MVB Chairman Alistair Speirs was recently invited to Siam Reap, Cambodia to be part of a major UNDP-China-ASEAN Symposium on Localising Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). The objective of the conference was to strengthen the capacities of local governments and other key stakeholders, to increase community engagement and accelerate the implementation of SDG’s at a local level to alleviate poverty.

The development of the ASEAN Vision 2025 and its three Blueprints have been informed and influenced by global frameworks and commitments, including the sustainable development goals. Photo by Alistair Speirs/NOW!JAKARTA

The ASEAN Charter recognises the importance of sustainable development and provides guidance for ASEAN to ensure sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations. The development of the ASEAN Vision 2025 and its three Blueprints have been informed and influenced by global frameworks and commitments, including the sustainable development goals. It is not surprising that the ASEAN Vision 2025 shares complementarities with the SDGs. As such, successfully implementing the SDGs is high on the agenda of ASEAN.

What are SDG’s?
SDGs are a global framework that need to be implemented according to their local context. A large part of the SDGs can only be effectively pursued at regional and local level. This means that, among others, local governments need to be empowered, local governments’ resources and capacity need to be enhanced, and local stakeholders need to be involved from planning to monitoring implementation of the SDGs. In addition, policy coherence between national and sub-national level is crucial. It necessitates understanding and awareness of the SDGs at regional and sub-national level.

For the purpose of this symposium, SDG localisation was defined as:

  • Strengthening enabling environment for policy coherence and cohesion between national and local level on SDGs
  • Translating SDGs into priorities that are relevant, applicable and attainable at the local level.
  • Enhancing partnerships for cooperation, financing, and implementation of SDG related initiatives

Who were the participants?
The ASEAN Secretariat implemented the symposium in close cooperation with China and the UNDP. In addition, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia were involved in preparing the symposium.

China has been one of the important dialogue partners of ASEAN for sustainable development. China has been providing valuable support for ASEAN in implementing projects on sustainable development, including the Symposium on “Leave No One Behind” and ASEAN-China-UNDP Research and Symposium on Financing Implementation of the SDGs in ASEAN. China is also an important dialogue partner for ASEAN in this initiative since China has experiences in pursuing sustainable development. China has made remarkable achievements since the era of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) especially in eradicating poverty. China has taken major measures to localise and achieve the SDGs not only within China but in other countries through the Belt and Road and other Initiatives.

Meanwhile, the UNDP has long history of collaboration with ASEAN in promoting sustainable development. In addition to previous symposiums on the SDGs, other cooperation between ASEAN and the UNDP includes the ASEAN My World Survey. As the UN agency in charge of promoting sustainable development, the UNDP brings valuable experiences and expertise to the symposium.

What were the agendas?
Group Discussions with Local Community “Under the Sun, under the Tree”

Participants visited and had discussions with local communities in Siem Reap, so-called “Under the Sun, under the Tree”. Set as a direct interface between symposium’s participants and local communities, the discussions provided local communities with an opportunity to present their voices to the policy makers. At the same time, it provided symposium participants with valuable information on mainstreaming the SDGs at community level.

Plenary Sessions and Key Note Address
Plenary sessions and key note address were designed as a platform to share experiences and expertise on localisation of the SDGs from experts and high-level officials. Designed to set the tone of the following discussions, plenary and key note address were centered on the general picture of SDGs localisation and poverty eradication, and ways forward for ASEAN Member States.

Roundtable Discussions
Roundtable discussions provided a platform for participants to share best practices on certain aspects of SDGs localisation, such as institutional arrangement, stakeholder engagement, monitoring/tracking, capacity and resources of local governments, and innovation. Roundtable discussions allowed for deep discussion since participants were divided into small group discussions. Moreover, it allowed sharing hands-on experiences when best practices with case studies on certain aspect of SDG. implementation were exchanged.

What was the expected results and conclusions?
In line with the main objectives of the symposium, it was expected that all participants would gain strategies in implementing the SDGs according to their respective condition, challenges, and resources; and involve stakeholders from implementation to monitoring of the SDGs. Also, it was expected that creative approaches on eradicating poverty would be explored during the symposium.

MVB’s input to their sessions was in line with their focus on the private sector. Alistair reminded the participants (who were 90 per cent from national and local governments, UNDP or NGO’s) that companies operate at both national and local level, that they employ the majority of people in every country in the world, and that the entire population of the world buys products and services from the private sector. This means that in essence the most important sector in the implementation of SDG’s is the private sector and that all the participants should work with commercial companies to help accelerate the influence they can have on at least 12 of the 17 SDG’s.

It was overall a very successful symposium but the Chairman noted in his final address that more attention should be given to communicating good practices and programs to a broader sector of society.

Alistair Speirs

Alistair Speirs

Alistair has been in the publishing, advertising and PR business for 25 years. He started NOW! Magazines as the region’s preferred community magazine.