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Purpose

“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets which we are announcing today demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda….They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.”

“The SDGs and targets are integrated and indivisible, global in nature and universally applicable, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities. Targets are defined as aspirational and global, with each government setting its own national targets guided by the global level of ambition but taking into account national circumstances. Each government will also decide how these aspirational and global targets should be incorporated in national planning processes, policies and strategies. It is important to recognize the link between sustainable development and other relevant ongoing processes in the economic, social and environmental fields.”

“We will implement the Agenda for the full benefit of all, for today’s generation and for future generations. In doing so, we reaffirm our commitment to international law and emphasize that the Agenda is to be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the rights and obligations of states under international law.”  

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN 2015)

As the excerpt from The 2030 Agenda describes, the SDGs and targets are aspirational and global with each government called to: (a) decide how the SDGs should be incorporated into national planning processes, policies and strategies; (b) set their own national targets guided by the global level of ambition, but taking into account national circumstances; and (c) in the implementation of the Agenda build on existing commitments and in accordance with international human rights standards for the full benefit of all. Appropriate tools will need to be developed to translate the international normative framework into practical instruments to support operations at the national level.

The purpose of this section is to provide guidance to UNCTs for assisting Member States in taking stock of how The 2030 Agenda and SDGs are currently reflected in the national development strategy and planning processes and to identify potential areas for change. It is important at this stage to help create a common understanding of how well existing national, sub-national and local development plans and sectoral strategies align – in content and ambition – against the comprehensive scope of The 2030 Agenda and SDGs. This will provide the basis for establishing criteria for enhancing national plans whilst avoiding an à la carte approach. It will also be critical throughout the tailoring process to ensure that implementation targets do not fall below existing international standards, including legally-binding human rights obligations (OHCHR 2006).

This guidance builds on Section B2 which deals with multi-stakeholder processes because adapting SDGs to national contexts is inherently a complex task, and as such, necessitates that multiple perspective are brought to bear in the process of doing so.

Guidance

Member States can undertake a process for comparing the content of existing national, sub-national and local development strategies and plans with the SDGs outlined in The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Doing so at all levels of government is important at this stage as it provides a map of the existing landscape of development strategies and plans across the country and creates a knowledge base for providing guidance with regard to both vertical and horizontal policy integration and coherence (sections B4 and B5, respectively).

Adapting the SDGs to national contexts involves a multi-stage process whereby initial recommendations are made for addressing gaps and then undertaking a more in-depth systems analysis to prepare the foundation for creating policy coherence, identifying synergies and translating intermediate targets into national policy frameworks, including recognition of the interconnectedness of national, transnational, regional and global policy frameworks (by the country and on the country).

Specifically, the guidance offered in this section for UNCTs and Member States is four-fold:

  1. Reviewing existing strategies and plans and identifying areas for change: to scan and detail the landscape of existing strategies and plans at the national, sub-national and local levels and then compare against the global SDGs and targets to identify gaps and provide the basis for recommending areas for change;
  2. Making initial recommendations to the leadership of the national government: for addressing SDG gaps in existing strategies and plans whilst recognizing that the SDGs “…are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.”
  3. Setting nationally-relevant targets: for nationally-adapted and inclusive SDGs that are achievable, yet ambitious; and
  4. Formulating strategy and plans using systems thinking: to incorporate the recommendations and the insights from the above steps into strategies and plans and matching ambition and commitments with resources and capacities.

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MDG Lessons – The Experience in Mainstreaming the MDGs

By 2008, UNDP had helped 73 countries to align their National Development Strategies or PRSPs with the MDGs. PRSPs were a key entry point for MDG mainstreaming, as the MDG targets and indicators were translated into national targets and provided a framework to make national development strategies MDG-based.

Heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) candidate countries needed to outline the investments they would make with the funds released from debt relief in the PRSP; this was a natural entry point for a comprehensive MDG approach to national planning. The UN Millennium Project and UNDP developed Handbooks for Mainstreaming the MDGs into National Planning (UNMP, 2005; UNDP, 2005). MDG needs assessment tools were developed to acquaint country-level planners with the human resource, infrastructure, and financial needs of key MDG-related interventions. Complementary policy guidelines and tools for developing a sustainable fiscal space for MDG-related investments were developed.

Source: Pizarro (2013).

Reviewing Existing Strategies and Plans and Identifying Areas for Change

The task of reviewing existing strategies and plans and identifying areas for change can be viewed as a two-step process involving: (a) scanning and detailing the landscape of existing strategies and plans; and (b) comparing existing goals and targets with the global SDGs and targets.

