New Policy Direction for 2030: the Sustainable Development Goals - Canadian Government Executive
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February 13, 2017

New Policy Direction for 2030: the Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are part of the new global “Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development” adopted by Heads of States and Governments at the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2015. It a universal policy agenda for “people, planet and prosperity.” It applies to all countries worldwide, which means that Canada will also need to integrate it into its domestic and international policies. SDGs are becoming part of the strategic framework for all governments, cities and provinces, businesses and charities, schools and hospitals. For governments it is a “policy brief from the future”; for businesses is a “purchase order from the future”; and for citizens it is a new paradigm for the 21st century society. This is why the SDGS represent a unique opportunity for transformative change in developed, emerging and developing economies.

Essentially, SDGs are a fully comprehensive meta-system of wicked problems covering all key policies for the next 15 years. They are not a “UN thing,” but a holistic package of global, national and local actions to be achieving by 2030.

SDGs open a new chapter in Sustainable Development

In only a bit more than a year, the SDGs have drawn the attention of policy makers, thought-leaders and researchers worldwide. The OECD adjusted its Framework for Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development to put the SDGs at the core. New sophisticated analytical models for understanding the SDG linkages were developed by the International Council for Sciences and the Stakeholder Forum on global partnerships for sustainable development. Knowledge platforms and hubs on the SDGs proliferate, including the Canadian “SDG Knowledge Hub” of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. There is already a mobile app (SDGs in Action) and planning simulation tools such as the iSDG.

Crafted in a manner that integrates economic prosperity and social development while moving towards preserving environmental viability, the SDGs are a bold collective move to address the root causes of poverty, social injustices and environmental degradation.

There is a total of 17 Goals with 169 Targets and their corresponding indicators. The goals span from employment to education and health to human rights to energy and climate change to infrastructure and urban development. The complexity of the SDGs ought to be addressed systemically. There cannot be cherry-picking or departmentalization because of the high level of complexity and interdependence. SDGs might also be seen as a “network of targets: in the DESA model, for instance, 60 Targets explicitly refer to at least one other Goal, and 19 Targets link more than 3 Goals. And this model still does not represent the whole complexity of the SDGs.

SDGs are being addressed in new cycles of government strategic planning and preparation of Medium-Term Budget Frameworks worldwide. The European Union is revising its policies to fully incorporate the SDGs across all member-states. The United Nations is undertaking systemic reform to introduce new capabilities for supporting the SDGs more strategically and effectively. There are numerous exciting initiatives on digital governance, strategic foresight, Big Data, citizen participation in policy-making, and innovation labs for the addressing the SDGs in innovative ways.

Not surprisingly, the SDGs are being embraced by the corporate sector. The role of business in the SDGs goes beyond Corporate Social Responsibility and philanthropy. The SDGs now introduce a practical framework for a whole new concept of business. This is known as the “5Ps” (Profit, People, Planet, Peace, Partnerships) and it builds upon existing models of Benefit Corporations, Impact Investment, Social Entrepreneurship, and Collective Impact.

 

The need for integrated policy and interactive governance

The issue of policy integration is probably the most challenging aspect of the SDGs. There is nothing especially new about concepts such as “breaking down the silos” or holistic and “joined-up” government. Nor is there anything new about the understanding that inter-sectoral coordination and policy coherence are critical for effective performance and policy impact. However, the SDGs create a new level of awareness of the integrated approach because their complexity and “wickedness” – accompanied by the urgency to accomplish them in mere 15 years – create unprecedented policy challenges. Each Goal is itself a “whole” and, at the same time, part of a larger “whole.” Dealing with complex systems embedded within complex systems requires a fundamentally different approach: the one in which integration takes place across all policies, strategies, policy instruments, programs and investments – while involving all stakeholders in creating a fundamentally different, shared future.

Integrated policy for coherent sustainable development cannot be provided for by fragmented governance divided into conventional sectors and industries, and split between international and national policy domains.

