s rate of deforestation. A National Rural Environmental Registry is now in place, which uses an online system and GIS mapping to integrate information on land use for all rural properties in Brazil comprising nearly 400 million hectares.

Another example of the importance of policy integration for effective sustainable development results comes from Malawi, where soil erosion alone reduces agricultural productivity by 6%. By addressing the causes of soil erosion and improving soil health, this agricultural yield could be recovered and an additional 1.88 million people would be lifted out of by poverty. Inspiration also comes from Bhutan, whose Gross National Happiness (GNH) Policy Screening Tool is used as a holistic approach to aid the government in assessing and reviewing all draft policies and projects.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has been active through the MAPS framework to construct relevant tools, initiatives and methodologies that assist countries advance the SDGs. For example, the UNDP-UNEP Poverty and Environment Initiative (PEI) has compiled more than 10 years of experiences from 25 countries around the globe into a handbook to be used as guidance on integrated approaches. In Tanzania, the PEI is coordinated by the office of the Vice President, enabling integration of environmental sustainability across sectors, while in Malawi, Botswana and Rwanda, the coordination is done by the Ministry of Planning or Finance. In addition, UNDP is developing a set of integrated SDG implementation tools including on integrated approaches to support countries effectively implement the SDGs.

The challenges faced by countries in the SDG implementation are still complex. Yet the opportunities to overcome these obstacles are also readily available and countries are fostering multi-stakeholder engagement to create stronger and more coherent policies. A key contribution by UNDP will be to develop tools and initiatives that support national governments in breaking the barriers to policy integration and broad-based participation, allowing for all three dimensions of sustainable development to be applied holistically in the SDG implementation.

Agenda of  the side-event on “Implementing the SDGs: Integrated Approaches”

Co-Sponsored by the Government of Brazil and the UNDP World Centre for Sustainable Development (RIO+ Centre)

UNEA RIO+ Brazil Side Event May 2016

Opening Statement

Nik Sekhran,  Director, Sustainable Development Cluster, BPPS, UNDP 

Panel Discussion: 

  • Integrated approaches to SDG implementation: A Perspective from Brazil

Counsellor Mario Mottin, General-Coordinator for Sustainable Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of Ambassador José Antonio Marcondes de Carvalho, Undersecretary for the Environment, Energy, Science and Technology

  • State Level Action on SDGs: The case of Colombia

Pablo Vieira Samper, Vice Minister, Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development

  • Brazil’s Action Plan for Sustainable Production and Consumption

Raquel Breda dos Santos, Acting Secretary of Institutional Articulation and Environmental Citizenship – Ministry of the Environment

  • Implementation of the Forest Code and Environmental Rural Registry in Brazil

Antônio Carlos do Prado, Director of the Secretariat of Institutional Articulation and Environmental Citizenship at the Ministry of the Environment

Support of multilateral organizations in the pursuit of integrated approaches

Nik Sekhran, UNDP

Conclusions on the Brazilian experience of integrated SDG implementation approaches

Ambassador Fernando Coimbra, Head of the Office for International Affairs at the Ministry of the Environment of Brazil


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