A) Scanning and Detailing the Landscape of Existing Strategies and Plans: Most countries today have some form of national strategy or plan. The common types of plans are:

  • National Level: Long-term national vision  / national development plan or strategy / Medium-term development plan / National strategy for sustainable development (NSDS) / National economic plan or green economy plan / National human rights action plan (NHRAP) / Poverty reduction strategy (PRSP) / Annual budget plan / Sector strategies / Regional strategies / Medium Term Expenditure and Financing Frameworks (MTEFFs) / International and regional commitments;
  • Sub-national Level: Development plan / Sustainable development strategy / Economic plan or green economy plan; and
  • Local Level: Municipal plan / Local Agenda 21 or sustainable development strategy / Community quality of life, wellbeing, or sustainability indicators.

UNCTs could work with Member States to review existing strategies and plans to help identify where multiple strategies could be merged into one integrated plan, as in the case of Belize (see Innovative Case Example below); to explore how existing environmentally-focused sustainable development strategies could be broadened to also cover social and economic dimensions; to identify and eliminate implementation bottlenecks, to look at ways to ensure that no group is “left behind”, and illuminate key synergies between national and sub-national goals.

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Innovative Case Example: Merger of Development Plans in Belize

In the process of considering future SDG implementation in Belize through a collaboration among the Government of Belize and UNDESA & UNDP, the country’s Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy was merged with the National Sustainable Development Strategy into one unified and coherent strategy and planning process now called the Growth and Sustainable Development Strategy.

Source: UNDESA & UNDP (in UNDESA-DSD 2015a)

UNCTs and Member States can undertake, ideally as part of the Introductory Workshop Series introduced in Section B1, a scan of existing plans and strategies. This provides a hands on participatory exercise that stakeholders at the national, sub-national and local levels can do as a way to better understand the content and level of inclusion of the SDGs as well as their own plans. Section B3 on Applying Multi-stakeholder Approaches provides guidance on the identification and engagement of stakeholder groups.

Recommendations made to the country by UN human rights mechanisms (such as the UPR) are a valuable sources of information on the existing commitments made by the country in different areas, including in relation to specific groups (such as women, children, and persons with disabilities) and specific issues (such as education, health, access to justice), which could contribute to this analysis. Human rights recommendations can also help identify which groups are “being left behind” (OHCHR, Universal Human Rights Index).

The UNITAR Post-2015 National Briefing Package (module 6, slides 55-60) provides a rough guide and template for doing such a scan of existing plans and strategies.

B) Comparing Existing Goals and Targets with the Global SDGs and Targets: Using multi-stakeholder approaches (Section B3), Governments can undertake an analysis comparing the goals and targets and their outreach contained in existing development plans to those in the SDGs in order to assess areas of compatibility or conflict as well as any gaps in content as well as outreach to vulnerable groups. This could be done at both the goal level (17 goals), and the target level (169 targets).

Comparisons at the goal level can ideally be accomplished as part of the Introductory Workshop Series introduced in Section B1, as an extension to the participatory scanning exercise described above. Such an exercise not only sensitizes stakeholders at the national, sub-national and local levels to the content and coverage of the SDGs, but also amplifies the content of their own plans.

UNITAR’s National Briefings Package provides a simple tabular tool that stakeholders in a workshop setting can apply to make comparisons at the goal level between SDGs and existing plans (see slide 64 of module 6; Note that this requires participants to have access to a copy of their own plan during the workshop to use as a basis for the exercise).

A comparative analysis can also be undertaken at the target level. This is perhaps the most important aspect for policymaking. Given the large number of targets (169) supporting the 17 SDGs this analysis is best done at an expert working group level, rather than as part of a general participatory workshop setting described previously for the goal level.

A computer spreadsheet and workbook is well suited for such an analysis. A spreadsheet can be generated starting with an inventory of all 169 targets organized under the 17 goals in one column and adjacent columns used to identify the related target(s) from the existing plan and to provide a relative scoring as to how closely the targets are aligned. For instance, see the innovative case examples below of Germany and UNDP’s new Rapid Integrated Assessment tool that was applied in Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Namibia and Tonga.

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Innovative Case Example: Germany’s SDG Analysis Process

In 2015 the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) submitted its statement on ‘Germany’s Sustainability Architecture and the SDGs’ to the federal government. The comments contained in the statement were the result of two work phases.

In the first phase the present state of affairs was explored with over 80 experts and an interim report was drafted. To do so, RNE created an analysis spreadsheet for each SDG and used the services of a consultant to engage with experts to explore the analysis questions in the spreadsheet (e.g., does the SDG address a topic that Germany is dealing with domestically; Is Germany a type of provider of solutions in this regard).

In the second phase the RNE drafted a detailed set of recommendations with the involvement of the staff level of the federal ministries.

Source: RNE (2015) and personal communication with the RNE Secretary General.

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Innovative Case Example: Rapid Integrated Assessment Policy Tool in Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Namibia and Tonga.

Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Namibia and Tonga have recently piloted a prototype tool developed by UNDP – a Rapid Integrated Policy Assessment that helps countries to gauge their readiness for SDG implementation. This assessment tool provides an indicative overview of a country’s level of alignment with the 2030 Agenda through a gap analysis of SDG targets that are not prioritised in the current national development plans and strategies, and relevant sector strategies. It also identifies inter-linkages across targets, including targets that are prioritised by multiple sectors, and sectors where actions can impact multiple SDGs.

