Quality Governance and Implementation of SDG GOALS

  • Since Agenda 2030 came into effect in 2016, India has adopted a variety of institutional, policy-level, program-oriented, and monitoring initiatives to drive the SDGs at the national and local levels.
  • As a result of these focused efforts, assignment of responsibility and leadership, and review mechanisms have been set up at various levels.
  • The National Development Agenda has been designed in alignment with the SDGs, priority areas and enablers have been identified and outcome-based actions have been undertaken, and monitoring systems and tools have been set up at the national level which are vigorously pursued at the local level.
  • These have placed India at the forefront of nations in SDG localization.
  • While India is proud of its achievements in the past five years in adopting, implementing, and monitoring the Agenda 2030, there is still a long way to go.
  • India’s size and diversity presupposes unique challenges in any development initiative and the same is true for SDGs as well.
  • The country has identified the key challenges in the way of fully implementing the SDGs and has charted the way forward to address the roadblocks and achieve the goals and targets on time.
  • The four crucial areas of action identified are – improvement of the statistical system; monitoring at the local level; capacity building of all stakeholders; and SDG financing.

Improvement of the Statistical System

  • What gets measured gets done – this cannot be truer in the case of SDGs.
  • The realisation of the 2030 Agenda calls for state-of-the-art reporting and monitoring tools to measure progress under the framework and enable course-correction. Twentieth century approach and solutions cannot effectively address twenty-first century challenges.
  • As SDGs is a time-bound framework, periodic monitoring of progress, covering all aspects of the nationally adopted SDG framework is critical. This calls for a major upgrade of the statistical systems, both at the national and subnational levels.

What gets measured gets done - this cannot be truer in the case of SDGs. Institution and strengthening of SDG monitoring frameworks and statistical systems, both at the national and sub-national levels is, thus, imperative to the 2030 Agenda.

The National Indicator Framework (NIF), and the SDG India Index and Dashboard which are already in place, is a commendable and vital first step in SDG monitoring.

The next steps in upgrading the NIF are as follows:

  • Addition of indicators for targets which are presently not covered: The NIF currently does not include indicators for 36 out of the 169 SDG targets. This is due to the fact that the statistical system, historically, has not been collecting data which correspond to some of the new challenges put forward by the SDG framework, e.g., data on responsible consumption and production, and partnerships. For some indicators, a suitable methodology does not exist. To ensure that the NIF is a comprehensive tool to monitor the whole of SDGs, the missing indicators will be identified or designed, following a consultative process, and added to the NIF.
  • Improving the frequency of data collection: It is strenuous to collect data on a wide array of themes across a large country such as India, in short intervals. Consequently, SDG reporting so far had to depend on data sources such as the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), which used to take place once in 8-10 years, though its periodicity has reduced to four years now. Considering the timelines of SDGs and the need to monitor progress across the board periodically, the surveys which feed data into the SDG monitoring systems must happen at shorter intervals. As a step in this direction, the fifth round of NFHS is being conducted in 2019-20, within four years of the fourth round. Considering that the third and fourth round of the survey were separated by ten years, this is a significant step in the right direction. Following this approach, the other surveys, on which SDG monitoring depends for data inputs, shall be conducted at shorter intervals.
  • Data disaggregation: While the NIF is a close-to-comprehensive set of indicators which reports on national-level data, a sizable number of indicators do not present data at the State level. This is a challenge to the SDG localisation model adopted by India. In the spirit of cooperative and competitive federalism, NITI Aayog promotes healthy competition among the States in SDGs, primarily through the SDG India Index and Dashboard, for which data on indicators at the State-level is mandatory, and also desirable at the district-level for greater granularity. It is also essential to collect and present data disaggregated by gender, social category, income groups, among others for sharper SDG monitoring which will lead to focused policy advice.
  • Data quality: With data in large quantity emanating from a variety of sources on a myriad of themes, it is imperative to focus on data quality. India already uses third-party independent surveys for data validation of some of its flagship schemes; the same approach shall be used for SDG data as well. Another strategy for improved data quality is the usage of modern tools and technologies of data collection such as tablets, mobile phones, and geospatial data. This approach will get rid of pen and paper surveys which are more time and resource consuming and makes data cross-checking a cumbersome task. Some States have already started employing these, and MoSPI too has started using these in select surveys. The next step in this area is to scale it to the national level. A third strategy is to consider making use of citizen-generated data. India already has reputed citizen-related data collection and reporting initiatives, such as the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) by Pratham, a non-profit organisation. Issues around methodology and sampling have to be addressed before mainstreaming citizen-generated data and using them as inputs in the SDG monitoring system.
The realisation of the 2030 Agenda calls for state-of-the-art reporting and monitoring tools to measure progress under the framework and enable course correction. Twentieth century approach and solutions cannot effectively address twenty-first century challenges.

