This study provides a comprehensive assessment of the inclusion of civil society organisations (CSOs) in the Voluntary National Review (VNR) processes, as well as the institutional conditions of national SDG implementation. It highlights the urgent need for change and effective strategies at the halfway point of the 2030 Agenda.

CSO inclusion, for example, remains unrealised. Since 2018, the CPDE VNR Study series has shown the importance of institutionalised spaces for CSOs to contribute to the development process. Based on this report’s findings, while there is an increase in the number of these spaces, this has not necessarily translated into quality engagement. Many lack the necessary enabling factors, such as government consultation bodies, legal support, and funding. In terms of the VNR process, majority of CSOs are
still not included where it matters most, such as in decision-making and finalisation of the reports.

Lack of country ownership of the SDGs is a key challenge. While many countries have integrated the SDGs into their national development planning,

CSOs express that these are not representative of the realities on the ground. Out of the 84% of countries that have SDG strategies in this study, only 25% have been reported by CSOs as representative of them. This means that decisions on how to implement the SDGs, from financing to monitoring, are made without proper consultation with and feedback from civil society and marginalised groups.

The study underscores the urgent need to change perspectives and implement effective strategies to achieve the SDGs. The principles of Effective Development Co-operation (EDC) can serve as a catalyst for SDG implementation. It prescribes changes required to achieve a means of implementation that is democratic, inclusive, transparent, and impactful.

Only 17 out of 109 CSOs were able to contribute to their country's VNRs.

Persisting barriers and gaps to CSO inclusion in SDG and VNR processes.

  • Limited participation in CSO consultation structures
  • Lack of information regarding SDG implementation
  • Lack of resources devoted towards CSO participation
  • Bureaucratic challenges and red tape in governmental processes

The halfway point of the 2030 Agenda can be characterised by half measures, spent promises, and a world in peril. To accelerate the achievement of the SDGs, development stakeholders should abide by the principles of Effective Development Co-operation.

Main messages

  • Utilise the Effective Development Co-operation principles to ensure that development finance, especially ODA, contributes to the SDGs.
  • Donors must meet the 0.7% GNI target for ODA, and protect ODA’s core mandate to poverty eradication, in order to help build sustainable development pathways of partner countries.
  • More attention should be placed on achieving results that deliver the pledge to Leave No One Behind.
  • The quality of institutionalised spaces for CSOs participation in SDG implementation must be improved.






Published July 2023

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