In Bhutan, the assessment found a high level of integration of the SDG targets into the 11th national plan. 93 SDG targets have been prioritised out of 102 targets. The targets under SDG 14 on Oceans (as Bhutan is a landlocked country) and SDG 17 on Means of Implementation were excluded from the analysis. The results illustrate the philosophical alignment between Bhutan’s National Vision 2020 and the principles expressed in the 2030 Agenda. Identified gaps and possible cross-sectoral linkages could be considered useful entry points for discussions on the further elaboration of plans to implement the 2030 Agenda.

Source: UNDP, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.

Specific tools have also been created recently that can take the comparative analysis even further. For example, the U.K.-based Stakeholder Forum developed an SDG Scorecard that can serve as a tool “to illuminate a national conversation or consultation with stakeholders about the relative applicability of the different goals and targets in that country, so as to focus implementation strategies and action plans around the highest priority elements.” The scorecard enables an expert to assess each global SDG target against each of the three following categories:

  • Applicability: Is it relevant to domestic challenges and related public policy? Is it there already domestic action or policy relevant to the goal/target?
  • Implementability: Is the goal/target realistically achievable within the timeframe outlined?  Can the goal/target be easily translated into action at the national level? Is the necessary data currently available? and
  • Transformationalism: Is the framework more ambitious than the mere continuation of current trends? Will the achievement of the goal/target result in more sustainable outcomes both domestically and globally? Does the goal/target address the root causes and drivers of the identified challenges?

The Sustainability Analysis Grid Tool developed by the éco-conseil de l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi is another such tool that can be used to assess SDGs in a national context (éco-conseil 2015).

A clear understanding of the SDGs and their associated targets is necessary for any comparative analysis. Efforts are underway in the context of many of the goals to help provide a common understanding of specific goals and targets. The climate agreement reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the Framework Convention on Climate Change is one notable example. Other examples include the Education 2030 Framework for Action and the Cairo Declaration on Gender Equality. See the Innovative Case Examples below for more information.

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Innovative Case Example: The Cairo Declaration – A Regional Commitment to Gender Equality

In a region where many countries have reservations to The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), brokering government commitment to the gender equality agenda – and doing this through a consultative process with input from civil society – is a success that resulted in the Cairo Declaration by the Arab League. The Declaration is the single most comprehensive document on gender equality in the Arab region, and was followed up with an action plan to guide implementation, calling for empowered Arab states to achieve and guarantee all women’s rights at all levels and during all stages of life by 2030.  Equality will be established between men and women within the context of achieving the goals of the post-2015 development agenda.

The action plan, adopted by the League of Arab States, has eight key outcome areas committing member states to: 1) create a more gender sensitive legislative environment; 2) mainstreaming gender in all planning, policies and budgets; 3) increase women´s participation in decision making by 30%; 4) a 50% increase in women´s participation in the labor market; 5) access to social protection and services, including health, education and legal aid; 6) free women and girls from violence, while ensuring access to services for those who are affected by violence; 7) establishing national frameworks for women, peace and security, and; 8) establishing national frameworks to protect women and girls in humanitarian emergencies, and to address terrorism and insecurities.

Source : UN Women

Making Initial SDG Recommendations to Leadership of the National Government

With a review in hand of how the goals of existing national strategies and plans already support the SDGs as well as any gap, government officials and stakeholders can explore initial recommendations to be delivered to the leadership of their national government relating to how the comprehensive scope of the SDGs across economic, social and environmental dimensions can help reach long-term national development objectives and how existing national plans could be augmented to support the SDGs and targets. This requires a good understanding of the current and evolving political process in respective countries by all stakeholders.

The kind of recommendations that are referred to here are about suggesting ways forward that help ensure that the integrity of the 2030 Agenda is maintained at national level in that the SDGs “…are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental” (2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development). While it will most likely be the case that governments will need to set priorities to achieve their nationally adapted targets over time, the recommendations that emerge out of a comparison of existing national plans and the SDGs (including all their targets) should aim at providing a foundation for both medium and long-term plans that are dedicated to unlocking the synergies of progress across all three dimensions of sustainable development, with a particular eye to leaving no one behind.

The exploration and formulation of recommendations delivered to leadership should address not only the substantive issues relating to the need for new or revised goals and targets, but also issues related to the means of implementation. This could include recommendations such as the integration of two separate planning tracks, as in the case of Belize (see previous Innovative Case Example), or how to bring the SDGs directly into the next national planning cycle, as in the case of Uganda (see Innovative Case Example Below).

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Innovative Case Example: SDG Integration in Uganda’s Second National Development Plan

In its 2nd National Development Planning process in support of the country’s Vision 2040, the Government of Uganda discovered that the SDGs “offered an initial framework through which different sectors could trace their linkages to the national priority areas (in UNDESA-DSD 2015a).”

