John Baaki Terzungwe
Programme Manager, Women Environmental Programme
“We have no funds to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” This was the popular response we got from most offices of the Senior Special Assistants to the Governors on SDGs (SSAs on SDGs) in the course of our baseline gender assessment against selected SDGs and targets in 10 states of Nigeria.
Following the adoption of the SDGs in September, 2015, to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), my organization, Women Environmental Programme (WEP) in collaboration with four other global and regional women’s organizations signed a 5-year framework agreement with the European Commission to monitor the implementation of the SDGs in 52 countries, under the project titled: “Women CSOs Networking to Realize the SDGs, also known as Women2030.” It was in the course of establishing baseline against selected goals and targets that would guide our engagement with different stakeholders on this project that we came to understand how the SDGs were viewed among government Ministries, Units, Departments and Agencies (MUDAs).
This view held about the SDGs by some government institutions and other stakeholders has necessitated this write-up.
It is important to clarify that SDGs are NOT PARALLEL development agenda that stand separate from other development plans of the Federal and State Governments. SDGs are part and parcel, or ought to be part and parcel of national and sub-national development plans and hence it is needless to design and implement a stand-alone project or program and tag it SDGs project or program. Strategies to realizing the SDGs are supposed to be mainstreamed in national and sub-national sectorial development plans. That is why the mandate of the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs (OSSAP-SDGs) which is responsible for SDGs implementation in Nigeria is “coordination and policy formulation of programs designed to achieve SDGs.”
To me, SDGs are like any other development plan that the federal and states governments have always developed and implemented. Federal and states governments have always implemented poverty alleviation programs (Goal 1), health programs (Goal 3), education programs (Goal 4), water and sanitation programs (Goal 6), electrification programs (Goal 7) and many more. This is to say that before the adoption of the millennium declaration by the United Nations that gave rise to the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that elapsed in 2015, and subsequent adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Nigeria was already implementing the MDGs and SDGs respectively. Remove the targets and indicators from the SDGs and they become like any other development plan the federal and states governments have been implementing. So, why say you have no funds to implement the SDGs when every year the Governors prepare and lay on the floor of the States Houses of Assembly an Appropriation bill which is later signed into an Appropriation Act that authorizes expenditure from the States’ Consolidated Revenue Fund to implement the programs I have mentioned above?
The difference between the SDGs and any other national or state development plan is its global nature, its comprehensiveness and its integrated approach that revolves around social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.
The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals may not need funding outside the funding sources available to the states – states budgets and other external support to the states. And the offices of Senior Special Assistants to the Governors on SDGs may not need funding to implement “SDGs projects.” What the offices of the Senior Special Assistants to the Governors need is funds to coordinate different sectors, departments, ministries and agencies of government to mainstream SDGs in their plans.
Did I say the states do not need more funding for SDGs? No, but states can implement the SDGs with or without additional funding to the existing funding sources available to the states. And did I say the offices of the Senior Special Assistants to the Governors need not seek funding for SDGs implementation? No, offices of SSAs on SDGs can collaborate and coordinate relevant sectors to get additional funding from external sources to complement the sectors’ activities geared towards realizing SDGs. However, offices of SSAs on SDGs should not turn themselves into implementing agencies, but channel the resources they may get to the relevant sectors and only provide oversight on projects implementation.
The most important thing to realize the SDGs is not necessarily about getting more and more funding, but more about making judicious use of the available funds, channeling it where it is needed and avoiding unnecessary expenditures that will not contribute to realizing SDGs. This is where the offices of the SSAs on SDGs need to play a guiding role. The offices of the SSAs on SDGs need to get the relevant ministries, departments and agencies of government to understand the goals and targets that are relevant to their work and develop plans that are relevant to achieving the targets with timelines towards 2030. There should be a clear plan on how the state wants to achieve each target of its priority SDGs.
If for example, a state prioritizes Goal 4 and target 4a – Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environment for all – the state is morally bound to ensure that within its set timeframe, on or before 2030, all the schools in its jurisdiction has access to: (a) electricity; (b) the Internet for pedagogical purposes; (c) computers for pedagogical purposes; (d) adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities; (e) basic drinking water; (f) single-sex basic sanitation facilities; and (g) basic hand-washing facilities. Any target prioritized by the state, it should ensure it addresses all the indicators set against that target in the SDGs.
Based on the above, it is the role of the states’ office of SSA on SDGs to get the education sector to focus its programs in the state within a particular timeframe and also push for appropriation appropriate to fund such programs to ensure target 4a above is met within a set timeframe.
To be candid, states that are desirous of realizing the SDGs should make it mandatory that state sectorial development plans are developed in collaboration and with the guidance of the offices of SSAs on SDGs. The states offices of SSAs on SDGs should prioritize the relevant goals and targets for the state based on its situation, set annual or 5-yearly target for different sectors. The states SDGs offices also should work with the states Planning Commissions, states ministries of Finance and Budget to get annual states appropriations that will contribute to the realization of the SDGs.
It seems to me that there is so much political authority required to coordinate and guide the implementation of the SDGs in the states. The SDGs implementation process in the states may be given more attention if coordinated directly from the offices of the Deputy Governors.
With or without additional funding, reasonable progress may be made towards realizing SDGs in states if the states maintain a focus on some priority goals, align their plans to the priority goals, fund and effectively implement programs and projects in line with the priority goals.
SDGs should not be viewed as an alien development agenda, but as those programs and projects which are capable of addressing the basic needs of the citizens if properly implemented.