In 2015, India along with 192 other UN member nations had embarked on a collective journey towards implementation of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. As we stand at the half-way mark of the 2030 deadline, it is crucial to reflect on our progress so far.
According to NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index report, India made a steady improvement in SDGs score in the last three years from 57 in 2018-19 to 66 in 2020-21, however India’s relative performance at the global level continues to decline. According to the Sustainable Development Report published by Sustainable Development Network Solutions which takes stock of SDG progress of 163 UN members, India which was ranked 117 in 2020 and 120 in 2021, has now slipped to 121 in 2022 while its neighbours including Bhutan (75), Sri Lanka (87), Nepal (96), and Bangladesh (109) have fared better. No doubt, the Government has undertaken several initiatives to achieve SDGs through implementation of various flagship schemes such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, POSHAN Abhiyaan, Ayushman Bharat, MGNREGA etc, however major challenges remain in achieving 11 critical SDGs, such as zero hunger, good health and well-being, decent work and economic growth, etc. NITI Aayog’s latest SDG Index report also highlights the varying preparedness on SDGs across States, with States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu having fared well whereas, States like Bihar and Jharkhand have performed poorly.
To fast-track progress towards all SDGs while ensuring ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayaas’, India must have a concerted focus to address issues at every stage, right from planning to coordination, monitoring, and capacity building at the state and lower levels. While it’s been eight years since Agenda 2030 was adopted in India, as per NITI Aayog’s report - ‘The Indian Model of SDG Localisation’, 14 States/UTs have yet to develop a SDG vision or roadmap. While most of the States/UTs have mapped SDG targets to schemes, there are 20 states/UTs remaining which have still not linked SDGs to budget allocation. Further, institutional mechanisms, such as Working Groups/ Committees/ SDG cells which are required to ensure the overall implementation and coordination of SDGs are also missing in some states. Thus, progress in planning and coordinated implementation of SDGs at the state level is relatively slow.
With regards to monitoring of SDGs, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation had instituted National Indicator Framework, which was adapted and contextualized by the states to develop State Indicator Frameworks. It is important to note that while most of the states have developed state indicator frameworks, district indicator frameworks are yet to be developed for more than half of the states/UTs. Additionally, gaps have also been observed in data availability. To build capacities of States/UTs, sensitization and capacity-building workshops have been organized by NITI Aayog, however, limited capacity of officials, especially at lower levels of governance, proves to be a hindrance in effective implementation and monitoring of SDGs.
Given India’s economic and cultural diversity, it would be critical to factor in ground realities prevalent at the local level while ensuring that national level priorities are translated to State and local level action on SDGs. Ministry of Panchayati Raj had issued a Demi Official letter on 31 January 2022 advising the States to prepare a roadmap for time-bound localization of SDGs at the grassroots level. This initiative drew much appreciation and is expected to give a much-needed push to SDG localization efforts. Apart from developing a State Vision document to achieve SDG goals by 2030, the states may devise department-wise strategic action plans to operationalize the state’s vision.
As next steps, the SDGs maybe integrated into the Gram Panchayat Development Plans for effective planning at the grassroot level. To operationalize coordination mechanisms and oversee the overall implementation of SDGs, setting up Working Groups at the State level under the leadership of Chief Secretary maybe considered. Dedicated SDG cells should be set up, not only at the State level but also at the district level for overall monitoring of SDGs. Developing indicator frameworks at the Gram Panchayat level and aggregated at the block level is crucial. As data architecture forms the backbone of effective monitoring systems, states/UTs must strengthen their statistical systems for collection, validation, reporting, and analysis of data pertaining to progress on SDGs.
It is imperative to develop dashboards to enable real time tracking of data right up till the block level. Further, capacity building needs to be strengthened at all levels of governance to catalyze these institutional changes. Lastly, following ‘whole of society’ approach, partnerships will continue to play a key role in mobilizing funds, tapping experience and implementation support, and adopting innovative strategies on this journey towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It would be helpful if the States/UTs maintain a repository of potential partners including CSOs, private players, academia, research institutes, Government and donor agencies. by mapping them to relevant sector/SDG goal.
India’s model of SDG localisation holds immense potential if implemented through a concerted and collective action. With India accounting for about a sixth of the world’s population, its progress towards SDGs would be key to the success of Agenda 2030. As India gears itself to assume its G20 presidency, it should leverage international cooperation and support to achieve SDGs and lead the way.
A version of this article was published on 25 January, 2023 by The Economic Times -Government.com