In this context, the current model of governance is becoming even more evidently inadequate. Horizontal policy integration that refers to traditional sectoral pyramids in governments and public sectors calls for new coordination and collaboration mechanisms. Nevertheless, vertical policy integration (intra-sectoral) seems to be even more important because it aligns policy with strategy with implementation across levels of government in federal settings. As the work on the SDGs domestically cannot be limited to isolated ministerial departments, the work on the SDGs internationally is not the domain of only ministries of foreign affairs. Simply put, there is also a need to integrate international and domestic policies because there are no political and administrative borders for the SDGs.

These challenges will not be addressed by introducing yet another layer of inter-ministerial committees and councils and by relying on conventional public “consultations.” There is a need to work on upstream policy design and introduce elements of “interactive governance” (such as collaborative platforms).  We should not (and probably cannot) “break” the silos, but we ought to have them interact and communicate better, and to bring together stakeholders in normative, forward-looking policy dialogues.

 

The opportunity for strategic reorganization and reorientation

The level of ambition of the SDGs is so high that it is not expected that even countries such as Norway will be able to meet all Targets fully by 2030. However, the aspirational nature of the SDGs is already producing effects in countries that realize the transformative opportunities of the SDGs. For instance, the German Council for Sustainable Development published an analysis on “Germany’s sustainability Architecture and the SDGs” in 2015. It was a systemic policy and institutional review that covered the whole federal government with regard to the alignment between the SDGs and existing policies, functions, programs and services. At least 40 countries will have undergone the Rapid Integrated Policy Assessments by the end of 2017 – the methodology that helps incorporate global SDGs into national policies and strategic objectives. The UK’s SDG Scorecard focuses on the relative applicability of different Goals and Targets at national and local levels emphasizing the need for policies to become more ambitious than mere continuation of current trends and efforts.

Why are the SDGs important for Canada? First, the federal government is committed to a more prominent international role, which will not be possible without a genuine leadership on the SDGs. Secondly, and more importantly, SDGs could provide a new strategic framework at federal and provincial levels. These two goes hand in hand: without genuinely delivering on the SDGs domestically Canada might not have the credibility to lead internationally on sustainable development, and vice versa.

The strategic direction of the SDGs – and the model for the 21st century they represent – is already aligned with current Canadian aspirations and policy intentions. In a way, the global SDGs are manifestations of what Canada seems to project at home and into the world. What is now needed is concrete policy action accompanied by new partnerships and innovative governance systems. The sesquicentennial might be just the opportunity for Canada to mainstream the SDGs and start showcasing its own model of integrated domestic and international development.

 

Dr Nenad Rava is a Toronto-based policy consultant. He is currently focusing on Integrated Policy Design, Strategic Foresight, and Impact Investment for the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

 

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At first glance, the title may seem counterintuitive. By their very nature, high potentials (HiPos) are assumed to be, or even defined as, very engaged. Yet, when we look at the evidence, this is not necessarily the case. A 2009 study by the Corporate Leadership Council (CLC) discovered that 25% of HiPos were planning to...
 
The Liberal government’s first federal budget laid out $11.9 billion over five years for new infrastructure spending and the move was met with approval from some mayors of the country’s largest cities. Ottawa plans to spend $29.4 billion this year, $29 billion in 2017, $22.8 billion the following year and $17.7 billion in 2019-2020. The...
 
The Liberal government is expected to announce on Tuesday a new federal budget with a deficit in the area of about $30 billion. There’s been a lot of concern about that huge deficit but a number of economists calculate that Canada could actually absorb a much larger deficit and that it may not be even...
 
A leader’s credibility begins with personal success. It ends with helping others achieve personal success. – John Maxwell In 1966, U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy made an influential visit to South Africa. He offered words of hope to opponents of apartheid in his famous “Ripple of Hope” speech at the University of Cape Town: Related posts: Tapping into Our Collective Intelligence...
 
