Remarks by Angel Gurría
25 September 2019 - New York, USA
(As prepared for delivery)
Excellencies, Ministers, Administrator, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here to launch the Global Hub on the Governance for the SDGs and to see such broad support from all of you today.
The SDGs are the most ambitious, challenging and complex policy agenda that the global community has ever attempted to deliver. To achieve the 2030 Agenda, governments need to coordinate, consult, and work across policy areas in unprecedented ways. The existence of responsive, accountable and effective institutions is a must to underpin progress on the entire agenda.
This is why the OECD decided to initiate this Hub, as a platform for national experts and practitioners to interact, learn from each other, and give advice on tackling specific governance bottlenecks to achieve the SDGs.
Today, not only do we face a daunting task, but we are running out of time. With little over 10 years to go, progress is uneven across both targets and countries. Challenges persist everywhere, including in the most advanced economies. The most recent edition of our report ‘Measuring the Distance to SDG Targets’, shows that OECD member countries need to ramp up their efforts.
For example, in Goal 2 on Food, the targets relating to soil quality and protection of genetic diversity are fairly close to being met, but performance on obesity rates is far from the target level. The same goes for Institutions (Goal 16). While most OECD countries perform well on registration of births, they are lacking in terms of confidence in their national governments. In some cases, there is even evidence of backsliding: for example, several advanced economies have been moving further away from the SDG targets relating to Inclusive and Sustainable Growth (Goal 8).
While we have already made some headway in understanding ‘what’ we should do to deliver on this agenda, it is high time we focused our attention on the ‘how’; on the implementation; on the nuts and bolts.
Adopting a whole-of-government approach to the SDGs remains paramount. In recent years, the OECD has been providing support in this area. For example, we have supported Slovenia and the Slovak Republic in the development of their whole-of-government national strategies for SDG implementation. In addition, we are currently working with Malta on their SDG-aligned National Development Plan.
Through our SDG Action Plan we support our Members, partners, and the international community on making progress on the 2030 Agenda. One of the Plan’s cornerstones focuses on supporting governments in their efforts to adapt their governance structures, so that they are best suited to specific needs and contexts.
It is clear that the institutions underpinning public administrations need to be more responsive to today’s challenges. As such, OECD peer reviews highlight the importance of whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches, mobilising the business and research communities, civil society and subnational governments.
Moreover, the OECD’s recent report ‘Governance as an Accelerator of the SDGs’ shows a number of shortcomings in current governance practices. We see, for example, that the SDGs are not yet integrated in core governance mechanisms, such as budget and public procurement systems. Indeed, while the SDGs are often integrated in national strategies, this does not necessarily translate in their integration into national budgets (only 57 percent). The public sector often faces capacity gaps to deliver on the SDGs, while monitoring and evaluation systems for SDGs need further improvement in many countries.
Implementing the SDGs also requires working across government levels. Close to two-thirds of the targets underlying the 17 SDGs – at least 100 out of 169 - will not be reached without engaging local and regional governments. Cities and regions have a crucial role to play. The OECD’s expertise in this area, including through our Territorial Approach to the SDGs Programme, will reinforce the work of the Global Hub to help strengthen governance mechanisms at all levels of government.
Looking ahead, the Global Hub will focus on engaging with governments worldwide to help them address their most pressing governance challenges and advance the 2030 agenda. Among others, this will involve supporting public authorities in participating countries to build capacity and develop tailor-made solutions adapted to their needs.
The Global Hub will benefit from existing partnerships on SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions). This includes the peer-to-peer methodology developed by the Effective Institution Platform, which helps government officials and others to learn better and from each other. The Peer-to-Peer Learning Alliances have helped to build trust and provide opportunities for participants to collaborate in new ways on strengthening their public institutions and break out of unproductive silos.
We look forward to working closely with the UNDP to leverage our respective comparative advantages. By working together in a global partnership, we can all contribute to assisting countries to create the right leadership culture, and promote the necessary skills to support the SDGs. Our efforts will focus on supporting a whole-of-government, coordinated, and participatory approach to mobilise institutions and involve external stakeholders. We will also be supporting governments to use budgeting, monitoring and evaluation best practices to advance the SDGs. And by promoting gender equality and access to justice, we will help countries make sure that no one is left behind.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Antoine de Saint Exupéry said: “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. In this vein, let’s continue to work together to strengthen our Plan and make sure we deliver the 2030 agenda. It is indispensable in building sustainable and inclusive economies and societies. It is our responsibility to future generations, and, ultimately, to the planet.
We look forward to seeing you at our first meeting of the Global Hub in early 2020. Thank you.