An Action Plan for the SDGs

By Doug Frantz, Deputy Secretary-General, OECD

Two numbers convey the dramatic truth and enormous challenge behind the Agenda for 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  •  One billion people live on less than USD 2 a day.
  •  1% of the world’s population consumes roughly 30% of its resources.

Think about those numbers. They are absurd. But they can be changed if the world comes together to achieve the SDGs set forth by the United Nations in September 2015.

What does this mean in practice? The starting point is recognising that every country has a solemn responsibility to do its best to meet the goals. We are all developing countries in the eyes of the SDGs. No country, rich or poor, has the luxury of doing nothing.

For the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other developed countries, this means looking at ourselves in the mirror to address topics like domestic inequality and excessive consumption. It means remembering that our domestic policies have a global impact, so they must align with the global agenda.

For developing countries and emerging economies, this means recognising that real progress will be built on genuine partnerships with donors, civil society, the private sector and intergovernmental organisations. And it means embracing transparency, accountability and inclusivity in the name of progress.

The OECD’s expertise can be applied to almost every aspect of the 17 SDGs to assist members and partner countries. We already are working with many countries to promote inclusive and sustainable growth. Our tools and indicators are part of the solution. But it is a solution that will require the broadest possible co-operation.

This is not about the North dictating to the South. That conversation is dead. Rather, success requires partnerships with national governments and regional organisations, with the United Nations and other international bodies, with philanthropies, civil society and the business community.  More than enough work exists to go around. It will get done through co-operation, not competition.

The OECD will present its strategic action plan for the SDGs to ministers from our member countries when they meet in Paris this June. The plan will not propose huge new projects nor seek major new resources. Rather, it will focus our expertise and experience in the smartest way possible to work with our 34 member countries, our partner countries, and the world’s developing and emerging economies.

The action plan will be divided into four broad areas.

First, we will apply the SDG lens to the entire scope of the OECD’s work and existing strategies. Some OECD work already has been integrated into the SDGs, and we will continue to follow this approach.

Second, we will improve the evidence base and statistics capacity here and in individual countries to help monitor SDG progress. We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken.

Third, we will upgrade the OECD’s support for integrated planning and policy making at the country level and provide a platform for governments to share experiences related to the SDGs. Sharing lessons will be vital as we move forward.

And finally, we will make the SDGs part and parcel of our external relations with non-member countries. We will offer our assistance to those who need it and do our best to make sure no one is left behind.

Some criticise the investment of so much effort to achieve goals that seem impossible. But the complexity and transformative nature of the Agenda for 2030 are also strengths, and we must not shrink from the task.

Here’s the truth: Progress does not just happen. It requires hard work and a willingness to sit down with others to build partnerships that will achieve our shared objectives.

Last September at the UN, more than 150 world leaders made a commitment to uplift their people economically, to expand access to health care and prevent epidemics, to embrace equality and to preserve the planet, and to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

Going forward every country and every organisation has a role to play in translating that commitment into concrete action and real progress. History has presented us with a monumental opportunity, and we need to act.


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