Systematic Framework for implementation & Review of Sustainable Development Goals

Global Goals
Newsletter Vol 1. Issue 1, Mar, 2020
Systematic Framework for SDGs
implementation & Review
Sanjay Marale

As the 2030 Agenda came into effect on January 1, 2016, since then we all aim to increase
prosperity, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability in our locality and society by
following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework. However, many people are not
aware about SDGs and how to implement this complex and ambitious agenda. There is
tremendous potential as well as urgency to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, there is a need for a simple framework which can help individuals and institutions in
understanding and implementing the SDGs as well as measuring the progress and identifying
more effective ways to implement them and to communicate the results to the world. Present
article elaborates on the various steps to be followed during implementation, evaluation and
communication of Agenda 2030.
The intensity and priority of social, political, economic and environmental issues are
different at national, regional and global levels. For example, In India Issues like unemployment,
corruption, crime, pollution, etc. needs to be addressed immediately (Ruby Pandey, 2019).
Access to healthcare, public transportation, sanitation, waste management, pollution, quality
education, electricity, safety of women, access to clean drinking water are the real problems of
the world (Nikita Bhatia, 2016). And it is assumed that the solutions to all these problems are
hidden in the concept of sustainable development and sustainable development goals.
The development of Agenda 2030 was spearheaded by the United Nations, the largest
international organisation which helps solve the problems that affect all of us. Almost all the
States in the world are members of the United Nations (UNICEF, 2015). The United Nations
adopted a historic resolution committing themselves to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development. The Agenda contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets,
seeking to build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that ended in 2015.
The SDGs are aimed at balancing economic growth, social development and environmental
protection. The Agenda is driven by the principle of leaving no one behind. It is rooted in
universal human rights principles and standards (UNDG, 2017). It is an integrated plan of action
(Fig. 1) structured in four main parts (UNDG, 2015) i.e., declaration, implementation, SDGs &
targets and follow-up and review.
Fig. 1: Structure of Agenda 2030
The Framework
The systematic framework which is being proposed here will require core inputs namely
stakeholder engagement, expertise and experience and data base. United Nations Inter-Agency
Task Team on Science, Technology and Innovation (UNICATT, 2019) suggests these core inputs
which will run throughout the SDG cycle that is planning, implementation and review. The
framework will have four sequential steps and few sub steps. This systematic framework can
be practiced at the local, subnational, national and globals levels. The four sequential steps (Fig.
2) and few substeps (Fig. 3) within the systematic framework for implementation and review of
Agenda 2030 are as follows:
● Define objectives and scope
● Implementation of Agenda 2030
● SDGS Review and follow up
● Communication of results
Fig 2: Sequential steps of the framework
Fig. 3: 4 step analysis of the Sequential framework
The Core Inputs
Stakeholder Engagement
Engaging stakeholders is a tremendously important step to achieve the Sustainable
development Goals. If we are to succeed in implementing them, everyone must be on board.
Some stakeholder groups might have very low capacity to engage, they can have only little
visibility, and people might simply not be aware of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda (UNITAR,
2020). The stakeholder consultations are important input for virtually all the steps because of
the need to get stakeholder perspectives and participation. SDG 17 emphasizes the
Multi-stakeholder partnerships through target 17.16 and 17.17 (UNDESA 2020).
Expertise & Experience
Expertise, including scientific, technical, and managerial, and even political is critical input to
define objectives and scope (UNIATT, 2019). Sustainability is too important to be left up to
governments alone. Implementing the SDGs will require expert inputs to help identify best
practices, gaps in knowledge, to monitor threats, and help promote public awareness and
concern. Relevant knowledge, and the ability to deliberate with others is a necessary
credential required for the team members. The members with international repute should be
part of the team (Peter M Hass, 2016). International experts and assistance from international
institutions with experience in analyzing SDG gaps should be factored into the roadmap
process. The experience of other countries in developing and implementing SDG roadmaps is
also very valuable (UNIATT, 2019).
Data & Evidence Base
The importance of data for measuring the SDG is evident. To make the ambitious agenda of
SDGs successful, we need reliable, timely and granular data to show where we are making
progress and where we are falling behind and which groups are being left behind. The United
Nations has developed the list of 232 global SDG indicators to measure progress from local to
global levels. Various sources like government official statistics, private sector and civil society
knowledge can help in improving measurement of progress towards SDGs (UNECE, 2019). We
can also get the data from censuses, socio-economic surveys, agricultural and labor surveys,
administrative & police records, NGOs and geospatial data (UNSDSN, 2016).
