Speech Joke Brandt

You are the world’s “watchdog”

Standing in the Commissioner’s Room in the historic former home of the NutsBank, Joke Brandt, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, received a present from Francine Giskes of the Netherlands Court of Audit (NCA): the first copy of the NCA’s Practical Guide to Government SDG Preparedness Reviews.

That publication has guided the Supreme Audit institutions (SAIs) gathered in The Hague for a conference on SAIs and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as they assume what Brandt called their “crucial role.”

“You are independent from the government,” she told them. “You map their progress and the allocated resources. You hold governments to their promises and help citizens and parliament hold governments accountable.” Fitting, then, that the NutsBank got its start in 1818 as one of the first banks for common citizens and today is a cultural platform and home to NGOs and social enterprises.

You are independent from the government

The representatives gathered in its vaults and gardens come from six of the Dutch SAI's partners from the Arab region, including Iraq, Algeria and the Palestinian Authority, which comprise part of NCA’s Sharaka Project financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since 2016, the Sharaka program has aimed to support democratic transition in the Arab world as well the rule of law, economic development and employment. “Developments in the Arab region influence developments in Europe,” said Brandt on the importance of the day’s peer-to-peer gathering. “Lack of stability in the Arab region will affect stability in Europe.”

It’s the implementation of the SDGs that will help lead to that stability, she said, and not just for “countries but for all the people in them.” It’s a sentiment echoing this former UNICEF executive and Ambassador in Eritrea’s commitment to SDG 10, reducing inequality.

The Sustainable Development Goals, stressed Brandt, are now the “international guiding principles for the new Dutch policy regarding development cooperation. They are the ultimate prevention agenda.” Working towards them, she said, helps avoid conflict and instability, which is a key goal of the new Dutch policy.

Strong partnerships are crucial.

But “we can’t do it alone,” she emphasised. “Strong partnerships are crucial.” Citing SDG 17 regarding forming partnerships, Brandt said she looked forward to the work of the SAIs and other stakeholders in attendance, including local and national governments and knowledge institutions, as they map out the challenges and opportunities for implementing the SDGs. She will bring their recommendations—along with her copy of A Practical Guide to Government SDG Preparedness Reviews—to New York for the UN’s next High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in two weeks’ time, where countries report on their progress in implementing the SDGs. “It’s important to dream big,” said Brandt. “For the first time in 2015, all UN member states committed themselves to a common vision for the world in 2030. If we want to reach the 2030 goals, cooperation is crucial.”

Lauren Comiteau
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