23 - 24 January 2019, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China – UNITAR, in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) successfully held the Learning Conference “Implementing the 2030 Agenda in the Asia-Pacific Region” in Shanghai, People’s Republic of China, on the 23rd and 24th of January 2019. The conference was attended by more than 95 participants, including government officials leading the SDGs process in their countries, diplomats, international civil servants as well as university professors.  23 countries were represented in this event, with many participants coming from Small Island Developing States (SIDS), thus, providing different perspectives and experiences regarding the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The purpose of the conference was to provide a space for discussion on the challenges and possible solutions for achieving sustainable development in the region. It also provided a platform to share the mechanism and good practices that exist for planning, monitoring, and evaluating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both at the national and local levels.

The two-day conference began with opening remarks from UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNITAR, Mr. Nikhil Seth, and from Secretary of SASS CPC Committee, Mr. Yu Xinhui. Representatives from UN ESCAP and UN DESA also welcomed the participants. The event was later divided into six sessions, three each day, on specific topics regarding the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Throughout the whole conference, an interactive methodology was used in order to offer participants the opportunity to exchange their knowledge and expertise on the topic amongst each other.

UNITAR
UNITAR
UNITAR

During the first session, titled “Implementing the 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific”, participants discussed the crucial role that ownership at the country level and transformational leadership play in the implementation of the SDGs. Likewise, the challenges that exist in mobilizing and involving local governments, authorities, and parliaments, as well as sequencing and prioritizing the SDGs, were discussed.  

In session 2, “Mobilizing Public Institutions for a Holistic Implementation of Agenda 2030”, participants discussed the need to strengthen institutional linkages and raise awareness among ministries. The importance of changing institutional architectures, more specifically changing public servants’ mindsets, and applying a holistic approach to governance for the implementation of the SDGs was also addressed.

UNITAR
UNITAR

At the end of the day, participants shared their country’s experiences with the Voluntary National Review process during session 3, titled “Policy coherence in the Asia-Pacific Voluntary National Reviews: challenges and opportunities”. Different challenges such as the need to focus on prioritization while also focusing on holistic approaches, and institutionalization of new agencies in the face of political changes, were discussed. Participants also urged the need to raise public awareness through engaging educational institutions, the media and political parties, as well as the need to strengthen data collection and tracking of SDG implementation through new technologies and social dialogues.

The second day of the conference began with session 4, a panel on “A whole-of-society approach to ensure policy coherence at the national level”. Countries highlighted the importance of stakeholder engagement, and the crucial role that public servants play in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Existing needs, such as mobilizing resources and broadening revenue through different means, ensuring that multi-stakeholder engagement leads to changes in policy-making, capacity development for partnership development, and engaging the private sector and youth, were addressed. Participants also mentioned the challenge that exists regarding budget allocation for services directed at vulnerable groups. To close the session, participants also voiced the importance of dialogue and peer-to-peer learning among countries.

Session 5 was on “Effective monitoring and evaluation of progress on the SDGs”.  During this session, participants discussed the role of technology and data collection in the 2030 Agenda. Some expressed concern regarding a lack of institutional coordination and technical collaboration, as well as statistical capacity and methodology. SIDS representatives argued that data disaggregation is especially complex for them. Therefore, countries called on the importance of modernizing and strengthening statistical legislation and statistical systems, adding that support from agencies and donors was essential here. Participants also argued that more needs to be done in terms of localizing the SDGs at a provincial and local level and building systems where there is none.

The conference concluded with session 6, titled “Capacity-building for Sustainable Development”, where participants agreed that changing norms and standards is not enough to transform institutions, thus, more efforts should be made towards changing values and mindsets.

Participants expressed their gratitude towards UNITAR, UN DESA, UN ESCAP and SASS for such a successful Learning Conference. This is a clear example of how collaborative partnership and experience-sharing between different countries may positively impact the road towards achieving the SDGs. UNITAR looks forward to continuing organizing similar learning conferences, with an upcoming one for the Caribbean region

Conference resources

Session 1: Implementing the 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific

  • 1A, Status of the 2030 Agenda implementation in Asia-Pacific

    • Ms. Katinka Weinberger, Chief, Environment and Development Policy Section, Environment and Development Division, ESCAP
  • 1B, Institutional arrangements for vertical and horizontal policy coherence in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda

    • Ms. Véronique Verbruggen, Senior Inter-Regional Adviser on Governance and Public Administration Institutional Development, Capacity Development Unit, DPIDG, UN DESA
  • 1C, Critical role of public institutions in SDG implementation - Key messages from UN DESA 2018 Symposium on Strengthening Capacities of Public Institutions and Developing Effective Partnerships to Realize the 2030 Agenda

