Success of SDGs hinges on robust monitoring20 November, 2015 11:30
Dhaka: A robust monitoring framework will be crucial for Bangladesh to reach sustainable development goals and ensure scarce resources are well-spent, the United Nations Development Programme and experts said yesterday.
A rigorous outcome-oriented monitoring and evaluation framework has to be developed, one which accommodates and promotes participation from the remotest and most marginalised communities and thereby ensure accountability at all levels, according to the UNDP.
The suggestion from the UN agency came at a roundtable held at the capital's Sonargaon Hotel. The UNDP organised the discussion to gather informed opinions on the challenges and opportunities for Bangladesh in moving from the millennium development goals (MDGs) to SDGs.
It is really important that the voices of civil society organisations and private sector are heard and incorporated in the seventh five-year plan, said Robert D Watkins, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, who moderated the roundtable. At the same time, the civil society organisations and the private sector need to have a role to play in the implementing and monitoring of the SDGs, he said.
Haoliang Xu, assistant administrator of the UNDP, also said Bangladesh has achieved a lot in case of the MDGs. The country should have a head-start in case of the SDGs it was actively involved in the negotiating process. “The government knew what was coming.” Aligning the national goals with the SDGs and engaging the lower levels of government in the implementation process would be a step in the right direction.
Achieving the goals is not the responsibility of a single ministry; all ministries and government departments have to play their due role, he said. All the UN agencies will also have to play their due role. The countries would have to put emphasis on domestic resource mobilisation, but official development assistance will remain crucial for the least-developed countries, Xu said.
The UNDP official said good-quality data has to be available so that all stakeholders can monitor the progress of the SDGs. Speaking as a discussant, Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, said the implementation of the SDGs would require three times more resources than the MDGs.
He said the developing countries will have to double their public spending for infrastructure and social projects. It will be a challenge for any developing country, according to Mansur. “The government alone cannot do it. We need active support of the private sector. So, the government will have to incentivise the private sector.”
Strong institutions are equally important, Mansur said. “Without them you will not be able to deliver what you intend to deliver.” The former economist of the International Monetary Fund said the government would have to overcome internal resistance from the National Board of Revenue and the private sector to double domestic resource mobilisation.
“We also like to see a healthy flow of resources from outside. But if the resources do not come as expected, the government can still achieve the SDGs by spending money wisely.” Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said whatever goals have been set, they will only be implemented if there is proper monitoring.
“To me, this is the most vital point. A one-dollar resource well-spent can give me a 10-dollar outcome.” Anam emphasised the effective use of resources, and said it can be ensured through monitoring. “We can bring them about by ensuring accountability and transparency and by empowering civil society organisations,” he said, adding that the media can also play an important role.
Muhammad Saidur Rahman, a specialist of Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Centre, said the monitoring of the SDGs have to be done by communities, not by others. “We have engaged local communities in some of the areas we work in, and we have got positive results.” Asif Ibrahim, chairman of Business Initiative Leading Development, a public private dialogue platform, said exporters would face challenges in terms of enjoying preferential trade treatment when Bangladesh graduates from the club of least-developed countries.
“We have to improve our productivity. Besides, cost of capital is another challenge, as it is very high in Bangladesh compared to many other countries.” The government also needs to work out the policy bottlenecks stated in the latest Doing Business report of the World Bank so that the private sector can invests more and expands their operations.
Shamsul Alam, a member of the General Economics Division, who led the government efforts in preparing the seventh five-year plan, said the government has aligned as many SDGs as possible in the plan. He hopes the rich nations would keep their promises of financing towards the SDGs, as only a handful of countries such as the UK, Sweden and Norway honoured the commitments in case of MDGs.
The role of data would be crucial in achieving the SDGs as there will as many as 400 indicators under the goals. “We need reliable data to measure the progress of the SDGs,” he said, while urging the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics to come up with projects aimed at strengthening the government agency. BBS Director General Mohammad Abdul Wazed said collecting quality data and their timely dissemination would be a major challenge as everybody wants real-time data.
There is a need to strengthen the capacity of BBS, he added. Humayun Rashid, senior vice-president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said steps have to be taken so that doing business becomes easier. It will encourage the small and medium enterprises to create more jobs. Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid Bangladesh, urged the private sector to create green jobs and work towards empowering women.
She also said non-governmental organisations should be seen as partners in the country's efforts to achieve the seventh five-year plan and the SDGs. Syed Afsor H Uddin, chief executive officer of the PPP Office under the Prime Minister's Office, said the projects under the public private partnership framework have to align all interests of the stakeholders in order to make the arrangement attractive.
Selima Ahmad, president of Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry, called for promoting rural entrepreneurship.