“SDGs were included directly in Chapter 3 of the NDPII that sets out the broader context for Ugandan development strategies. An important share of SDG targets was adjusted to national circumstances and included in the NDPII results framework. The Government is planning to further incorporate SDG targets and indicators in a more detailed results framework and refine it using the SDGs structure (in UNITAR 2015a).”

Source: in UNITAR (2015a)

Given the complexity inherent in the task of making recommendations for SDG integration, a multi-stakeholder body or forum is uniquely able to deliver both the credibility and legitimacy of a diverse set of views in a timely and cost-effective manner.

The case of Germany, featured below, illustrates how recommendations for adapting The 2030 Agenda and SDGs to the national context were explored, formulated and delivered by the independent German National Council for Sustainable Development (RNE). These recommendations addressed both means of implementation as well as specific recommendations to change their National Sustainable Development Strategy to revise existing goals and create new ones to help deliver the SDGs nationally and globally.

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Innovative Case Example: SDG Recommendations to the German Government

In 2015 the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) submitted its statement on ‘Germany’s Sustainability Architecture and the SDGs’ to the federal government. The content of the recommendation report included the following areas:

  • General: 2 recommendations dealing with the publishing of the recommendations and broadening the public debate on sustainable development
  • Sustainability as a principle of action: 3 recommendations identifying the existing national SD strategy as the appropriate instrument for implementing the SDGs, and addressing monitoring and review and global financial assistance.
  • Global partnerships: 4 recommendations for advancing the use of national SD strategies around the world, including in the EU.
  • Germany’s responsibility: 12 recommendations relating to new perspectives for a ‘German SD Strategy’, including a proposal for all goals to relate to 2030 as a rule, and for broad participation and involvement in implementing the strategy.
  • Redefinition of Germany’s sustainability architecture: 8 recommendations relating to sustainability as a law-shaping principle and institutional interfaces between global and national.
  • Structure of the 2016 German Sustainability Strategy: 8 recommendations relating to monitoring and peer review.
  • Germany’s 2016 goals for sustainable development: 4 recommendations relating to the integration of SDGs in the national SD strategy.
  • Detailed proposals: Recommendations providing more in-depth discussion across 29 sustainable development issue areas.

Source: RNE (2015).

Setting Nationally-Relevant Targets

Adapting the SDGs to national contexts inherently involves Member States setting their own targets guided by the level of ambition of the global SDGs and targets, but taking into account national circumstances. UNCTs can assist Member States with general guidance for target setting in relation to the guidance offered below.

Setting time-bound targets requires the identification of specific indicators and an understanding of the level and disaggregation of measurement for those indicators. At the global level, the SDGs and targets will be followed-up and reviewed using a set of global indicators. The global indicator framework will be developed by the UN Statistical Commission’s Inter Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators by March 2016 and adopted thereafter by the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly. Therefore target setting efforts by countries in the tailoring of SDGS to national contexts would most effectively work in step with this timeline.

Additionally, The 2030 Agenda recognizes “that baseline data for several of the targets remain unavailable” and calls for “increased support for strengthening data collection and capacity building in Member States, to develop national and global baselines where they do not yet exist.” And through The 2030 Agenda, Member States “commit to addressing this gap in data collection so as to better inform the measurement of progress, in particular for those targets below which do not have clear numerical targets.”

The setting of targets for any specific indicator can be informed by several different types of criteria, for example (UNEP 2007):

  • Benchmarks: Comparison with a documented best-case performance related to the same variable within another entity or jurisdiction;
  • Thresholds: The value of a key variable that will elicit a fundamental and irreversible change in the behaviour of the system;
  • Principles: A broadly defined and often formally accepted rule;
  • Standards: Nationally and/or internationally accepted value (i.e., a water quality standard); and
  • Policy-specified: Determined in a political and/or technical process taking past performance and desirable outcomes into account.

In most situations, target setting is an involved process that is both deliberative and analytical. For example, consider the logical framework for the process of setting targets used by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the World Health Organization in the context of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Trans-boundary Watercourses and International Lakes. In this case, the process of setting targets begins with the identification of key stakeholders and proceeds with baseline analyses to inform the agreement of broad-based targets and further consultation to agree on specific targets.

Recognizing that threats to people’s survival, livelihood and dignity can vary considerably within countries and at different points in time, the human security approach can assist UNCTs and Member States to adapt national SDG implementation plans to specific sub-national and local contexts (UNTFHS 2015). While national-level indicators can overlook variance at the sub-national and local levels, based on people-centred and context-specific, comprehensive and prevention-oriented principles, the human security approach provides a set of tools to gather data on people’s actual needs, vulnerabilities and capacities that is disaggregated by region, gender, ethnic identity and religion, among others. The approach has led to inclusive and participatory processes which have revealed gaps in existing strategies and mismatches between local realities and national policies and programmes (see Innovative Case Example below).  The approach works to strengthen synergies between national goals and actions at sub-national and local levels to ensure that nobody is left behind.

