United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
1. What decisions or new strategies has the governing body of your organization taken to guide the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs? Please provide a brief summary below, including the overarching vision of your governing body for the Decade of Action on the SDGs.
At its sixty-seventh session on 26-27th April 2017 (E/2017/37 E/ECE/1480), the Economic Commission for Europe decided to establish the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the region of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which while retaining its intergovernmental character, would serve as a regional mechanism to follow-up and review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It decided also that the Regional Forum will focus on practical value added, taking into account the work of existing regional bodies and mechanisms, including peer review mechanisms, while avoiding additional reporting burdens for member States, and contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by:
creating a space for UNECE member States for peer learning and the exchange of policy experiences and good practices in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals;
providing a regional and subregional overview of progress and challenges in implementation that would complement analogous reports at the global level;
enhancing regional and subregional cooperation and addressing transboundary issues;
providing a platform for the participation and contributions of all relevant stakeholders, including international and regional organizations, civil society, academia and the private sector, following the relevant provisions of the 2030 Agenda and the corresponding decisions of the Economic and Social Council.
At its sixty-eight session on 9-10th April 2019, the Economic Commission decided to continue to convene annual sessions of the Regional Forum in the years 2020 and 2021, in close cooperation with the entities of the regional United Nations system and with the active engagement of other relevant stakeholders.
At this session, the Economic Commission also decided to a adopt a high-level statement that reflected on the challenges ahead and the contribution of the organization to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:
Strengthened cooperation to mobilize the actions and resources across the public and private sectors is required. ECE serves as a solid platform for governments and other stakeholders to collaborate, and engage to develop norms, standards and legal instruments. The provision of specialized and demand-driven technical assistance to countries supports the implementation of these instruments and facilitates their uptake.
ECE is the trusted custodian of a rich suite of normative instruments which address important regulatory issues in relation to the 2030 Agenda. The track record of ECE demonstrates the organization’s capacity to adapt and expand these concrete and tangible products to support member States to meet new challenges. The demand for and high uptake of these products by countries in the region, together with the replication of these instruments beyond the region, demonstrates the continued need for the normative production of ECE.
The multidisciplinary nature of its mandate enables ECE to deliver on a number of the cross-sectoral dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by focusing on those SDGs which reflect both, the strongest capacities of ECE and country needs for SDG implementation, namely SDGs 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 15 and the cross-cutting SDGs 5 and 17. The sectoral expertise of ECE is deployed to assist member States to shape integrated policies that take into account the multifaceted aspects of sustainable development. Working across the eight subprograms, cross-sectoral teams will engage in areas where multiple SDGs converge (nexus areas):
ECE is a forward-looking organization that seeks to anticipate and react to changing circumstances and emerging challenges. In cooperation with member States, it will continue to ensure that the organization addresses the most relevant, innovative, and impact-generating work according to the mandate of ECE. Dialogue with member States, including through regular updates on the tangible results and impact achieved by ECE in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, will ensure its enhanced contribution to sustainable development in the region.
ECE is now in the process of obtaining the views of its various intergovernmental bodies on how to accelerate progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the Decade of Action.
2. At the secretariat level, what steps has your organization taken (or will it take) in the follow-up to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs? Please specify actions, including but not limited to the following areas:
2.1 SDG-specific strategies, plans or work programmes;
ECE's work programme is focused on supporting member States in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda through concrete and results-oriented activities in eight broad areas or subprogrammes: environment, transport, statistics, economic cooperation and integration, sustainable energy, trade, forestry and timber, and housing, land management and population.
In all of these areas, the Sectoral Committees, their subsidiary bodies and other intergovernmental groups have assessed the relevance of their activities against the SDGs, made adjustments in their work programmes in support of the 2030 Agenda and continue to explore further opportunities to enhance their contribution to SDG implementation.
For example, the ECE Committee on Forests and Forest Industry and the FAO Forestry Commission during their joint session in November 2019, requested the ECE and FAO to continue to support countries in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as they relate to forests, and the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030.
Going beyond the efforts made so far by each subprogramme on aligning their activities with the SDGs, a particular concern has been on how to use the UNECE multi-sectoral structure to tackle SDGs in a cross-sectoral, integrated manner, including by reaching out to other partners.
