Launch of Caribbean Civil Society SDGs Knowledge Platform
Speech of Ambassador Biesebroek
Ministry of Planning and Development
Tuesday 30th July, 2019.
Over the last few years we have been hearing a lot about the Sustainable Development Goals, what they are and how important it is for all countries and all regions to adopt them and define national plans to implement activities to achieve them. I think we all agree that the SDGs are an important political tool to define priorities for public goods and investments.
But the big question is how to do so concretely? How do you determine what are the priorities among the priorities? How do you do this in a manner that is seen to be balanced and fair and not favouring one part of society over another? Because if this is done in a way that is perceived as imbalanced or unjust there is a risk of a backlash in society. I'm sure you have seen pictures of the yellow vests that have taken to the streets in France because certain groups of the population considered it unfair that they would have to carry the burden or part of the burden to take measures to safeguard the environment and slow climate change.
How do you deal with people rejecting scientific evidence, saying that there is no problem? How do you answer claims that this is an elitist issue? How do you deal with political forces who are intent to creating the impression that protecting the environment is a threat, and that this is just a little group of people trying to organise it for their own benefits against the will of the interest of the largest part of society.
So the underlying question is how to mobilise society to actually embrace this fundamental change as an opportunity rather than as a threat.
As the European Commission's Vice President Frans Timmermans recently said, we believe we have a task in helping where we can for national authorities and other governments at all levels to make a translation of the SDGs into concrete measures that people can actually embrace. We also believe civil society has an important role in building that momentum that will lead people to embrace necessary change.
That brings me to Trinidad and Tobago.
In September 2017, I had the pleasure to address the launch of the SDG Catalyst Network, which is one of the components under the EU supported CSOs 4 Good Governance project. The project is implemented by a consortium of 7 civil society organisations and is aimed at supporting the effective involvement of CSOs in national implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
At that time I made the link between the project and the EU's commitment to implement the SDGs, and specifically, the role and support we have envisioned for civil society organisations. The project activities are intended to focus on building relationships and capacity of the SDG Catalyst Network, which can be scaled up to improve opportunities for collaboration and collective advocacy.
The EU has a strong interest in having an empowered and vibrant civil society in its partner countries, as it plays a vital role in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Civil society is particularly relevant for the success of SDG 16 and 17, which call for peaceful and inclusive societies as well as revitalized global partnerships for sustainable development.
Civil society is crucial to ensure behaviour change as well as societal transformations that the SDG implementation requires. Furthermore, in overseeing SDG implementation, CSOs constantly remind authorities of their commitments and primary responsibility of addressing the basic needs of their population.
More specifically, civil society also presents new opportunities that the EU can seize as it can contribute to the success of the SDGs. For example, environment and climate, - civil society can also provide good opportunities for collaboration on these issues including prevention measures. Awareness raising and advocacy in favour of SGDs 2, 4, 6 and 12 is crucial in promoting behaviour change and consumer action that is fundamental for any transformation. In addition, the EU can benefit from the exchange of experiences and lessons learned between the EU and CSO foundations – through testing and scaling up of innovative solutions.
The previous speakers have already provided information on the knowledge platform which represents a major project milestone under the CSOs4GoodGov project, as well as opportunity for sustainability and further action beyond the project.
While this in itself is a major achievement, it will only be successful if the information is fed by all concerned. For all stakeholders working on SDGs in Trinidad and Tobago, we have to continuously keep asking and finding satisfactory to the following questions:
1. Do we know how SDGs are being implemented?
Are they mainstreamed in all our policies? Are we using tools like impact assessments to evaluate environmental, social and economic impacts so that sustainability is duly considered and factored in? Have we planned for ex post evaluations of legislation to facilitate the analysis of all three dimensions in a strong integrated approach? Does implementation include partnership with all stakeholders?
2. How is the implementation of the SDGs measured?
Keeping track of progress in a systematic and transparent way is essential. Are we coordinating with each other in our commitment to playing an active role at each level, to maximize progress towards the SDGs, to ensure accountability to citizens, and to ensure that no one is left behind?
The UN Statistical Commission agreed, in March 2016, on an indicator framework comprising 230 indicators as a practical starting point for global monitoring. At national level, Member States are asked by the United Nations to put in place systems for measuring progress and reporting. Are we organised to contribute by monitoring, reporting and reviewing progress towards the sustainable development goals in a T&T context?
3. How is the Trinidad and Tobago financing the implementation of the SDGs?
Are the economic, social and environmental dimensions, which are at the heart of the SDGs, incorporated into our national budget and development programmes? Do we reflect gender responsiveness in the budgeting processes?
4. How do the Government's political priorities contribute to achieving the SDGs?
Are they aligned with, or touch upon the key challenges for Trinidad and Tobago? We are all aware that many of the sustainable development goals are deeply entwined with these challenges. Fully exploiting the synergies between the SDGs and the Government's highest priorities ensures strong political ownership and avoids that implementation of the SDGs takes place in a political vacuum.
5. How do our National Development policies contribute to achieving the SDGs?
Have the Vision 2030 and other national documents addressed several or all of the 17 goals?
6. How are we promoting the SDGs?
In order to promote sustainable development around the world, we must continue working with external partners, using all the tools that are available under our external policies and support. One idea currently in effect is the launch of a multi-stakeholder platform with a role in the follow-up and exchange of best practices on SDG implementation across sectors, and at the regional and international level.
The answers to these questions can certainly be used to chart the way forward in terms of our contribution to implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.