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Innovative Case Example: Human Security in Theory and Practice

The national human development report in Benin, titled “Human Security and Human Development in Benin”, provides a practical example of the Human Security approach in action. Using the human security tools, a household survey greatly expanded the understanding of the challenges faced by communities in different regions to compliment the quantitative data gathered through the national Human Development Index. It provided additional information on the inter-related challenges people face in their daily lives and highlighted their uneven distribution across the country and between the different segments of the population. Subsequently, the report laid out a human security-based national development plan that enabled the Government and the UNCT to tailor national development priorities to diverse local contexts.

Furthermore, in support of national development and stabilization efforts in Egypt, UNIDO, UN Women, UN-HABITAT, ILO and IOM, in close partnership with the local Government, are applying the human security approach through a joint programme in the Minya Governate, a region often over-looked by national development initiatives. Local “Human Security Forums” have been established as means to integrate national development strategies and tailor their implementation to the local context. These inclusive Forums provide a unique opportunity for communities to participate in setting local priorities and defining local development strategies as well as a conduit to link local and sub-national agendas with national development plans.

Source: United Nations Human Security Unit

Formulating Strategies and Plans Using Systems Thinking

This step involves the obvious, yet challenging task of incorporating the relevant SDG gap recommendations into the national development plan and supporting sector plans.  Every Member State has in place their own procedures for creating a national strategy or plan, and these should be the focus for implementing SDG recommendations. UNCTs could begin discussing with Member States how to incorporate systems thinking approaches and tools to help prioritize key policies, programmes and projects that have the greatest potential for systems-level change and realizing co-benefits across multiple issue areas.

The case of Belize is a good example of the incorporation of systems thinking in the formulation of their national development plan (see Innovative Case Example below).

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Innovative Case Example: Systems Thinking and Strategy Formulation in Belize

UNDESA-DSD jointly with UNDP provided technical assistance to the Belize government in 2014-15 in relation to SDG integration. The VISIS methodology was used to guide the assistance (Vision > Indicators > Systems > Innovation > Strategy; Atkisson 2010) and as part of this process insights on key cause-and-effect linkages emerged yielding important policy linkages across immigration, health and environmental issues (Atkisson 2015).

Additionally, the Belize government created a multi-factor analysis tool to help prioritize actions that have the greatest potential for system-level change (see below).

Source: in UNITAR (2015a)

The importance of implementing cross-cutting programmes and policies was emphasized at the 2014 Sustainable Development Transition Forum hosted by the UN Office for Sustainable Development. Participants at this global forum agreed that “anticipating the very real challenges that all countries will face in securing adequate financing for sustainable development and the future fiscal pressures posed by climate change adaptation and recovery from economic shocks, doing more with less will become a basic operating principle in the decades ahead (UNOSD 2014).”

Toolkit

UNITAR National Briefing Package

  • Scanning the landscape of existing strategies and plans: UNITAR Module 6, slides 55-60.
  • Comparative analysis of SDGs and existing goals (goal level): UNITAR Module 6, slide 64.

UNDP Rapid Integrated Assessment Policy Tool

This spreadsheet-based assessment tool provides an indicative overview of a country’s level of alignment with the 2030 Agenda through a gap analysis of SDG targets that are not prioritised in the current national development plans and strategies, and relevant sector strategies (UNDP, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support).

SDG Scorecard

Created by the U.K.-based Stakeholder Forum, the SDG Scorecard enables an assessment of each global SDG target in relation to its applicability, implementability and transformative potential in a national context (Stakeholder Forum 2015).

Sustainability Analysis Grid Tool

Advanced tools have been developed over the years for analysing existing plans and projects for their alignment with sustainability principles, and some of these have already been customized to work with the SDGs. For example, éco-conseil de l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, has developed the Sustainability Analysis Grid tool (éco-conseil 2015). This tool was featured at the 2015 UNDESA Workshop on Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Development (UNDESA-DSD 2015a) and is being adapted for application to SDGs at the national level (Villeneuve 2015).

Logical Framework for the Process of Setting Targets

Used by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the World Health Organization in the context of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Trans-boundary Watercourses and International Lakes (UNECE & WHO 2010).

Human Security Analysis Guidance

Systems Thinking and Strategy Formulation

Human Rights Guidance

Gender Mainstreaming Guidance

Decent Work Guidance

Education Guidance

References and Links

Atkisson (2015). Introduction to the VISIS Method: Vision > Indicators > Systems > Innovation > Strategy. Presented at the UNDESA Workshop on Integrated Approaches for Sustainable Development, New York, May 27-292015. 

Atkisson (2010). The Sustainability Transformation: How to Accelerate Positive Change in Challenging Times. Earthscan: London.

