A new treaty for a sustainable and just future? — A global issue
  • opinion Simone Galimberti (Kathmandu, Nepal)
  • Inter Press Service

this is Year Edition Will it be covered by the world’s media? Will the international community and the general public take notice?

The HLPF was conceived as an accountability initiative and is the only way to hold UN member states accountable to Agenda 2030, the global blueprint in place since 2015 that contains actionable SDGs.

Given the lack of serious commitment to implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the predecessors to the SDGs, the international community has come up with a different, more rigorous approach.

After tough negotiations, member states managed to forge a stronger mechanism for monitoring national implementation of the SDGs. Despite differences of opinion, the idea of ​​the HLPF emerged as a compromise acceptable to both sides.

On the one hand, there were countries that wanted a looser, “bottom-up” approach in which governments were responsible for setting their own plans and targets without legally binding provisions.

These countries signed up to Agenda 2030 on the condition that they take the lead in planning for achieving the SDGs. In doing so, they were unwilling to have real and meaningful oversight of their own efforts, and deliberately set themselves up to be light on accountability during the negotiations.

Meanwhile, other countries wanted stronger enforcement mechanisms with real accountability, which is why the HLPF became a peer-to-peer mechanism and member states were invited to submit national reviews every two years, so-called National Voluntary Reviews (NVRs).

As a concession to those calling for a strong accountability framework, it was agreed that the HLPF would hold two formal sessions every four years, one of which would be designated an SDG Summit at the level of heads of state and government.

Despite its good intentions, the HLPF never achieved the objectives for which it was conceived. It struggled to garner the support and awareness that had been hoped for, and essentially became a highly technical mechanism for a relatively small number of experts and civil society activists.

Most seriously, this was never accepted by the government, which saw it as a minor inconvenience or a missed opportunity. Both sides still thought it was worthwhile to present the HLPF as an important event.

Having member states voluntarily publish VNRs is undoubtedly better than having no platform at all to understand what countries are doing towards implementing the SDGs. Moreover, the HLPF, with its rich side events programme, has established itself as an important learning and capacity-building platform.

But it is time for the international community to start rethinking this whole endeavor. Just as with the drafting of a new plan to replace the MDGs, ambition needs to be increased here too.

Recently Released Sustainable Development Goals Report 2024The Report, the only official UN publication tracking progress on the implementation of the goals, again paints an extremely grim picture.

The international community as a whole is not living up to its responsibilities, and humanity as a whole is far from ensuring the well-being and sustainability of the planet in the years to come.

Perhaps we should not only blame the weak framework that allows governments to not follow through on their promises.

The entire international system, based on cooperation between states, is under stress due to several ongoing geopolitical crises, with perhaps even deeper and more significant ones on the horizon.

Despite this alarming scenario, the international community must rise to the challenge. This is why it is essential to start planning for an even bolder Agenda 2030 and beyond, one that retains innovations and substantive improvements compared to the MDGs, but with stronger enforcement mechanisms.

For example, there should be no hesitation in reaffirming the relevance of the 17 SDGs. Over the years, important steps have been taken in terms of planning the implementation of the SDGs and devising the essential data to track results.

Moreover, the idea of ​​the SDGs has somehow captured people’s imagination, even though it is now in dire need of a rebrand.The real problem now is how to report and track the SDGs, and the HLPF is simply not up to the job.

Bold proposal: The international community should work to develop an internationally binding legal instrument – ​​a treaty – that would more effectively create ownership, accountability and a sense of urgency among member states, reinforced by new legal responsibilities, for implementing the SDGs.

It is now essential to have stronger oversight mechanisms, and such fundamental changes will be the basis for a revamped future process beyond Agenda 2030. New tools are needed to ensure that governments are actually doing all they can to achieve the SDGs.

The current national reviews cannot continue in their current form of voluntary initiatives, conducted and presented solely on the basis of the moral obligations of signatory countries to the 2030 Agenda.

Instead, they must be translated into actual accounting of what each government is doing according to fixed required parameters, including the type and quality of data and information included.

Moreover, what I called the future Mandatory National Review Alternatively, the MNR should also have space to insert data and information on local government initiatives. Essentially, the new MNR should also include Local Voluntary Reviews (LVRs), which are currently informal and largely unofficial but still conveniently considered an “add-on”.

Such reporting should be undertaken annually, without exceptions or flexibility options. However, the preparation of the reports needs to take into account the specific circumstances of Member States, for example by significantly simplifying reporting requirements for small island developing States. All of this will require strengthened capacity on the part of Member State Governments, and therefore substantial resources.

UN regional commissions, UNDP country offices and UN resident coordinators, who currently have greater powers and responsibilities, should play a greater role in assisting host countries to meet the requirements of the Convention.

These new national responsibilities can only be met by giving the United Nations a much enhanced role, with real “powers” to evaluate and assess national efforts, or lack thereof.

Today, UN agencies and country-level programmes, wherever they are operating, are and should be fundamentally partners with host governments: they fund many programmes and are themselves co-implementers of others.

In all fairness, they cannot play the role of assessor or tracker of national government activities. This is why the treaty will establish a new UN body focused entirely on assessing and tracking government activities. Such an body should operate completely independently and be effectively separated from UN activities on the ground. The new UN body, deliberately shielded from political interference or influence by national authorities or aid agencies, should be free to issue frank and impartial assessments, accompanied by a list of recommendations where appropriate.

The treaty must also include provisions on funding. In practice, it should: SDGs Stimulus Measures Just as envisioned by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

This is estimated at $500 billion per year, a figure that rises significantly when funds needed to combat climate change and biodiversity loss are also taken into account.As with any treaty negotiation, it will be up to officials to find compromises on the technical aspects of funding, for example, determining whether existing multilateral organizations and programs are suitable for such funding purposes.

I know very well that many governments will be reluctant to enter into a new binding treaty. There will be a lot of resistance, but after all, this is what happens when any ambitious plan is rolled out.

For example, it took years to agree on the need for a plastic pollution treaty, and those difficult negotiations are only now reaching the final stage. The last mile The end of the year has come for South Korea, but the road ahead remains extremely difficult.

But if the international community is serious about redirecting and reversing the dangerous path humanity is on, a treaty is the only way forward. Without action, it is impossible to envision a better, more sustainable and just world. The viability of future generations is at risk.

In order to appease those countries that do not accept this idea, that is, those governments that will undoubtedly pose many obstacles before reaching agreement on the need for a binding legal instrument, let us remind them that a treaty is always the result of a compromise that all parties must agree on.

Even the SDGs are far from ideal.

Fundamental issues such as the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and the concept of democracy are conspicuously absent from Agenda 2030. I have even come up with a fitting name for such a bold milestone. A treaty for a sustainable and just futureIt is no longer enough to simply focus on extending the SDGs to a longer-term framework, perhaps to 2045. It is simply not enough.

We need better tools to ensure that governments around the world take post-Agenda 2030 planning seriously. We need bold ideas and countries that support such an ambitious approach to start the conversation. What is important right now is to start the conversation about a treaty.

I hope that civil society will drive this forward, and perhaps a truly global, multi-stakeholder coalition of hope will take shape and begin to demand what the planet and humanity really need.

Simone Galimberti She writes about the SDGs, youth-centred policymaking, and a stronger and better United Nations.

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© Inter Press Services (2024) — All rights reservedSource: Inter Press Service


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