More than SDG implementation

How to examine the implementation of the Agenda 2030? This issue was discussed at and in cooperation with the University of Roma Tre in Rome during a workshop with academics and experts organized by Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) Italy on 25 September. It is not an easy question, if the full ‘transformative’ potential of the SDGs is to be tapped. The risk we face is to become simply ‘implementers’ of the SDG’s framework. It is a powerful tool with many useful elements to push ahead policy dialogue at all levels, but we must acknowledge some omissions, tensions and contradictions, inherent in how the framework and the objectives are formulated.

As Stefano Prato, GCAP Italy coordination board member and Director of the Society for International Development, pointed out in his keynote speech, we must avoid that important issues are overshadowed by a narrowly conceived understanding of ‘objective by objective’ monitoring. This includes the issue of rights often (regressively) understood and represented in term of ‘needs’; the discourse on inequality that risks becoming a complete substitute for ‘poverty’ thus losing its capacity of looking at society – and the planet! – as a whole through the lens of an ‘economic justice’ dimension; the transformation of the role of the state in a context of blurring distinctions between public and private interests; and finally also wider issues related to unjust global governance.

We should avoid ‘repacking the world’ so that it fits into the SDGs framework. Rather, we must directly confront the big challenges we see on the planet!

Such complexities include, among many other examples, the case of the Italy-Libya agreements on migrants flows management – a complex issue where the sole objective of the proposed solution was to limit migrants landing on Italy’s shores, which put human rights at risk and had little understanding of the long-term issues at stake. How ‘sustainable’ are these policies? Shouldn’t the notion of ‘policy coherence’ be applied in a very concrete way to this and in many other cases? The Agenda 2030 needs to be made useful when facing the big challenges of our times and not used as a tool to divert our attention from them.

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