For example, ECE has launched a cross-sectoral partnership/initiative across its industrial safety, housing and land management and environmental assessment units to support sustainable and resilient cities and communities (SDG 11), through: 1) the development and support to the implementation of the UNECE Guidance on Land-Use Planning, the Siting of Hazardous Activities and related Safety Aspects, and 2) the organization of the exchange of experiences and good practices on land-use planning and the siting of industrial facilities.
Another example of partnerships to tackle SDGs in an integrated manner is the role of ECE as a co-organizer, together with WHO, UNEP, WMO, UNFCCC secretariat and CCAC, of the First Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health (30 October – 1 November 2018, Geneva), aiming to contribute to the implementation of SDG 3, 7, 11 and 13.
2.2 Aligning the structure of the organization with the SDGs and the transformative features of the 2030 Agenda, including any challenges and lessons learned in doing so;
SDG alignment offers a reference framework to increase the impact of ECE activities. This alignment should be understood as a dynamic process, where new opportunities can be explored and acted upon, while respecting existing mandates and within currently available resources, to better serve the demands of member States and the UN system. Opportunities will likely lie in new cross-sectoral activities, as the 2030 Agenda creates new possibilities for collaboration that reflect the linkages between different goals and targets. In order to better position the organization to take advantage of these opportunities, the Secretariat has created cross-divisional teams as flexible arrangements to strengthen established synergies/complementarities among ECE sub-programmes and identify possible new activities in high-impact areas.
These areas are: sustainable use of natural resources; sustainable and smart cities; sustainable mobility and smart connectivity; and measuring and monitoring SDGs. Composition of the teams is flexible and engage staff most relevant to the tasks at hand. This informal set-up operates within existing mandates and does not imply changes in the subprogrammes or intergovernmental structures. This structure has proved a rich source of ideas and initiatives, including a number of ongoing publications that will serve to make proposals to intergovernmental bodies. It has also contributed to improve the knowledge of staff on the work of the organization in areas related to their existing duties and increase overall engagement.
2.3 Readjusting or updating results-based budgeting and management, including performance indicators;
The multidisciplinary nature of its mandate enables ECE to deliver on a number of the cross-sectoral dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by focusing on those SDGs which reflect both, the strongest capacities of ECE and country needs for SDG implementation, namely SDGs 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 15 and the cross-cutting SDGs 5 and 17.
The work of the ECE subprogrammes makes a particular emphasis on these specific SDGs. The intergovernmental bodies of ECE, notably the Commission and its sectoral committees, provide the foundation for ECE support for national governments and other stakeholders in advancing the implementation of the SDGs.
In developing the programme plan and budget, ECE and the other UN secretariat departments follow the results-based planning and budget frameworks approved by General Assembly resolutions 72/266 and 74/251.
2.4 Action to enhance support to the principle of "leaving no one behind" and to integrated policy approaches;
Examples of actions are provided in other answers to this questionnaire, in particular to question 3.9.
2.5 Action to address the interlinkages across SDG goals and targets;
Answer to question 2.2 describes the formation of cross-sectoral teams to address SDG interlinkages in an integrated fashion.
This integrated approach has inspired multiple forms of collaboration. An example is the work on the promotion of renewable energy and its broader impact on natural resource management and the links with the sectors of water, agro-forestry and ecosystems. Those links demand an integrated approach that considers both positive and negative effects of renewable energy expansion on other sectors. This work, which has been captured in a recent publication, builds, on the results of two types of multi-stakeholder dialogues supported by ECE: the Renewable Energy Hard Talks aimed at identifying barriers and policy response to renewable energy deployment; and the Water-Food-Energy-Ecosystem Nexus Assessments, carried out under the Water Convention, to support cross-sectoral and transboundary cooperation
3. What normative, analytical, technical assistance or capacity building activities is your organization providing to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs? Please provide a brief account of the activities you have organized or intend to undertake, including but not limited to the following areas:
3.1 Enhancing national implementation including by supporting the mainstreaming of the SDGs in development plans and policies or through national sustainable development plans/strategies;
ECE is a signatory to 17 UNSDCF in its region, providing technical cooperation support in implementation of ECE norms, legal instruments and standards to the UN programme countries at the national level and ensuring linkages in the work of the ECE with other UN entities. In 2019-2020 ECE has been actively engaged in deployment of new UNSDCFs in 11 roll out countries in the region, including providing expertise to the development of Common Country Assessment (CCA), participation in the strategic prioritization retreats and providing quality assurance through the inter-agency Peer Support Group (PSG).