Monday was the final day for Canadians to donate money to overseas relief efforts for Syrian refugees in order for the funds to be matched by the federal government. But the money donated by Canadians fell short of the maximum $100 million which the government promised to match. Related posts: Does Canada need a bigger deficit? Yes, according to economists Alberta, feds to invest $40 million in clean tech Liberal’s immigration plan focuses on family reunification, eliminating backlog...
 
Huawei is bringing back to Canada and expanding its information communication technology-focused student exchange program. Seeds for the Future will once more provide 20 third-year engineering students from Canada, the opportunity to visit Beijing and work in the communication technology provider’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China. This is only the second year of the program in Canada. Huawei Canada is now receiving...
 
Many women entrepreneurs in Canada struggle to access capital, technology, networks and training. Cisco Canada has launched a program called the Cisco Women Entrepreneur’s Circle which aims to bridge this gap. Cisco is working with Women of Influence , a community dedicated to the advancing women professionals; Completely Managed , a managed services provider; the Business Development Bank of Canada ; and Communitech , and industry-led innovation centre based in...
 
Written by Tim Wacker Almost a quarter century ago, when most municipalities were rummaging through file cabinets and sifting through folders for specific documents, and the internet was still in the future (to say nothing of “cloud computing”), the District of Mission in British Columbia became an early adopter of an electronic document management system...
 
Written by  Brady G. Wilson You may not realize it, but your organization is home to an incredibly powerful operating system (O/S). Think outside the realm of technology. What has the potential to engage and energize your employees, bring teams closer together, and create a high-performing workforce? It’s conversation. Conversation is the common denominator behind...
 
Continuous, life-long learning is the future of the public service. Building the capacity of our workforce to meet new expectations and new ways of doing business is key to public service renewal. Large scale organizational learning efforts must be supported to make the leap from current to future state. Related posts: The benefits of an executive coach Professional development for the CIO Survey: Professional development...
 
Mega-ConnEX is an annual speed networking event organized by the Health Canada Young Professionals Network which connects young professionals and public sector senior executives. This event, loosely modelled on the ‘speed dating’ process, allows participants to network with senior executives in rapid succession. Related posts: Coach or mentor: Which one do you need? Professional development for the CIO Survey: Professional development...
 
Canada’s contribution to development and humanitarian assistance is recognized around the world. Its official development aid is $5 billion annually. Related posts: The policy analyst's political world Case competition: Practicing the art of policymaking Interview with Dr. Robert Taylor, CEO of IPAC...
 
Deliberations and negotiations in the United Nations are intensifying on what the successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals should be as the MDG end date – 2015 – approaches. There is broad consensus that the post-2015 framework should include goals, targets and indicators, as is the case with the MDGs. Related posts: Millennium Development Goals: A sprint to 2015 and the way forward Post-2015 MDG framework: The world we want...
 
The UN consultations on the post-2015 development framework are focused on what the UN Millennium campaign aptly calls, “The World We Want.” What do we want to achieve in a generation? What do we want to achieve in our lifetime? Related posts: Millennium Development Goals: A sprint to 2015 and the way forward Canada post-2015: Confronting our own development challenges...
 
At the turn of the millennium, the international community made a major commitment to address pressing development challenges and combat poverty. The United Nations (UN) Summit in 2000 saw leaders from 189 nations endorse the Millennium Declaration, which led to the establishment of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Related posts: It's good for what ails your organization Canada post-2015: Confronting our own development challenges Canada adopts U.N. declaration of rights of Indigenous peoples...
 
Budgets are statements of political will and power. They are performance agreements that give expression to government’s priorities and expected outcomes....
 
Decades of reform in developing countries point to four enduring dilemmas: Reforms focus on changing rules and behaviour by design rather than on changing practices during implementation;… Related posts: From past to future: Contrasting perspectives on public sector management...
 