Step 1: Define Objectives and Scope
Define Objectives
SDG road maps can have many objectives. The objective may be to help build consensus on a
vision or to develop the details of the road map. The process of developing the road map needs
to consider various practical details such as leadership, a steering committee, the scope of the
exercise and the experts who are expected to participate in the development of the plan,
implementation and review (UNIATT, 2019).
Define Scope
The scope of the road map is required to be decided. Is this a sub national, national or global
SDG road map or is it for a particular institution? Is the scope a broad set of SDG goals, or is it
focused on a single SDG goal, or sector like agriculture, education, energy, environment, health
etc. It is suggested that countries or organisations need to start with what is politically possible,
but also strive to expand the range of actions and actors over time (UNIATT, 2019).
Select Goals & Targets
Because the 17 SDG goals are so broad and cover so many targets tackling them all
simultaneously may be very difficult. Therefore, it is important for countries to think carefully on
which they will prioritize and which they will tackle later as they build up capacity and
experience. Once the specific goals and targets are identified it is essential to know the sources
of knowledge and expertise that will be needed to turn those goals into actionable plans. This
will require data and a good evidence base on what works, specialized expertise, and
stakeholder consultations (UNIATT, 2019).
Assess Current Situation & Trends
For developing a successful implementation of SDGs it is necessary to know where a country is
now. It is also necessary to assess how population growth, climate change and extreme
weather, water and food availability, conflict and security, etc. are likely to impact the targeted
SDGs. It is also necessary to assess what are the challenges to making significant
improvements on the goals. This requires expertise on the specifics of the country’s economic,
social, and environmental situations. It is also important to try to obtain additional resources
from the government, the private sector, NGO, and civil society (UNIATT, 2019).
Capacity Development
Another important consideration is whether the different agencies or other actors, including the
private sector and civil society, have the capacity and skills necessary to successfully fulfill their
role. If they do not, then training or capacity building needs to be built into the road map (UNDG,
2017). This may include as follows:
● Strengthening the capacities of government and other bodies to collect, compile, present
and disseminate reliable, timely and quality data; and to use new data source
● Strengthening national evaluation capacities and to ensure evaluation outcomes inform
national policy making and SDG reporting.
● Strengthen communication capacities to engage specific actors and build public
awareness on the importance of achieving Agenda 2030.
Step 2: Implementation of Agenda 2030
Once the SDGs and targets are adopted for local implementation then government and other
organisations, groups and local communities get a unique opportunity to take a long-term and
integrated implementation. United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network
(UNSDSN, 2016) suggests a backcasting method for implementation of the SDGs Agenda. It is a
strategic planning tool for complex systems, such as sustainable development, with a large
number of uncertainties, stakeholders, and conflicting interests. Backcasting is central to the
goal-based planning process of SDs implementation, and will help local governments and
stakeholders assess existing plans and strategies against the required level of ambition, as well
as to understand the additional resources required to accelerate progress. Rather than using
target-by-target approach it is suggested that sustainable planning principles of policy
coherence and multi-sectoral planning should be followed when backcasting.
The basic steps for backcasting suggested for SDG implementation are as follows:
● Identify quantitative SDG targets to be achieved by 2030 and work backward from these
targets, identify the investments and policies needed to achieve these objectives.
● Review the preliminary strategies with stakeholders and ensure that these strategies
address all goals in an integrated manner
● Periodically review and revise planning and policy frameworks to ensure that SDG
progress remains on track.
Goal Based Partnership
The UNSDSN in its publication Getting Started with SDGs: A Guide for Stakeholders emphasised
the importance of global partnerships to achieve the SDGs at the national and international
level. These partnerships can be international or bilateral partnerships between states to
combinations of public, private, and multilateral actors. Effective partnerships are not centrally
planned, and they do not require one actor that oversees all activities. Yet delivering results at
the required scale requires a high degree of mobilization and organization (UNSDSN, 2015).
Seven core processes of goal-based partnerships have been identified by the UNSDSN and
involve many actors as follows:
● Shared goals and targets to take action, mobilize all actors involved in a particular
area, develop clear strategies for implementation, and raise the financing and develop
the technologies needed to implement them.
● Advocacy and policy standards to raise awareness of the importance and feasibility of
the global goals and mobilize stakeholders.
● Backcasting and implementation strategies to show how the goals can be achieved
through sustained investments and supportive policies.