    • Mr. Heon-Jun Kim, Senior Programme Management Expert, UNPOG, DPIDG, UN DESA
  • 1D, Presentation by country participants on the nationalization and localization of the 2030 Agenda

    • Mr. Radhakrishna Pradhan, Joint Secretary, National Planning Commission, Nepal
    • Ms. Ro-Ann A. Bacal, CESO III, Regional Director, NEDA Region 6, Western Visayas, Philippines

Session 2: Mobilizing public institutions for a holistic implementation of Agenda 2030

  • 2A, Interactive Learning session: “From single interest to shared purpose”

    • Ms. Véronique Verbruggen, UN DESA, and Ms. Dana Abunasrah, IBM

Whole-of-government approach / Sharing of good practices on change management for a holistic implementation of Agenda 2030

Session 3: Policy coherence in the Asia-Pacific Voluntary National Reviews: challenges and opportunities

  • 3A, Implementing the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs: Highlights and lessons learned from country experiences

    • Ms. Adriana Alberti, Chief of Capacity Development Unit, DPIDG, UN DESA
  • 3B, Interactive Learning session: best practice sharing on ensuring policy coherence. Introduction about the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development and the series of Sub-regional Consultations

    • Ms. Katinka Weinberger, Chief, Environment and Development Policy Section, Environment and Development Division, ESCAP
  • 1st part: Presentations from VNR countries
    • Ms. Viengdalat Somphet, Technical Officer, Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lao PDR
  • 3C, Interactive Learning session: best practice sharing on ensuring policy coherence

    • Mr. Riccardo Mesiano, Sustainable Development Officer, Environment and Development Policy Section, Environment and Development Division, ESCAP
  • 2nd part: Presentations from VNR countries
    • Mr. Antonio Vitor, Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation Unit, The office of Prime Minister of Timor-Leste
    • Mr. Yuri M. Leomo, National Economic and Development Authority, Philippines
    • Ms. Freeda E. Fremlin, Expenditure Management & Analysis Unit – Economic Services, Ministry of Economy, Budget Division, Fiji

Session 4: A whole-of-society approach to ensure policy coherence at the national level

  • 4A, Mainstreaming the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: stakeholder engagement

    • Ms. Katinka Weinberger, Chief, Environment and Development Policy Section, Environment and Development Division, ESCAP
  • 4B, Regional mechanisms for stakeholder engagement

    • Gomer Padong, Social and Community Enterprise Focal Point- Asia Pacific Regional, CSO Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM)
  • 4C, Interactive Learning session: Engaging stakeholders at the national level

    • Ms. Katinka Weinberger, Chief, Environment and Development Policy Section, Environment and Development Division, ESCAP

Session 5: Effective monitoring and evaluation of progress on the SDGs

  • 5A, Panel discussion: Monitoring progress on the SDGs at the national level: the perspective of National Statistical Offices

    • Ms. Elena Proden, Specialist, Strategic Implementation of the 2030 Agenda, UNITAR 
  • Introduction about the 2018 UN SDG Report with a focus on the challenges of monitoring SDG 16
    • Mr. Keping Yao, Governance and Public Administration Expert, UNPOG, DPIDG, UN DESA
  • Four country experiences from National Statistics Offices (NSOs)
    • Mr. Mitieli Cama, Chief Statistician, Fiji
    • Ms. Anahit Safyan, Member of State Council on Statistics, Armenia
    • Ms. Ba Yunhong, Director of Division of Statistical Indicators, Department of Statistical Design and Management, China
  • 5B, Interactive learning session: Best-practice sharing on effective national Monitoring & Evaluation systems for the SDGs

    • Ms. Juliette Hawka, Head, Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, Department of Strategic Policy Planning and Aid Coordination, and Mr. Jimmy Tamkela Tomoyan, Social Statistics Officer, Department of Statistics, Vanuatu
    • Mr. Sugath Yalegama, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Wildlife and Regional Development, Sri Lanka

Session 6: Capacity-building for sustainable development

  • 6A, Towards a global learning platform for SDG capacity-building (UNITAR)

    • Ms. Elena Proden, Specialist, Strategic Implementation of the 2030 Agenda, UNITAR
  • 6B, Transformational Leadership and Transforming Public Servants’ Mindsets for the Sustainable Development Goals – introduction of UN DESA global initiative of public administration schools (UN DESA)

    • Ms. Adriana Alberti, DPIDG, UN DESA
  • 6C, SDGs Help Desk (UN ESCAP)

    • Mr. Riccardo Mesiano, Sustainable Development Officer, Environment and Development Policy Section, Environment and Development Division, ESCAP
  • 6D, Overview of the Korean national experience

    • Mr. Woong Joe KO, Director, International Cooperation Division for Good Governance, Ministry of the Interior and Safety, Republic of Korea