Crawford, J. (2015). Sustainable Development Planning and Strategy Formulation: An Integrated Systems Approach. Presentation delivered at the UNDESA Workshop on Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Development.

Eco-conseil (2015). Guide d’analyse de DD: version longue (2014 v). éco-conseil de l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi.

FMS-ASG (2015). Sentinel Visualizer: Advanced Link Analysis, Data Visualization, Geospatial Mapping, and Social Network Analysis. FMS Advanced Systems Group.

Howells, et al. (2013). Integrated analysis of climate change, land-use, energy and water strategies. Nature Climate Change 3, 621–626. 

Huisman, Mark and van Duijn, Marijtje A.J. (2011). A reader’s guide to SNA software. In J. Scott and P.J. Carrington (Eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Social Network Analysis (pp. 578-600). London: SAGE. Listing of software for social network analysis supporting the chapter

ILO (2013) Social protection assessment based national dialogue: A good practices guide. International Labour Organization. 

MI (2011). Strengthening Institutional Capacity for Integrated Climate Change Adaptation & Comprehensive National Development Planning in Kenya – Final Report. Millennium Institute. 

MI (2015). Historical Development and Applications of the T21 Model. Millennium Institute. 

Mrvar, A. and V. Batagelj (2015). Pajek, version 3 and 4: Programs for Analysis and Visualization of Very Large Networks – Reference Manual.

OHCHR. Universal human rights index – for specific recommendations on each country

OHCHR (2006). Frequently Asked Questions on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Development Cooperation.

Otte, E and R. Ronald (2002). “Social network analysis: a powerful strategy, also for the information sciences”. Journal of Information Science 28: 441–453.

Pizarro, G. (2013). Lessons From the Operationalization of the MDGs. 2013 Global MDG Conference, UNDP Working Paper. No. 10, UNDP Publishing.

RNE (2015). Germany’s Sustainability Architecture and the SDGs: Statement provided by the German Council for Sustainable Development to Federal Minister Peter Altmaier in accordance with Sect 1 (2)b RNE Rules of Procedure. 26 May 2015. 

Sánchez, M. (2015).  Modelling tools to support evidence-based policy decision making for sustainable development. Presentation delivered at the Workshop on Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Development, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development, New York, May 27-29.

UNDESA-DSD (2015a). Report of the Workshop on Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Development, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. New York, 27-29 May 2015. Available at: 

UNDESA-DSD (2015b). Towards integration at last? The sustainable development goals as a network of targets. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  DESA Working Paper No. 141. Available at: 

UNDG (2011). The UN Common Learning Package on HRBA to Programming.

UNDG. The UN Practitioners’ Portal on Human Rights Based Approaches to Programming.

UNDP (2012). Kenya Threshold 21 Dynamic Model Report. United Nations Development Program – Africa Adaptation Program.

UNEP (2007). Integrated Environmental Assessment Training Manual – Module 5: Integrated Analysis of Environmental Trends and Policies, p 54. United Nations Environment Program, Division of Early Warning and Assessment. 

UNOSD (2014).  Incheon Communique – 2014 Sustainable Development Transition Forum. 9-11 April, Incheon, Republic of Korea. United Nations Office for Sustainable Development.

World Bank (2015). Maquette for MDG Simulations – MAMS. World Bank.

Villeneuve, C. (2015). A Sustainability Analysis Tool for SDG’s. Presentation at UNDESA’s Workshop on Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Development, New York, 27-29 May. 

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Innovation scaling: It’s not replication. It’s seeing in 3D