There are multiple instances of ECE support to its member States in the different sectors in which it operates. For example, since 2017, the ECE Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs) have integrated the review of relevant SDGs and, in this way, provided support to countries in the implementation and monitoring of the 2030 Agenda and in mainstreaming the SDGs in sectoral strategies. EPRs provide now assessments and recommendations with regard to a number of SDG targets. They also address systemic issues such as the existence of policy and institutional frameworks for SDG implementation, adoption of national targets and indicators, data gaps for SDGs, national ownership and means of implementation. These recommendations provide guidance to the Governments and other stakeholders in designing concrete policies and measures to achieve the SDGs. The UNDA Project “Evidence‐based environmental governance and sustainable environmental policies in support of the 2030 Agenda in South‐East Europe” (2018-2021), implemented by ECE in cooperation with UNEP, UNDP and the United Nations Country Teams, supports five countries of South‐East Europe in formulating actions based on their Environmental Performance Reviews in order to achieve relevant SDGs.
Some of the technical assistance is provided to member States to support the implementation of international conventions and other normative outputs, which contribute to advance specific SDGs. For example, the assistance programme under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution assists countries in building capacity on developing emission inventories and in the analysis of their national air quality assessment and management policies. The programme assists in analysing legislation to identify gaps and provide recommendations on further steps towards ratification.
ECE has also supported the alignment of national and regional efforts with global initiatives that contribute to the implementation of SDGs. For example, In the area of forest and in collaboration with other partners, ECE has organised a Ministerial Roundtable on Forest Landscape Restoration and the Bonn Challenge in the Caucasus and Central Asia (21-22 June, Astana 2018, Kazakhstan). The Roundtable shared experiences, discussed approaches for unlocking financial resources and provided an opportunity for selecting areas for reforestation. ECE, together with FAO, supports ecosystem restoration across the region. On 16-17 December 2019, they organised a workshop to discuss how countries in Eastern and South-East Europe can develop viable solutions and goals for forest landscape restoration, as well as learn how to tap into the necessary financing.
3.2 Mainstreaming the SDGs in sectoral strategies, including specific SDG/target strategies;
See other questions for examples of how ECE incorporates a SDG-perspective in its sectoral work in support of member States.
3.3 Supporting the strengthening of national institutions for more integrated solutions;
ECE does not target directly the strengthening of national institutions directly. Indirectly, it contributes to stronger institutions that are in a better position to adopt integrated solutions through various capacity-building activities. These activities, which are described elsewhere in this questionnaire, contribute to increase expertise and awareness of national public servants on integrated perspectives.
3.4 Data and statistical capacity building;
National statistical offices (NSOs) play a key role in producing the data necessary for the follow-up and review of SDGs. In order to guide the work of the NSOs, ECE has prepared a Road Map on statistics for SDGs. The Road Map gives guidance on steps to set up a system for providing statistics for SDGs in a country, such as establishing national mechanisms for collaboration, assessing the availability of data, developing national indicators, building capacity and communicating statistics for SDGs. Following the recommendations in the Road Map, countries have made good progress in improving data availability for SDGs. Work continues to develop different tools to support the implementation of the Road Map in practice. In addition, ECE is providing assistance to the countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) and South-East Europe (SEE) under the UN Development Account 10th tranche programme on statistics and data. The capacity development focuses on one hand on cross-cutting and institutional issues such as implementation of the UNECE Road Map on statistics for SDGs and modernisation of official statistics, and on the other hand on specific thematic areas like environmental, economic and social statistics aiming to improve availability of data in these areas, including data on SDG indicators.
ECE in cooperation with UNEP and UN Country Teams is implementing since 2018 the project "Improved environmental monitoring and assessment in support of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in South-Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus" (2018-2021) funded by the UN Development Account. The project is strengthening the capacities of national environmental authorities and statistical agencies in 7 countries to collect and produce required data and to use environmental indicators in accordance with the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) principles. It aims to improve the accessibility and use of regularly updated and high quality environmental indicators, within the framework of SEIS, to respond to international indicator-based reporting obligations, including monitoring progress towards environment related Sustainable Development Goals. The SEIS aims to improve the collection, exchange, dissemination and use of environmental data and information to facilitate regular environmental assessments and reporting in the ECE member States.
