Effectively implementing the SDGs and achieving desired results calls for adequate space for meaningful participation of civil society organizations says Gopal Lamsal of the NGO Federation of Nepal.

Nepal has a vibrant civil society which is active on many fronts. CSOs have significantly contributed to Nepal’s socio-political and economic development. Civil society is also an important driving force for implementing and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  The 2015 Joint Declaration of Nepali CSOs expressed their commitment to implement the SDGs by adopting five principles of development justice: redistributive justice, economic justice, social justice, environmental justice and accountability to the people.

CSOs in Nepal have formed a common platform called the Nepal SDGs Forum, led by the NGO Federation of Nepal, to engage collectively in implementation of the SDGs. The objective of the Forum is to exchange learning and foster collective action among CSOs. The Forum now has provincial chapters as well. We intend to review provincial level plans and policies through an SDG lens. We are also going to choose local governments for review. There is tremendous interest in incorporating the SDGs at local level.

As we know, CSOs represent the voice of both major groups as well as under-privileged and marginalized communities. This makes CSOs key partners for formulating SDG strategies and for promoting accountability in how they are implemented. Having worked at the grassroots level, CSOs understand the local context and issues and can make suitable recommendations for SDG-related interventions. They should therefore be part of multi-stakeholder bodies and thematic committees for public consultation on issues of SDG planning and implementation.

However, to work effectively CSOs require an enabling environment, which depends on support from the government. With this, CSOs can advocate for people’s basic political rights but also can work to create better policies which will generate better development outcomes.

The government of Nepal has tried to adopt multi-stakeholder approaches to encourage and facilitate partnerships between government and non-government actors. It has formed two high-level committees and nine thematic committees to support SDG implementation. These committees are responsible for providing oversight and political direction for incorporating the SDGs into government plans, policies and budgets.

The participation of CSOs is not provisioned for in the national steering committees. It is not mandatory in the thematic committees either, but recently the National Planning Commission invited CSOs to participate in thematic committee meetings. Let’s hope CSOs are similarly invited to participate in other such structures as their exclusion limits their ability to represent marginalized and minority groups. We urge the government to promote an inclusive partnership approach in all structures and at all levels.

Key challenges

In the federal context, the central government’s role is to formulate policies and to generate resources and ideas, while implementation is the responsibility of the provincial and local governments. The problem is that although there are national structures for implementing the SDGs, it is not clear how they link with the other two tiers of government. What is the provincial structure for implementing the SDGs? How should local governments integrate the SDGs? How should the SDGs be reflected in local planning and budgeting processes? With very little knowledge about the SDGs among the local government representatives, efforts at localization have been inadequate so far.

Provincial governments need to have an SDG implementation support mechanism like that of the federal level. There should be a planning toolkit and a checklist for provincial and local governments to integrate the SDGs in their programs and policies. We have requested the National Planning Commission to provide a template and guidelines for provincial and local level structures to implement the SDGs. This will ensure consistency and uniformity across the country.

Another challenge is the availability of data, including disaggregated data. In 2011, as part of the census, national data was collected. But since there has been little initiative to generate new data. This means planning is being done using outdated data. Responding to the principle of ‘leave no one behind’ requires disaggregated data for all sectors and at all levels.

Effective implementation of the SDGs and achieving desired results requires preparation across many fronts, such as awareness, ownership, policy coherence, localization, integration of the SDGs into development plans, resource mobilization and the establishment of a monitoring system. In the past two years we have witnessed the government of Nepal making many such preparations, most notably in the areas of raising awareness and establishing high-level institutional mechanisms.

But it is high time for the government to also create appropriate SDG mechanisms at the provincial and local levels, mechanisms which provide ample space for all stakeholders, including the CSOs, to contribute to the successful implementation of the Global Goals.

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