BY Gina Lucarelli | September 12, 2018

My brother is a mathematician and on family vacations, he talks about data in multi-dimensions. (Commence eyes-glazing over). But as the family genius, he’s probably on to something. Lately, in my own world where I try to scale innovation in the UN to advance sustainable development, I am also thinking in 3D, or, if properly caffeinated,  multi-dimensionally. As new methods, instruments, actors, mutants and data are starting to transform how the UN advances sustainable development, the engaged manager asks: when and how will this scale?  To scale, we need to know what we are aiming for.  This blog explores the idea that innovation scaling is more about connecting experiments than the pursuit of homogeneous replications. Moving on from industrial models of scaling innovation In the social sector, the scaling question makes us nervous because the image of scaling is often a one dimensional, industrial one: let’s replicate the use of this technology, tool or method in a different place and that means we’ve scaled. This gives us social development people pause not only because we can’t ever fully replicate [anything] across multiple moving  elements across economic, social and culture. Even if we could replicate, it would dooms us to measuring scaling by counting the repeated application of one innovation in many places.   Thankfully, people like Gord Tulloch have given us a thoughtful scaling series that questions the idea that scaling social innovation is about replicating single big ideas many times over. [Hint: he says scaling innovation in the public sector is less about copy-pasting big ideas and more about legitimizing and cultivating many “small” solutions and focusing on transforming cultures.]  Apolitical’s spotlight series on scaling social impact includes a related insightful conclusion: when looking at Bangladesh’s Graduation Approach as one of the few proven ways out of poverty, they suggest that while the personalized solutions work best, they might be replicable, but too bespoke to scale. So if scaling ≠ only replication, how do we strategize for scale? I’ve got a proposal:  what if we frame the innovation scaling question more about doing deep than broad? The scaling question becomes: How will we move from distinct prototypes managed by different teams at the frontier of our work to a coherent, connected use of emergent  experiments in programme operations? Scaling also means moving from fringe to core Scaling innovation in a large organization like the UN has a glorious serendipity to it. Did you hear that we are looking into impact bonds in Armenia? What about the food security predictor in Indonesia? Nice collective intelligence approach in Lesotho. Blockchain is being used for cash transfers in Pakistan and Jordan. Check out the foresight in Mauritius. UNICEF is using Machine learning to track rights enshrined in constitutions. UNHCR is using it to predict migration in Somalia. UNDP is testing out social impact bonds for road safety in Montenegro. These organic innovations are beautiful and varied and keep us learning, but we as a UN system are not yet scaling in 3D. These days, I’ve been talking to people (my brother’s eyes glaze over at this point) about how to see various methods of innovations not as distinct categories of experiments, but rather as connected elements of an emergent way of doing development. Towards a connected kind of 3D.  Yes innovation is more of an evolving set of disruptions than a fixed taxonomy of new methods, but if we narrow our scope for a moment to the subset of innovations which have passed the proof of concept stage, can we start thinking seriously about how they connect? [As an important side note, thinking in terms of taxonomies of innovations is not a panacea. Check out @gquagiotto’s slides for a more thorough story on how classification is trouble for public sector innovation because it means we limit our vision and don’t see unexpected futures where they are already among us.] Projectizing innovation without keeping an eye on the links among the new stuff won’t get us far, and might even be counter-productive.  Instead, what would it be like if innovations were deployed in an integrated way? A bit like Armenia’s SDG innovation lab where behavioral insights, innovative finance, crowd-sourced solutions and predictive analytics [among others] are seen as a package deal.  I am looking for collaborators to learn more about how are all these methods and tools related. Do they help or hinder each other? Are there lessons that can be learned from one area and applied to others? Should some new tech and methods not be combined with others? 9 elements of next practices in development work A few of us UN experimenters came together in Beirut in July to pool what we know on this.  We had a pretty awesome team of mentors and UN innovators from 22 countries. We framed our reflections around the 9 elements of innovation which I see as approaching critical mass in the field. This is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start to moving these methods from fringe tests led by various teams to core, connected operations. Here are the “nine elements of next practice UN” we are working with: Tapping into ethnography, citizen science and amped up participation for collective intelligence to increase the accuracy, creativity, responsiveness and accountability of investments for sustainable development. Using art, data, technology, science fiction and participatory foresight methods to overcome short-termism and make sustainable futures tangible. Complementing household survey methods with real time data and predictive analytics to see emerging risks and opportunities and design programmes and policies based on preparedness and prevention. Building on the utility of “superman dashboards”  for decision makers to helping real people use their own data for empowerment, entrepreneurship and accountability. Leveraging finance beyond ODA and public budgets by finding ways to attract private capital to sustainable development. Evolving the way we do things and even what services we offer by managing operations through new technologies Applying psychology and neuroscience for behavioral insights to question assumptions, design better campaigns and programmes and to generate evidence of impact when it comes to people’s behavior. Carving out space for science and technology partnerships within the UN’s sustainable development work Improving how we support our national partners in managing privacy and ethical risks Moving from “that’s cool” to “aha it’s all connected” We need to start thinking of these 9 elements as connected. It might be that they reinforce each other - whereby focusing on data empowerment gives meaning, context and legitimacy to the use of big data to understand behaviors and online activity. Or that they undermine each other - in the way that citizen science can undermine innovative finance pay-outs, or behavioral insights are helping companies get around privacy regulations. Looking for the practical connections, here’s what we’ve got so far: Collective intelligence methods that listen to people organically can help determine whether your behavioral campaigns are resonating.  Because people’s intell is often more granular than statistics, they could also be used to test whether new forms of finance are making an impact on health, education and other development issues. Small scale and/or internal experiments in the UN to manage operations with new technology help us know what the next generation privacy and ethics risks are. Experiments in gray zones can then inform future-oriented regulatory frameworks. Keeping a focus on helping people use data for empowerment is a good northstar when using new data and predictive analytics to ensure that cultivating realtime sources of data isn’t deepening the digital or data privacy divide. Using foresight methods or predictive analytics can point to signals of where to invest with innovative finance instruments [Follow Ramya from IFRC innovations for more on this. Hence some early connections form a budding conspiracy theory! If you are thinking multi-dimensionally too, or using a few of these methods and see where this line of thinking can be improved, help me draw more lines on the innovation conspiracy board! [Or tell me why this is the wrong tree to be barking towards… That’s always helpful too.]   We’re working on a playbook to codify what we know so far in terms of principles and methods for each of these 9 elements. Stay tuned for that... and please do get in touch to throw your own knowledge in!