Other sectoral subprogrammes include also some specific forms of support covering data issues in their areas of work. For example, the ECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section provides specific capacity building to countries to collect data to measure the achievement of SDG15.
3.5 Harnessing science, technology and innovation for the SDGs;
ECE supports a programme of Innovation for Sustainable Development Reviews, which are conducted at the request of member countries. The reviews provide a comprehensive assessment of the innovation capacities, strengths and weaknesses of the county under review and the potential contribution of innovation activities to contribute to sustainable development. A number of policy recommendations are derived from this assessment. Capacity-building activities are carried out to help countries in the implementation of these recommendations. In addition, ECE is developing a Subregional Innovation Policy Outlook, which aims to assess the scope and quality of innovation policies, institutions, and processes across up to six countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine). The project serves to identify strengths and weaknesses, to enlarge the evidence base for mutual policy learning, and to improve innovation policies, institutions and processes, and enhance their productivity and competitiveness.
ECE is also embracing innovation and the adoption of technological solutions in its sectoral subprogrammes. For example, together with the International Telecommunications Union, it has launched the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) initiative, which has been joined by other partners. The work under this initiative has explored the potential of ICTs to improve public services and new forms of smart governance. A major focus is placed on encouraging public-private collaboration to develop smart sustainable city projects and promote innovation. ECE has also developed recommendations to facilitate the uptake and development of carbon capture and storage technologies, which can make a significant contribution to climate change mitigation.
ECE work on innovation has also provided new impetus to subregional cooperation. The UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) Innovation Strategy was finalized and adopted by the SPECA governing council in November 2019. The strategy aims to improve the national capacity and capabilities of SPECA countries to formulate and implement innovation policies for sustainable development. In addition, it seeks to raise the level of and quality of regional cooperation in the implementation of innovation for sustainable development.
3.6 Multi-stakeholder partnerships;
SuM4All (Sustainable Mobility for All) is a global, multi-stakeholder partnership that acts collectively to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and transform the transport sector. ECE plays a leading role as a member of the SuM4All Steering Committee and a co-lead in two of the five open-ended working groups, those on Safety and Efficiency.
ECE has established partnerships with multiple research organizations and other knowledge institutions. Specific research products are sometimes developed in collaboration with universities, for example, the Active Ageing Index, which is the result of the collaboration with Southampton University. In the areas of sustainable energy, ECE is extending its city-level network of International Centres of Excellence on High-Performance Buildings and its Global Building Network of universities to carry out training and research related to the ECE Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings.
3.7 Bolstering local action and supporting sub-national plans/strategies and implementation for the SDGs;
ECE's housing subprogramme together with other partners works with local authorities to develop initiatives supporting smart and sustainable cities. The United Smart Cities programme aims to address the major urban issues in particular in medium-sized cities in the ECE region and supports the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the local level. It was launched in April 2014 by ECE and OiER, and contributes to the work of the U4SSC initiative. Activities under this programme include the preparation of a Smart Sustainable City Profile with recommendations for action and a city action plans for the implementation of these recommendations.
ECE strongly recognizes the importance of action at the local level and seeks to engage new constituencies to enhance and extend the impact of its work. The Day of Cities, which was organised during the 68th session of the Commission on 8th April 2019, gathered over 50 Mayors from 33 ECE countries to share concrete experiences and priorities in response to key sustainable development challenges. Recognising cities as vital partners in delivering the 2030 Agenda, ECE’s Committee on Housing, Land Management and Urban Development decided to establish a Forum of Mayors. The first session will be held in Geneva on 6 October 2020.
3.8 Leveraging interlinkages across SDG goals and targets;
There are different instances in which ECE supports countries in exploiting the linkages that exist between different goals and targets for enhanced impact. A prominent example is the ECE-WHO/Europe Transport, Health and Environment Pan European Programme (THE PEP), which is a policy framework to promote mobility and transport strategies that integrate environmental and health concerns. THE PEP has supported Central Asian countries in their efforts to promote an integrated approach to transport, health and environmental policies.
