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Follow up the sustainable development goals!

In September, the UN General Assembly will adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The negotiations have been going on for a long time and it is likely that there will be an agreement on 17 goals to be achieved by 2030. There is also a broad consensus on 169 targets within the goals. The SDGs will apply to all countries, but they will not be legally binding. It is, therefore, particularly important to get in place systems that involve a broad popular participation for the supervision and the monitoring of the results.

A meeting on monitoring mechanisms for the SDGs was recently organized in New York by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (Germany), the Millennium Institute (USA) and Biovision (Switzerland), in cooperation with UNEP, UNCCD and IFAD. It brought together a number of experts in natural resources, food production and food policy with the main purpose to contribute to the development of proposals on the follow-up mechanisms and processes that should be put in place for the SDGs. A recurring issue was how to ensure an effective participation of civil society in those processes and mechanisms

Many participants emphasized how the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) works with the participation of civil society and the private sector, and the way this participation is organized. In this Committee, representatives of civil society and private sector participate on an equal footing with government officials of FAO member countries, although only national governments have voting rights. Both, the civil society and the private sector, have their own fora where to discuss key issues and where spokespeople are elected for each matter to be considered within the Committee. There is also a lot to learn from the working methods of the Brazilian Department of Agriculture and Environmental Audit. The head of the department underlined the great importance of active participation of civil society.

Key points for follow-up mechanisms for sustainability goals

The conference in New York agreed on the following main elements for follow-up mechanisms for the SDGs:

• There must be an inclusive process with real and active participation of civil society, with special emphasis on those directly affected by the issues discussed. National authorities must take responsibility for leading the processes and to ensure active participation of civil society and the private sector.

• The implementation of sustainability goals must be solution-orientated. It is important to emphasize how the goals can be achieved. Solutions in the center!

• All forms of facts and data, including traditional knowledge must be made available and used.

• Ensure information exchange between different levels - local, national, regional and global. It must also be thematic assessments across these levels. The role of the High-Level Political Forum which will be established, will be important to ensure this.

• It is important to look at cross-cutting issues - to get out of "silos" and find ways to see things in context.

• The follow-up of the SDGs must be linked with other processes, for example the financing for development and climate change negotiations.

by Aksel Naerstad
International co-coordinator of the More and Better Network