Silo Fighters Blog

Promise to data: What the SDGs mean for persons with disability in China

BY Marielza Oliveira, Elin Bergman | August 29, 2018

China has strong and capable statistical systems, no surprises there. After all, China is known for its ambitious Five-Year Plans, which have shifted focus from economic growth to policy planning, environmental protection, and social programmes for its population of 1.4 billion. What's different and unique about its 13th Five-Year Plan is that it's very much aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Even so, China faces a daunting challenge to implement Agenda 2030. For starters, it only has official data for less than 30 percent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicators, and much less when considering data that covers vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities. With more than 85 million, China has the largest population with disabilities in the world. The good news is that China keeps a record of people with disability, so the official data sources are up-to-date. To support the Chinese government’s efforts to improve monitoring of the SDGs addressing people with disabilities, we at UNFPA, UNESCO, UNRCO, UN Women and WHO came together to test innovative approaches to collect focused and disaggregated data. Starting in Qinghai We selected the Qinghai Province in Northwest China as the pilot location to test new ways of collecting data. In Qinghai, the estimated number of persons with disability is five percent of the total population, of which about 70 percent live in rural areas. There are about 150,000 people registered in Qinghai Disabled Persons’ Federation, the local chapter of China Disabled Persons’ Federation. Therefore, it was important for us to look at their administrative data, which are key for crosslinking data from various sectors, including public services data. To demonstrate how data collection in underdeveloped regions can be operationalized in a smart way, we collected, analyzed and crosslinked all the administrative data of people with a disability ID with the following big data sources: Data from the national survey of basic services and needs for people with disabilities which is developed and updated by China Disabled Persons’ Federation, the National Bureau of Statistics and local Disabled Persons’ Federations; Data from the public services and various sectors including health, education, employment, social security, poverty alleviation and community services. This type of data is gathered from crosslinking disability ID data with public services data. Data from internet-based platforms. It's possible to use big data to integrate and crosslink all data from the disability ID system, administrative data of disability services from China Disabled Persons’ Federation and the administrative data of public services. By expanding the existing official data with information from other sources, China has the potential to not only monitor the additional SDG indicators, but it can also compile additional disaggregated views of SDG progress to monitor specific groups and locations in need of support while strengthening “real-time” monitoring and analytics. During this process, we engaged the vulnerable groups in the analysis and interpretation of data. For us, knowing what people living with disabilities think and need is key. We carefully examined their views to highlight the SDGs indicators that could directly benefit their well-being. The hindrances of data collection We experienced a few setbacks throughout the process, but, we adopted coping mechanisms to address the issue of data collection and analysis: Quality control of data. The disability data available from different sectors uses very different standards and follows different collection approaches. Moving forward, we propose to check and purify the data using standard disability datasets and a data crosslink approach. We also optimized the timeliness and the mechanisms to update the data. Sharing data among sectors. The key index of disability and people with disabilities was determined using the disability ID. The data across sectors was crosslinked with key index such as disability ID and others. What we discovered The administrative data platform of people with disability was recently updated with the results from the annual survey of unmet needs and services for people with disabilities nationwide. This platform provides timely data for monitoring SDGs that address people with disabilities. Other sectors have developed big data platforms using citizens’ ID. To continue enhancing the administrative data records, it's important to collaborate with other stakeholders, such as health care and educational departments to extend the existing data sources. Household surveys can also be used to fill in the gaps of official disability statistics. We shared our discoveries with an expert panel, which included representatives from the Chinese government, the National Bureau of Statistics, China Disabled Persons' Federation and its Qinghai branch, Qinghai Department of Commerce, Institute of Rehabilitation Information/WHO Family International Classifications Collaborating Center China, China Disability Data Research Institute, Soochow University, Nanjing Special Education Teachers College, UN agencies, as well as Chinese IT giants What's next The methodology implemented in Qinghai province can easily be extended to other vulnerable groups since they also face similar challenges. Stakeholders can also adopt similar tactics to develop specific SDG indicators, data collection and analysis to evaluate their progress. As for next steps, the UN country team will continue to research protocols and methods to monitor disability-inclusive SDGs. We will also develop a knowledge platform in Chinese to promote capacity building for the implementation of Agenda 2030 and conduct an international comparative study of technical approaches of data collection and analysis. Data and internet-based surveys will also be developed to learn more about the needs of people with disabilities and improve services for them, while at the same time using those statistics to make sure that we leave no one behind. What methods are you disaggregate the SDGs to ensure data for action with people living with disabilities? If you have some tips, do tell! Photography: Jonathan Kos-Read. License by Creative Commons