Helping governments achieve SDGs requires collaboration and proactivity
These observations are the result of an extensive review of governments’ preparedness to implement SDGs, a collaboration between the NCA and its six partner SAIs from the Arab region which Giskes called ‘a unique cooperation’ within the Sharaka partnership programme.
"As SAIs, we are on a journey to review our governments’ overall preparedness to implement the SDGs,’ Giskes said. ‘I firmly believe that by undertaking these preparedness reviews we have made a difference. In offering early observations and advice from our unique vantage point, we are also showing that we are keeping a close watch on progress – on behalf of the citizens."
Journeys were a theme of Giskes’ opening remarks at the NCA Sharaka SDG Conference. Beginning with a personal anecdote of a trip she took to Africa in 1977 that opened her eyes to the importance of what we now call SDGs. "I was a young woman", she said, "and as you can imagine, travelling in a continent so different from the country I grew up in, this journey made a deep and lasting impression on me. Hitch-hiking from town to town, on dirt roads, I realised how important clean water is. The drought of the Sahel; dry river-beds; the serious consequences of a sudden leak in my water bottle – quite a revelation when you are used to living in one of the wettest countries in the world."
This great collective journey does not end here
Giskes then spoke of a ‘great collective journey’ undertaken by countries around the world in 2015 to achieve sustainable development goals by 2030, but noted that while that might sound far away, the tasks at hand are urgent and SAIs have many opportunities to enable a better world in 2030. "We can check if our governments delivered on what they promised," she says. "We can critically monitor the implementation of the SDGs, the use of resources and help parliaments to hold governments to account. And we will. That is how with our unique mandates we can make a difference to the lives of citizens."
To be effective, she stated, requires a third journey, one in which SAIs step outside their comfort zones. "We cannot afford to take the traditional approach" she advises, "waiting until 2031 to conduct ex-post audits, analysing once the dust has settled. We will be too late to make a meaningful contribution." Giskes encourages SAIs to extend their traditional focus and be proactive and innovative in assisting national governments to reach their goals.
Giskes’ message was urgent but positive, noting that the journey has been inspiring so far and the universal approach to reviewing government preparedness to implement SDGs has enabled the identification of key common trends and joint observations, such as the need to strengthen data and monitoring frameworks in all countries.
Concrete plans are a prerequisite for success and for government transparency, she added. "Accountability provisions need to be strengthened," she said. "Data are critical to inform policies and decision-making, monitor progress, ensure meaningful accountability and participation and to take action if progress is lacking."
Going forward, Giskes called for more collaboration across SAIs in all countries. "This great collective journey does not end here," she said. "The year 2030 sounds a long way away, but there’s actually very little time if you consider the urgency."