● Identify missing technologies and organize public-private partnerships to address them.
● Finance and technology to mobilize the public and private resources to implement goals.
● Delivery systems that translate policies, strategies, and financing into outcomes.
● Monitoring and Evaluation to sharpen the understanding of what works and what not.
Step 3: Review and Follow Up
National and Global Reviews
The United Nations Secretary General’s Office is monitoring the review of The 2030 Agenda at national
and global levels. “The United Nations Secretary General’s report on Follow up and Review” states that
reviews should take place at national, regional and global levels, and that these processes should build on
each other. They provide key information and feedback as well as learning mechanisms at every stage,
and provide scope for inclusiveness and broad participation. Meaningful reviews should also analyze
challenges and policy effectiveness by asking questions (UNDG, 2017) such as:
● · What are the drivers or underlying causes of the policy problem?
● · What policy options are the most effective in addressing the problem?
● · What are the barriers to effective implementation?
● · Are our policies and programmes on a sufficient scale to make a difference?
It is suggested that the national reviews should be participatory, held regularly, and prepare national SDG
progress reports. Similarly global reviews should also be participatory and provide platform for political
leadership, share experiences, promote coherence among countries and organizations and connect SDG
review with other international actions like Addis Ababa Action Agenda, International Conference on
Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action, the Paris Climate Conference
Agreement and the Sendai Framework 2015-2030 (UNDG, 2017).
SDGs Review Report
National reports on the SDGs are essential for measuring progress of the country as well as
identifying gaps in implementation, including in data and strategies, as well as policy challenges,
trade-offs, and emerging global, regional and national issues. It is noted that the reports should
not just describe trends in indicators; they should analyse underlying causes behind the trends,
and offer policy suggestions to overcome obstacles and deal with emerging challenges (UNDG,
2017). Although the 2030 Agenda is country led and oriented around diverse national contexts,
statistical comparability of the indicators across countries is vital, and national reviews can
provide room to lay a foundation for comparison with other areas and countries. The UN
suggests that none of the agreed global indicators should be rejected if it is not available in an
equally accurate and timely fashion (UNDG, 2017).
Developing Scorecard
The United Nations Development Group (UNDG, 2017) suggests to use scorecard as an easy
and scientific way for measuring the progress on the SDGs of the local areas or countries. The
use of scorecards to assess progress on the MDGs has drawn attention from governments and
other stakeholders, including development partners, and could be extended to SDG reporting.
Scorecards provide a user-friendly snapshot of progress. They also indicate what could happen
if current trends continue in a business as usual scenario, and can act as quick calls to mobilize
action to redirect efforts in areas that may be lagging behind. However it is also noted that while
interpreting indicators, due account must be taken of the socio economic and environment
conditions of that country,
Preparing a Report
Once the review process is over it is essential to prepare the report. The report should be
prepared by establishing a multi-stakeholder review group to synthesize research findings in a
balanced way and produce a coherent first draft of the national SDG review report. Once the
draft of the national review report is ready then the multi-stakeholder consultations should be
organised and the feedback should be obtained through various workshops, meetings and
gatherings on the draft report and validate its findings, as well as to design the best
dissemination strategy (UNDG, 2017). Once it is finalised the report should be published as early
as possible.
Step 4: Communication, Dissemination and Advocacy
Developing Advocacy Plan
The successful implementation of the Agenda 2030 requires inclusive programs and activities
beginning from the conceptualization stage, extending through the analysis of issues, the
validation of findings and recommendations, and their dissemination. An advocacy plan is a
strategic management tool that uses communication to promote change, whether of a
behavioural, organizational, societal or policy nature. It is a core component of an inclusive
national SDG review process, and may require dedicated human and financial resources (UNDG,
2017). It should support three stages:
● promoting the consultations leading to the development of the report
● disseminating the report’s results; and
● backing implementation of key recommendations
Develop Communication Products & Disseminate the Report
The SDG report is a key piece of the strategy and the advocacy plan. It also should be developed
to communicate results in a clear and concise way. Creative, high impact presentation of data is
highly recommended to communicate key messages in a compelling way. The communication
products and review report should ensure that messages remain relevant, effectively feed into
national policy dialogues and debates on sustainable development, and contribute to social,
policy and behavioural change in support of the SDGs. Fact-sheets, pamphlets, presentations,
website, messages, can capture key aspects related to each of the SDGs. Clear and concise
facts shared in this kind of snapshot can be communicated to a diverse range of audiences,
journalists and other advocates (UNDG, 2017). Two types of messages are suggested by United
Nations Development Group as follows:
● Messages to engage different actors in preparing the report: These are aimed at
building awareness of the 2030 Agenda and its goals, promoting participation around
the SDG implementation, review and reporting process, and enhancing national
ownership of the 2030 Agenda.