Another example of support to integrated policymaking is the Assistance Programme under the ECE Industrial Accidents Convention, which helps countries in the management of technological hazards, and the reduction of related risks. Through the development of national self-assessments and action plans, and fostering their alignment with disaster risk reduction strategies and action plans, ECE encourages the development of integrated policies towards resilience to disasters, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
ECE carries out assessments of the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in trasnsboundary basins of the pan-European region and beyond. A nexus (or inter-sectoral) approach to managing the interlinked resources can enhance water, energy and food security by increasing efficiency, reducing trade-offs between competing uses, building synergies and improving governance across sectors. The assessment aims at identifying, together with the concerned sectors and relevant stakeholders, 1) hindrances to and opportunities for additional and equitable sharing of benefits from stronger integration across sectors, and 2) practical solutions for improving security and for reconciling the different sectors' needs.
3.9 Supporting policies and strategies to leave no one behind;
In its different areas of work, ECE is sensitive to the implications of its activities on vulnerable people. In addition, there are some particular initiatives that are explicit aimed to support member States in their efforts to leave no one behind.
Work under the Protocol on Water and Health aims to attain an adequate supply of safe drinking water and sanitation for everyone, and effectively protect water used as a source of drinking water. One of the areas of work under the Protocol is equitable access to water and sanitation for all, including poor, vulnerable and sociallyexcluded people. This work includes the elaboration of guidance documents, support to projects in countries and exchanges of experiences at the national level.
The Geneva UN Charter on Sustainable Housing endorsed by ECE supports member States as they seek to ensure access to decent, adequate, affordable and healthy housing for all. CE Country Profiles on urban development, housing and land management provide practical recommendations on many related areas, including housing provision and affordability.
Another example of relevant work concerns ECE activities on population and ageing. Road Maps for Mainstreaming Ageing have been conducted so far for Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova. These studies assess and provide recommendations on different related areas, including adequate access to health and social services and the avoidance of poverty among old age persons.
3.10 Supporting the mobilization of adequate and well-directed financing;
ECE’s pioneering work on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) resulted in a new People-first PPP model, where PPPs are “fit for purpose” for the financing of SDGs. The ECE approach ensures that PPPs contribute to the SDGs by flagging the importance of social and environmental aspects besides of the non-economic ones. The People-first PPP model is gaining traction as an increasing number of member States are implementing the People-first approach to PPPs. Thus far, at least five countries in the ECE region have done so: Kazakhstan is revising its PPP legislation to incorporate the People-first outcomes while Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine are incorporating the People-first PPP outcomes in their respective PPP programmes.
ECE contributes in direct ways to the mobilization of financing. In 2019, the first formal call of the United Nations Road Safety Fund, which is hosted at ECE, disbursed USD 4 million to projects aimed at reducing road traffic fatalities.
3.11 Reducing disaster risk and building resilience;
Disasters know no borders and therefore effective response requires transboundary or regional coordination and cooperation. ECE supports the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (SFDRR). In particular, ECE contributes to the United Nations Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience. The Plan calls on the United Nations system, both as individual organizations and collectively, to “make disaster risk reduction a priority”. Within this framework, ECE plays a crucial role in disaster preparedness in its region and – through its recommendations, treaties and best practice – well beyond its boundaries, particularly in the following areas: standards and regulatory frameworks; housing and land management; the Water Convention; Industrial Accidents Convention; access to environmental information; measurements and tatistics and the protective function of forests.
3.12 Supporting international cooperation and enhancing the global partnership;
ECE works with multiple international organizations, including other regional commissions, and provides regular inputs to global processes. Some of its work has a global projection, as it is normative products are used by countries outside the region or serve as a model to develop new norms elsewhere. This is the case, for example, of the work under the Water Convention, under which ECE is helping a number of African countries to build capacities on transboundary water cooperation and international water law and facilitating dialogues on sustainable management of aquifers
4. The high-level political forum (HLPF) is the central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. Has your organization participated in or supported the work of the HLPF? If yes, please specify your involvement in the following areas:
4.1 Supporting the intergovernmental body of your organization in contributing to the thematic review of the HLPF;
The Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE region is the main regional mechanism for follow-up and review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Topics covered each year aim to reflect the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) theme and the SDGs under in-depth review of the relevant year. Member States contribute case studies on policy experiences according to standardized criteria.