Monitoring at the Local Level: State and District Indicator Frameworks

  • SDG localization is the principal approach to achieve the 2030 Agenda in a time-bound manner in India. In this regard, it is essential that the States and UTs set up their own SDG monitoring systems, complementing the monitoring efforts by NITI Aayog at the national level, supported by MoSPI and the line ministries.
  • While a State Indicator Framework serves as the foundation of the State-level SDG monitoring system, with indicators relevant to the State, the District Indicator Framework (DIF) for each State facilitates competition among the districts.
  • This also ensures that schemes and other initiatives for which the States are responsible, are adequately monitored under the SDG framework. This will further strengthen the ownership of the SDGs among the States.
  • NITI Aayog at the national level will continue to monitor the performance of the States on national SDG priorities and promote competition among them.
  • States have already set up their own SIFs, a few have developed DIFs as well.
  • A key challenge has been the development of SIFs and DIFs for every State and UT. In the spirit of leaving no one behind, a few leading States driving the SDG agenda is not adequate; the country requires every State and UT to drive the SDGs and put in place robust monitoring systems with the SIFs and DIFs as the foundation.
  • To complement these frameworks, quality citizen-generated datasets can be put together to promulgate a ‘Leave No One Behind Indicator Framework’.
  • It is an interesting idea to take SDGs to the Gram Panchayat (GP), the lowest level of the local self-government system in India.
  • The guidelines for Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) have been revised, integrating the SDGs.
  • The resources available at the GP level need to be channelled appropriately to realise its mandate of driving local-level planning and development, in alignment with the SDG framework.
  • SDG monitoring at the Urban Local Body (ULB) level is an exciting prospective.
  • The national policy to develop 100 Smart Cities in the country with focus on sustainability and ease of living is an opportunity to create sustainable urban spaces.
  • In this environment, SDG monitoring of ULBs shall ensure that India’s new state-of-the art cities embed the principles of sustainability and inclusion.
  • Online dashboards have been effective in filtering and playing back key messages from complex and large frameworks in a user-friendly manner.
  • For a large country such as India, with 37 subnational entities, to monitor a comprehensive and large framework such as the SDGs, with 17 goals and 169 targets, a dashboard is instrumental.
  • NITI Aayog has developed an online dashboard with interactive visualisations for the SDG India Index.
  • MoSPI has put in place a dashboard for the NIF. To take SDG localisation to the next logical level, all States and UTs will develop their own SDG monitoring dashboards, where the progress under their respective SIF and DIF can be easily visualised.
  • Such a tool is beneficial not only to the administrative leadership for decision making, it is equally useful for students, researchers, think tanks, and the general public to track SDG progress at the local level.
  • As a rule, all such dashboards shall be placed in the public domain.
  • In this manner, India aims to raise its bar from frequent and periodic monitoring to real-time monitoring by anyone.

Capacity Building of All Stakeholders

  • Capacity building is an indispensable component of any development framework.
  • However, in the case of SDGs, this requires more attention, owing to two major reasons.
  • First, it is a large framework spanning across many development areas, involving the government, civil society, private sector, and citizens, at both local and national levels.
  • Everyone has an important role to play in the journey towards achieving the 2030 Agenda. It is crucial to educate every stakeholder of their unique role and responsibility.
  • Second, the SDGs are not merely MDGs version 2.0. ‘Sustainable’ implies a paradigm shift in the concept of development envisioned for the future under the SDG framework.
  • The principles of sustainability are embedded in all the Goals, with targets set, to achieve them in their true sense. All stakeholders must be made aware of these Goals and targets and exposed to the nuances of achieving them.
  • These two factors make it necessary to undertake extensive capacity building initiatives for the stakeholders at various levels.
  • The preparations of training modules for stakeholders at different levels is underway

SDG Financing

  • The ambitious goals and targets set under the SDG framework must be supported with adequate financial resources.
  • NITI Aayog has partnered with the IMF to undertake a study on costing for key SDGs for India.
  • The study has made preliminary estimates that India needs to increase its SDG spending by an additional 6.2 per cent of its GDP until 2030.
  • The ways and means for this additional financing needs to be identified. At the same time, it is crucial to make sure that the budget allocations align with SDG priorities.

Follow up after VNR in 2020

  • India’s VNR report is drafted to present a review of its SDG initiatives in the past five years, and to act as a guiding document for years to come, especially as the world moves into the ‘Decade of Action’.
  • In other words, the report is about what has happened so far, and what must happen in the coming years to meet India’s commitments to the Agenda 2030.
  • The highlights of the report, and the report itself, will be shared with the States and UTs, and other partners to develop consensus on the follow-up actions at various levels.
  • While the progress achieved in adopting, implementing, and monitoring SDGs at both the national and local levels in the last five years has been commendable, there are several milestones yet to be reached in the journey to achieving the targets.
  • The progress of the country, according to its SDG India Index, from 57 in 2018 to 60 in 2019, on a scale of 0 to 100, is a testament to this achievement.
  • The country is conscious of the present and future challenges and also well positioned to tackle them, as it accelerates its pace in its journey towards achieving the Goals and targets, well on time. India is moving forward, faster than ever, in its development journey.
  • This Report presents the gist of the recent milestones and targets ahead. The principles of sustainability have moved from the periphery of India’s approach to its core.
  • India’s new development agenda is inspired by the principles and targets of the SDG framework.
  • Taking cognisance of the consensus that the global success of the SDGs it closely tied to India’s achievements in meeting the targets, the country has put in place a multi-stakeholder engagement mechanism along with a robust monitoring and reporting system at the national and sub-national levels.
  • This Voluntary National Review Report is an additional reporting mechanism to periodically review and report progress at the international level.
  • On the occasion of this second VNR, India renews its commitment to the principles of sustainability and targets under the SDG framework. India has joined hands with its fellow nations in this endeavour.
  • Together with its partners, government and non-government, regional and global, India will continue to place the prosperous and sustainable future of people and planet at the core of its development vision and action.

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Blog Post written by:
Anurag Trivedi
UPSC Mentor