Governance for implementing the SDGs – A regional comparison

In December, as part of the 2015 Earth System Governance Conference in Canberra, SDSN Australia/Pacific joined with SDSN Japan and UNU-IAS to host a workshop looking at the national implementation challenges of the SDGs and how different countries are addressing it.

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN in September 2015, most governments around the world are grappling with the question of how these international goals should and could be incorporated into the unique governance context and structures of each country.

The workshop, attended by 30 governance and sustainability experts from around the world, as well as by representatives of state and federal agencies in Australia, examined the challenges facing governments and how different countries are starting to address them. The workshop was held as part of the project Governance for Sustainable Development, carried out by the United Nations University – Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), Keio University and SDSN Japan.

The workshop focussed on the Australian and Japanese experiences through the SDSN Australia/Pacific initiative on Implementing the SDGs in Australia and the Japanese Project on Sustainability Transformation beyond 2015 (POST2015).

Participants noted that in many cases developing countries are better prepared for the SDGs and the concept of “governance through goals” than developed countries, because of their experience with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This was underscored by the sheer range of challenges brought up at the workshop from the legal status of the SDGs to their implications for grass-roots community activist groups.

However it was also clear that different countries are at different stages of discussion on addressing SDGs. Some, like Japan, are already implementing means by which to use the SDGs to guide national government and business priorities and the international agenda (such as the G7 to be hosted by Japan this year).

A follow up workshop hosted by the project in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the end of February, will compare the experiences of a broader range of Asian and European countries, including Australia, and explore how countries can develop strategic policy support and concrete proposals to ensure SDG implementation, follow-up and review.