In adopting the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the countries of the world signed on to a huge collective effort to transform their approach to development, in order to create a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable future for all. Now each country is looking at the actions they need to take to meet that pledge. Every country faces a unique set of challenges, but there are also similarities that offer opportunities for cross-country learning, particularly within regions or among countries with similar development trajectories.
During the year and a half of negotiations that resulted in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), IRF organised a series of well-received informal weekend retreats for government negotiators. The retreats offered a carefully facilitated “safe space”, outside of the formal inter-governmental process, for negotiators to collectively explore critical aspects of the evolving goal framework. Following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, a number of “graduates” of the retreats encouraged IRF to organise similar events, bringing key SDG actors from different countries together to share ideas and experiences on key challenges. Earlier this year, two IRF partners, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), committed funding to allow IRF to conduct an initial series of retreats, each targeting a specific region.
The High Level Group in support of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda was created in 2015 at the initiative of the Prime Minister of Sweden. It brings together the leaders of nine countries with a shared commitment to showing political leadership, partnership and responsibility in order to achieve the SDGs by 2030. High Level Group members have endorsed this new IRF retreat series and several have offered to host individual retreats.
Four 2-day retreats are planned for the coming year. Each will bring together representatives of government planning agencies from several countries in the regions in which they are held. Most will also include participants from civil society, private sector leaders and representatives of regional organisations.
The first retreat, Achieving the SDGs’ vision of equity, growth and resilience in Africa through regional cooperation, will be held in Liberia in September 2017. Participants will use case studies and examples from their own experience to explore two major dimensions of sustainable development: inclusive and sustainable economic growth and effective, accountable governance institutions. The focus of discussions will be on West African challenges and experiences, but with attention also to relevant learning from throughout the continent. The retreat is being organised by the Government of Liberia, IIED on behalf of IRF, and the Open Societies Initiative for West Africa, whose sister organisation for southern Africa is also an IRF member.
A retreat on ownership and operationalisation of the SDGs will take place in October in Colombia. At the retreat, government planners from twelve Latin American countries will map out national strategies around those themes, share information and network. A scoping paper prepared by IRF partner Rimisp (Latin American Centre for Rural Development) will provide material for presentations and discussions. The retreat’s organisers are the Government of Colombia’s Department of National Planning and SEI and Rimisp on behalf of IRF.
The governments of Timor Leste and Germany have expressed interest in hosting similar retreats for their regions in 2018.
IRF partners expect the retreat series to add value to the more formal processes around the SDGs, such as national consultations and the annual UN High Level Political Forum. They also hope to provide participants with a moment to look away from the specifics of SDG targets and indicators and focus instead on the big opportunities for transformative change embodied in this exciting new universal agenda.