● Messages linked to findings presented in the report: Definition of these messages
should take, to the extent possible, a multi-stakeholder approach, involving key partners.
This will aid in meaningful engagement of people who want to join the 2030 Agenda
Advocacy and Communication Activities:
United Nations Development Group suggests that the implementation of the communications
and advocacy plan should be anchored in key activities to achieve plan objectives and reach
target audiences. These messages should be communicated through identified channels.
Activities should be action oriented and easy to measure. Some examples of suggested
activities and related objectives are:
Objective 1: Engage specific actors, so that they can actively contribute to the Agenda 2030
Activity 1: Mapping key civil society organizations at country and regional level.
Activity 2: Reaching key civil society organizations to brief them on the SDG progress report.
Activity 3: Organizing workshops to share the results of the report among civil society.
Activity 4: Developing key communication products (fact sheets, presentations, etc.) to facilitate
the consultation process.
Objective 2: Build general public awareness on the 2030 Agenda and the importance of
achieving the SDGs by 2030. .
Activity 1: In collaboration with the government, agree on an information campaign to
disseminate the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs among key audiences.
Objective 3: Inform journalists about achievements and challenges in implementing the 2030
Agenda and achieving the SDGs.
Activity 1: National and regional media workshops can explain the reporting process and its
importance, and show journalists how to use the data for reporting purposes.
Activity 2: Establish a journalists’ network in support of the 2030 Agenda.
Objective 4: Frame evidence based national communication strategies and public campaigns on
the 2030 Agenda at the national and subnational levels.
Activity 1: Identify key areas that are lagging behind according to the SDG results report; engage
key ministries and institutions in changing certain behaviours and policies
Achieving SDGs is a challenging process, however If followed in the right spirit it will gain fruitful
results. Achieving SDGs will become easy when stakeholders are engaged, best practices are
identified, regular data is gathered, threats are monitored and public awareness is promoted.
SDG implementation process involves four major steps i.e. defining scope and objectives,
implementation of Agenda 2030, SDG Review and follow up and communication of the results.
It is suggested to select limited goals and targets initially and expand them as we build up
capacity and experience. Along with data and expertise there is need of finding the funding
sources, from government, NGOs and other donors and technical and financial assistance from
outside areas and countries. We suggest a backcasting method in implementing the SDGs. This
method is proposed by the United Nations and being widely used across the world.
Once SDGs are implemented there should be a meaningful review and follow up to understand
the policy problem and barriers to effective implementation. There is a need for a
multi-stakeholder review group to produce the first draft of the national SDG review report which
will be published after due consultation through workshops and meetings. An advocacy plan will
help promote the communication for behavioural, organizational, societal or policy changes.
The advocacy plan will develop messages to engage different actors in preparing the report and
messages linked to findings presented in the report. The basic objective of the advocacy plan
will be to engage specific actors, build public awareness, inform journalists about achievement
and challenges and frame evidence based national communication strategy.
1. Ruby Pandey (2019) Current Major Issues in India, Published on 29 May, 2019, India, India Society Blogs

Current Major Issues in India

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Makers India, Your Story, cited on 23rd
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3. UNSD (2020) SDG Indicators, Global indicator framework for the Sustainable Development Goals and targets
of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,
4. UNECE (2019) How to Measure Progress? Data and Statistics for the SDGs, 22March, 2019, International
Conference, Geneva,
5. UNDESA (2020) Multi-stakeholder Partnerships
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7. Peter M Hass (2016) Expert Support for Implementing the SDGs, cited on 21.3.2020
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Development, Interim Reference Guide to UN country Teams, p.6.
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December, 2019 at
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Sustainable Development Goals.
12. UNIATT (2019) United Nations Inter-Agency Task Team on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs
(IATT) Sub-Working Group on STI Roadmaps co-led by World Bank, DESA, UNCTAD and UNESCO “A
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13. UNDG (2015) Mainstreaming the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Interim Reference Guide to UN
country teams P-6
14. UNSDSN (2015) Getting Started with Sustainable Development Goals: A guide for stakeholders

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