The Lough Erne Accountability Report states that the G8 has played a constructive role in promoting better governance in the developing world. It cites the G8’s 70 percent funding of the Africa Peer Review Mechanism to promote democratic processes, citizen rights, and the rule of law. Related posts: Spanning boundaries … Globalization...
 
While there can be no singular solution for good governance, building common strategies that can be locally adapted is important in achieving development outcomes....
 
it’s not the most original saying...
 
With the demographics of an aging workforce and a significant number of pending executive retirements facing most organizations, are governments prepared to manage the transition and invest in the right type of leadership development?...
 
Shakespeare’s “dark comedy,” Measure for Measure, deals with the issues of mercy, justice and truth....
 
Reform is almost always about developing the capacity of government to manage, deliver and renew public services. The capacity deficit is pronounced in developing countries, where basic services are just beyond reach....
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine is promoting a vision for eliminating poverty i...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 Before dawn on Monday, 18 February 2008, just as an international conference was about to commence on the We...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.4 April 2008 “What is a Foreign Service for? Where should it focus its energies?” Prime Minister Gordon Brown asked las...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.3 March 2008 Most observers expect more than 40 percent of the executive cadre of the public service to retire in th...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.3 March 2008 The Commonwealth Secretariat convened the first Commonwealth forum of ministers responsible for public...
 
If you want to understand someone else’s position, walk a mile in their shoes, so the saying goes. To better prepare its future leaders, the Alberta public service has put that chestnut to the test. In 2005, Alberta c...
 
What makes a perfect mentor? Is it age and seniority? Perhaps it is years of education and experience?...
 
Often, decisions about how to recruit are made based on habit – doing what the organization has always done without much consideration of unique job requirements or labor market conditions....
 
It has been said that if everything is important, nothing is important. As a leader, what are the two or three things that are most important to you? What are your passions? What legacy do you wish to leave?...
 
The Mosaic Index, by Professor Richard Florida, which measures the percentage of population who are immigrants, indicates that Canada outperforms the United States, just as Ontario outperforms its peer jurisdictions on diversity. Canada has 20 percent imm...
 
Government policy agendas have long been fraught with complexity....
 
Looking at all the engineering diagrams overlaid on maps on the wall at the band office, I see a hand-drawn picture of a berm, a smiling moose cartoon on the pipeline, and an arrow beside it. "What does that represent?" I asked the engineeri...
 
Gérés efficacement, les conflits peuvent favoriser la résolution conjointe des problèmes, améliorer la communication, rehausser le moral et accroître la connecti...
 
Popular wisdom holds that the public service will need to recruit a large number of young professionals, mostly recent grads, to replace soon-to-retire baby boomers. Of course, there is nothing wrong with following an unoriginal renewal strategy, as lo...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.2 February 2008 As I mentioned previously, one cannot underestimate the importance of educating program executives,...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 What is the toughest job in government? Try head of the public service in Iraq – mediating between three factions with t...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.9 November 2007 Growth can mean opportunity. Significant increases in population can lead to a stronger workforce, a...
 
The subtitle of this report, prepared by the U.S. National Governors Association (NGA) Centre for Best Practices, is called “Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development.” The report puts to bed the argument that arts are...
 
We can learn from archetypes. They can help us lead, if they are clear and practical enough...
 
Improving leadership development is widely recognized by HR leaders and senior managers as a key priority for any high performing, modern organization....
 
Natural Resources Canada is accustomed to nurturing, protecting and growing Canada’s most precious resources. Now it is also able to nurture and grow its young policymakers....
 
In an increasingly competitive and complex global marketplace, both employers and employees who display creativity, knowledge and imagination are at a premium....
 
The transition from the private sector into an executive role in the federal public service is not easy....
 
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Canada’s international reputation for welcoming and integrating newcomers is unparalleled. At a time when much of the world seems intent on pulling itself apart over disputes around immigration and placing formidable barriers in the path of newcomers, Canada is raising its immigration levels. In November 2017, Ahmed D. Hussen, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and...