The Report of the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE region is the official input from the region to the High-level Political Forum.
4.2 Contributing to policy/background briefs for the HLPF;
ECE has contributed to the "Accelerating SDG 7 achievement" policy briefs in support of the first SDG 7 review at the UN High-level Political Forum 2018, including Policy brief No. 1 "Achieving universal access to electricity", No. 3 "Substantially increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix", No. 4,"Doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency", No. 5 "Financing SDG 7", No. 9 "Water-energy-food nexus for the review of SDG 7", No. 14 "Interlinkages between energy and sustainable cities", No. 15 "Interlinkages between energy and climate change", No. 16, "Interlinkages between energy and transport". It led the development of policy briefs No. 20 "Achieving SDG 7 in the ECE region (Central Asia, Europe and North America") and No 27 "Indicators and data for energy for sustainable development".
In addition, ECE has collaborated with UN Water in the preparation of the SDG 6 Synthesis report.
4.3 Helping organize SDG-specific events in the preparatory process;
As mentioned above and described more extensively in question one, ECE organizes the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the ECE region, in close cooperation with other UN system organizations.
4.4 Organizing side events or speaking at the HLPF;
In 2018, ECE co-organized nine side events covering a large variety of themes. In a joint side event of the G77 partners and the Regional Commissions the discussion focused on how to promote technological progress while supporting inclusive economic growth. In a side event, co-organized by the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section, possibilities to establish a UN partnership for Sustainable Fashion were explored. The UNECE Water Convention Secretariat, together with other partners, focused the discussions of their side event on transboundary water cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Together with ECLAC, UNECE co-organized a side event on environmental democracy for sustainable societies. UNECE's Housing and Land Management Unit co-organized two side events on access to adequate and affordable housing and on smart cities. Further side events co-organized by UNECE focus on the topics of "Blockchain for Transformation", "SDG 7 Tracking" as well as on "SDG implementation in the Western Balkans".
In 2019, ECE, together with other regional commissions, organised a side event on regional support to follow-up of the VNRs. It was the sole organiser of an event on “The Growth We Want is Sustainable: Harnessing Innovation for a Circular Economy for All”
4.5 Supporting the VNR process.
Regional Preparatory Meetings for VNR countries of the UNECE region were organized by the Division for Sustainable Development of UN DESA with the support of UNECE the day before the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE region in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE region acts as an effective link in the overall architecture for the follow-up and review of the SDGs by providing a regional dimension that facilitates the connection between the national and global levels. In 2018, it included an exchange of views on how the Voluntary National Reviews have or can contribute to SDG implementation, thus providing a regional context to the discussions on existing follow-up and review mechanisms. This discussion has continued in subsequent editions of the Forum.
5. How has your organization cooperated with other UN system organizations to achieve coherence and synergies in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs? In this regard, has your organization launched or intend to launch any joint programmes or projects in collaboration with other UN entities? Are there any results or lessons you would like to highlight that might help improve the design and impact of such efforts? Has your organization participated in any of the following coordination systemwide mechanisms or any other relevant platform - CEB, UNSDG, EC-ESA Plus, regional coordination meetings, UN-Energy, UN-Water, UN-Ocean, IAEG, IATT? Please specify which and indicate any suggestions you may have about improving collaborations within and across these mechanisms/platforms.
In the ECE region, the established practice of joint meetings of the Regional Coordination Mechanism and the Regional United Nations Development Group for Europe and Central Asia put the region in a good footing to move towards to a unified Regional Collaborative Platform, in line with the reform of the UN Development System at the regional level. The joint UN work in the region has evolved over the past few years from information exchange and coordination to joint analytical work, advocacy, country support and positioning towards the 2030 Agenda. This has led to a number of visible results in terms of UN thought leadership in the region and to being recognized as a useful cooperation model to increase regional and country-level impact. More recently, discussions have focused on the reprofiling and restructuring of regional assets.
In addition, there are a number of existing and new partnerships that focus on particular sectors. For example, ECE and FAO have been working together for over 70 years through their Joint Forestry and Timber Section. This partnership and joint office are proving vital also vis-à-vis the work on SDGs, in particular as work on data, monitoring and assessment is undertaken jointly thus avoiding duplications, overlaps and inconsistencies.
