Finishing the Job

With much jubilation, negotiators from 193 countries forged an agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets to be achieved by 2030. The agenda is designed to guide domestic policies and support from the international community. Yet in the midst of the celebrations, among governments, businesses and civil-society organizations, there is also a sense of cluelessness about what comes next: about how the goals will be implemented, how budget priorities will be set and what gaps remain to be filled. This is because the key instrument for change — national budgets, their execution and the accountability for the results they deliver — often remain opaque to development partners, other stakeholders and citizens. The just-released Open Budget Survey 2015 shows that the country systems to provide measures of progress on the SDG targets and on the actions necessary to achieve them are not yet in place in the majority of countries.

The SDGs are more ambitious than the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in many cases reflecting a commitment to “finish the job” where the MDGs had set more modest targets like “halving” poverty. They are also more comprehensive than the MDGs — 16 goals and 114 outcome targets (along with an additional goal on a global partnership and some 55 intermediate implementation-process targets).

Both ambition and comprehensiveness will put more pressure on national-government budgets and budget processes. This is because there is a consensus that developing-country governments have the principal responsibility for their own development, and the budget and medium-term plans are the main instruments for implementation of the agenda. The international community can do a lot in support, both by aiding those countries that simply have so little that they cannot invest on a sufficient scale and by putting their own house in order so others have the policy —> Read More