A bold beginning

In the commissioner’s room of the historic Nutshuis, the former bank building in the centre of the Hague, Andrea Connell, Head of International Affairs at the Netherlands Court of Audit, welcomed delegates to the conference Universal Goals – Universal Approaches? Supreme Audit Institutions and the Sustainable Development Goals.

It’s a fitting venue, as Connell observed. Established in 1818, the Nutsbank was one of the first financial institutions established for the common man or woman and is currently a place for discussion of socio-cultural issues and home to various NGOs. Setting out the agenda for the day, Connell reminded delegates of some key milestones to date. In 2015, the members of the United Nations (UN) adopted its agenda for sustainable development. All 193 members signed up to an ambitious package of goals: the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the intention of delivering on those goals by 2030.     

Fifteen years might seem like a long time but delegates were invited to consider the relative brevity of the timeframe given the urgency and size of the challenges at hand.

Connell invited attendees from various institutions including Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), central and local governments and knowledge institutions to volunteer particular SDGs that they are working towards on a daily basis. Examples given by delegates included SDG 1: No Poverty, SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being and SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.    

Andrea Connell (Head of International Affairs at the Netherlands Court of Audit)

In a video address, Dr. Harib Saeed Al Amimi, President of the UAE State Audit Institution, and president of INTOSAI spoke of his pleasure at witnessing the measurable progress achieved through the Sharaka (“partnership”) project, the five-year cooperative programme being implemented by the Netherlands Court of Audit and several Arab SAIs with the goal of improving the operation of public administration and the effectiveness of public services.

“I have been kept informed of the developments and am very pleased that the 7 steps model to review government preparedness to implement the SDGs is applicable to all environments,” he said.

Dr. Al Amimi went on to outline what he sees as the chief benefits of the SDGs, namely the provision of a chance to improve the effectiveness of SAIs both within specific environments and globally.

“Projects like this are the foundation for such ambitions,” he said, before affirming his belief that a universal target should be identifying gaps in existing information and providing fundamental information for citizens accordingly.

Without partnership, we can forget the other 16 goals.

Further challenges relate to the provision of information technology and the structure of governments. “With SAIs playing a fundamental role in monitoring and advising governments, the SDGs can make a valuable contribution to future generations,” said Dr. Al Amimi, before sending his best wishes for a constructive and enlightening conference.     

Connell noted that Sharaka SAI audit teams could be identified by their coloured SDG pin badges, inviting two such delegates – Mr Muqdad Alrubaiy of SAI Iraq and Mr Abdelmouhcine Hanine of SAI Morocco – to share insights relating to cooperation and working with new stakeholders on the government SDG preparedness reviews.

She noted that SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals, is the most crucial SDG of all. “Without partnership,” she said. “we can forget the other 16 goals.”

Mark Smith
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