In the work on statistics for SDGs, ECE works in close collaboration with a number of other agencies that are involved in statistical work within and outside the UN. There is good cooperation with UNSD and other regional commissions, especially ESCAP-Through its Statistics Division, ECE participates in the work of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs). It is also a member of the Issue-based coalition (IBC) on statistics and data, an initiative emerged within the Regional Coordination Mechanism.
ECE has initiated and actively contributes to the Inter-agency coordination group on Industrial Accidents, which includes also UNEP, OCHA, WHO, UNISDR, ILO, OPCW, OECD, EU and its Joint Research Centre, and other organizations, which agrees on joint actions to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the SDGs and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and inputs to global processes, such as the UNISDR Global Assessment Report 2019.
In 2019, ECE launched a ground-breaking partnership with standards communities to promote a gender-balanced and an inclusive process for the development of standards. In May 2019, the ECE Declaration on Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development was opened for signature and by March 2020 it had already been signed by more than 60 standards organizations worldwide.
ECE has recently joined UNEP and UNESCO in co-leading a new Issue-based Coalition on Environment and Climate Change. The Coalition’s work will be based around three pillars: strengthening environmental governance and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda; supporting countries in the environmental dimension of Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework and Common Country Assessment processes; and monitoring and reporting on the environmental and climate change dimension of the Goals.
6. How has your organization engaged with stakeholder groups, both in supporting implementation at the country, regional and global levels, and within your own organization? If yes, please provide main highlights, including any lessons learned. If your organization has established any multi-stakeholder partnerships to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, please describe them and how their performances are being monitored and reviewed.
ECE has established a Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism (ECE-RCEM) for the implementation of the Agenda 2030 in the region. This mechanism aims at establishing stronger cross-constituency coordination and ensuring that civil society had a voice at regional intergovernmental forums like the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. The RCEM constituency does not include private sector actors but it included academia and trade unions. However, the private sector is regularly engaged in standard-setting procedures in different areas, like for example, trade facilitation or agricultural products.
7. Has your organization organized any conferences, forums or events designed to facilitate exchange of experience, peer and mutual learning in connection with the SDGs? If yes, please provide a brief summary, below and include lessons learned and gaps identified based on the outcomes of these events. Please also include any events you want to organize in the coming years.
The Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE region places a major emphasis on peer-learning and the exchange of policy experiences and good practices in the implementation of the SDGs, reflecting the wishes expressed by member States. In order to facilitate peer-learning and make discussions in smaller groups possible, the 2018 and 2019 included a number of parallel roundtables. A similar structure was envisaged for the 2020 Regional Forum, but the format had to be revised due to the COVID-19 crisis.
At the sectoral level, there are multiple initiatives that focus on peer-learning or have a peer-learning component. For example, ECE organises regular Expert Meetings on statistics for SDGs. The Expert Meetings serve as a platform for exchange of experience and mutual learning for experts who are responsible for providing statistics for SDGs in their countries. The meetings have also served as a catalyzer for closer cooperation between the involved international organizations. These meetings are appreciated by participants being a unique place to exchange practical experience in this area and have thus attracted participation from a number of countries outside the region. The meetings concluded with action items to be implemented that will support countries in their practical work.
Peer-learning is also related to drawing lessons in the context of specific programmes or activities. For example, in October 2017, an open-ended meeting was organised back-to-back with the 28th session of the UNECE Environmental Performance Review (EPR) Expert Group to discuss the experience of integrating SDGs in the framework of EPRs. This meeting facilitated peer learning on the progress towards implementation of SDGs in the reviewed. In autumn 2018, the EPR Programme organized a peer-learning workshop targeted at environmental authorities in the EPR-reviewed countries to enhance the capacity of environmental authorities to implement relevant SDGs based on their EPRs. In 2019, it organized a meeting on sustainable urban transport and mobility to exchange experiences and support cooperation among experts on policies and practices on the basis of EPRs. This provided a platform for countries of Eastern and South Eastern Europe and the Caucasus to share their experiences in addressing sustainable transport issues and to support cooperation between the relevant experts for transport and environment;
An important goal of peer-learning activities is bringing together experts from different backgrounds. For example, ECE organized a peer-learning seminar on land-use planning and the siting of hazardous activities, which brought together experts from the industrial safety, land-use planning and environmental assessment/strategic environmental assessment communities. The meeting facilitated peer learning of national experiences and good practices, and the implementation of various legal instruments and guidance, in particular the UNECE Guidance on Land-Use Planning, the Siting of Hazardous Activities and related Safety Aspects.
