Governing the SDGs: Make Your Voice Heard

Remember the SDGs? The new global goals for sustainable development, being negotiated at the UN, right now, for the whole world to adopt this September?

Maybe you are not following the negotiations on the SDGs as closely as I am (I have to follow it closely, it is part of my current consulting assignment with the UN). So I thought I’d update you. And also pass on an opportunity to make your voice (and other people’s voices) heard.

At the end of this post is a set of links to a survey being conducted to get civil society voices into the mix on how the SDGs are to be governed, coordinated, implemented etc. The survey is in multiple (UN) languages.

Yesterday, I was watching the live webcast from the UN, and I listened to the Co-Facilitators of the SDG negotiating process — the ambassadors of Ireland and Kenya — summarize the last two days of negotiating. This week, the discussions are focused on the review and follow up process for the SDGs. That is, how nations will report back to the UN, and to each other.

Now, this is a lot more interesting that it sounds at first glance. For one thing, “follow-up and review” means Indicators: how to track and report on progress. (Anybody reading this knows I’m a big fan of sustainability indicators, having worked with them for 25 years … and Indicators are a core part of our VISIS Method.)

For another, this week’s dialogue is about accountability: just how committed is the world (that is, the community of nations) to the SDGs? The Co-Facilitators of the negotiations highlighted that this week, the nations are debating whether to talk about this process using the phrase “monitoring and accountability,” or the lighter-sounding “review and follow-up.” In diplomacy, language is almost everything. Use of the first phrase means, in simple terms, that the world will take the SDGs much more seriously.

But … there are a lot of complex positions, conceptual debates, and geopolitical nuances also hidden in that one example of what is currently being discussed. I won’t bore you with the details, because I barely understand it all myself. But one thing I do know: this process will end up determining a number of things about how we talk about, and do, sustainable development … for many years to come.

So, if you want to weigh in, here are the links to the surveys, in English, Spanish, French and Russian. And even if you do not have a clue what the “HLPF” is (the “High-Level Political Forum,” where the countries will meet, under the UN’s auspices, to assess SDG progress once a year, and every four years it will be the Heads of State), then going through the survey will be a kind of learning experience.

Here comes the text from the umbrella initiative “SD2015” with the survey links, followed by a link to the live negotiations.



Civil society is a critical actor in sustainable development governance.
Now is the time to convey your organisation’s views and recommendations.

Fill out the survey and participate in the consultation around stakeholder engagement in the
High Level Political Forum (HLPF)

Participate today:

English version:…

Español versión:…

Français version:…

Pусский версия:…

This online survey is a part of a wider consultation on the HLPF that SD2015 is carrying out until June 2015. The purpose is to make use of this crucial opportunity for members of Major Groups and other Stakeholders to shape engagement in the HLPF. Findings will be shared in a report in June-July 2015.

(Reference Quote:)
“Stakeholders active in areas related to sustainable development will autonomously establish and maintain effective coordination mechanisms for participation in the high-level political forum”
— General Assembly Resolution on the organization aspects of the HLPF

And if you want to follow the action this week, live, it’s here:

3 thoughts on “Governing the SDGs: Make Your Voice Heard

  1. Feedback. The survey does not introduce what the functions of HLPF are. It should set a context for those who are not familiar if they want answers. All over the survey the meaning of grades 1-5 is mixed up: in some cases 1 being very important, in others 5 being very important. I am sure this has caused a lot of confusion for the responders who were brave enough to go through the survey till the end as I was and were constantly tempted to switch it off and just leave it there… The language is too technical. For instance: what is this supposed to mean: “Recognize and support other forms of organizing within the major groups framework including the use of caucuses or clusters based upon the “self-organizing” principle”? I am very skeptical if the survey has been effective in gathering the answers. Even if so, I think the great majority confused the meaning of 1 to 5 values and those in charge of analyzing will have hard time interpreting results.

    • Very good points! I think you should forward this to the SD2015 organizers so that they hear it directly (I do not know them, I am happy to forward, but it will have more impact coming directly …)

  2. I did forward the feedback to the only e-mail address I could find on the online survey platform. Feel free to forward this feedback to whomever this would be useful.

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