There is also a linkage between the lessons derived from peer-learning and the development of further activities. For example, in the area of forests, ECE regularly organizes workshops to exchange experiences on sustainable forest management monitoring and implementation involving all countries in the region. Based on the gaps identified, ECE organizes ad hoc capacity building and Policy Dialogues in selected countries.
8. Is there any other information you would like to share, including annual reports of your organization and any impact assessment or evaluation reports? If yes, please use the space below and attach the document(s). Please also use this space to provide any other information, comments or remarks you deem necessary.
The annual reports of the ECE can be found at http://www.unece.org/publications/annualreports/topics/annual_reports.html
9. In your view, what should strategic directions look like for the UN system in support of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs in the Decade of Action? What key elements should they include and what major challenges should they address?
The Secretary-General's report on "Repositioning the United Nations development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda: our promise for dignity, prosperity and peace on a healthy planet" provides an overall view of necessary changes to ensure more coherent, accountable and effective support for the 2030 Agenda.
The regional dimension should be an essential component in the overall architecture – from the global to the national – required for the successful delivery of change at the country level. System-wide coherence must be accompanied by the exploitation of the opportunities for enhanced impact resulting from the consideration of regional issues. This consideration should take place at two intertwined levels: analytical and operational. There are a number of critical questions for sustainable development that require not only a regional context for analysis but also concerted action at the regional level. This regional dimension should be appropriately reflected in the Common Country Analysis, providing a strong foundation for concerted action,
Coordination of efforts will remain a major challenge for the effective consideration of the regional dimension. On one hand, this concerns the work of different actors at the regional level. But, on the other hand, this also includes the coordination of different national actions. The extent to which this national coordination takes place would be a measure of the success of international cooperation.
In the Decade of Action, efforts must aim to deliver maximum impact. This requires exploiting the synergies that the 2030 Agenda offers, identifying initiatives that affect simultaneously multiple goals and that serve as trailblazers to create better conditions for further interventions. Together with coordination, prioritizing and sequencing would be the critical factors for the acceleration of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
10. Please suggest one or two endeavours or initiatives that the UN system organizations could undertake together to support the implementation of the SDGs between now and 2030.
The speed of SDG implementation depends on the engagement of multiple actors, not only governments but also the private sector and civil society. This engagement will be the key driver for change and will ultimately translate in shifts in the way in which resources are used, both regarding consumption and investment.
How to secure and strengthen this continued engagement is therefore a critical challenge. UN organizations need to be active and present in the main policy debates of our time with a single and coherent voice, showing the relevance of SDGs to confront these collective challenges. This would widen the space for support and contribute to accelerated implementation.
In order to advance this goal, it is necessary to develop strong information and dissemination campaigns that focus on the benefits of progress towards SDGs and the costs of inaction. These initiatives should be data-rich and evidence-based. Developing strong links with the scientific community and influencing research agendas would help to shape public opinion and mobilise coalitions for change.
Finance would be critical for progress. Investment decisions should increasingly reflect sustainable development considerations. This depends on the creation of appropriate normative and regulatory frameworks but also on raising awareness of the relevance of sustainability consideration when investing. Trends are encouraging and they are supported by high-level initiatives launched by the Secretary General. We need to continue these efforts.
In addition, the direct mobilisation of finance is also important. For this, it is necessary to work with multiple partners. An example is the United Nations Road Safety Trust Fund (SDG 3.6), which was launched with the aim to accelerate progress in improving global road safety in April 2018. ECE hosts the secretariat of the Fund and has been involved in the establishment and operations of the Fund together with many other United Nations organizations relevant to and having interest in improving global road safety (e.g. UN regional commissions, WHO, World Bank, UNEP, UN-Habitat, UNICEF, UNDP). The Fund will also engage other road safety stakeholders such as national governments, private sector, civil society, academia, and donors).