What does “partnership” really mean?

What does "partnership" mean? In the context of the SDGs, the UN has provided some helpful definitions

The 17th SDG is “partnership for the goals”. This might seem a little vague. But the UN have attempted to define it by creating 19 targets that will show whether or not the world is reaching this goal. Let’s take a look at them in this jargon-free guide.

Target 17.1: Improve domestic revenue collection

The UN defines two indicators here. The first is government revenue as a proportion of the income a country earns, it’s Gross Domestic Product or GDP. The second indicator is the proportion of domestic budget funded by domestic taxes. Revenue is things like taxes and income from property or sales. Collecting it means, among other things, that government is able to become an active participant in sustainability programmes.

Target 17.2: Implement development assistance commitments

The UN has suggested that developed nations should 0.7 per cent of gross national income for official development assistance. The degree to which this is achieved may seem an obvious way of measuring the participation of national governments in sustainability projects. However this does depend on how the funds are used and whether they represent genuine assistance to under developed nations or have less altruistic goals such as the creation of dependency.

Target 17.3: Mobilize financial resources for developing countries

The first indicator of this target is the amount of foreign direct investment that is made by the developed world to developing nations. Foreign direct investment refers to equity capital, reinvestment of earnings, and other capital.

Another indicator is the volume of remittances that flow from a developed country to a developing one, as a proportion of total GDP. Personal remittances are the personal transfers made by residents of a wealthy nation to residents of a poorer one.

Target 17.4: Assist developing countries with debt sustainability

Debt financing, debt relief and debt restructuring can all help over-indebted nations manage their economies. The interest and repayments on debts can be measured as a proportion of the value of a country’s exports and obviously the lower it is, the more that country has to spend on social and environmental welfare programmes.

Target 17.5: Invest in the least-developed countries

It’s possible for developed countries to invest their resources anywhere in the world. But it is likely to do most good when invested in the least developed countries. The indicator here then is the number of countries that invest in the least developed countries.

Target 17.6: Knowledge sharing for access to technology and innovation

The UN wishes to enhance North-South, South-South, regional and international cooperation on science, technology and innovation. The intention is to improve knowledge sharing between nations. An important indicator is Science and technology cooperation as measured by the number of science and technology cooperation agreements between countries.

A very different indicator is broadband internet subscriptions per 100 inhabitants (i.e. with downstream speeds equal to, or greater than, 256 kbit/s.) Obviously the internet enables knowledge sharing and collaboration between individuals and between organisations and so is considered a useful indicator of this particular target.

Target 17.7: Promote sustainable technologies to developing countries

This target involves promoting the development, transfer, dissemination and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies to developing countries on favourable terms. As sustainable technologies appear within developing countries those countries are more likely to be able to help themselves become both more prosperous and more able to pursue sustainable development goals themselves.

Target 17.8: Strengthen technology and innovation capacity for least-developed countries

The degree to which enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, is used can be measured by the number of individuals using the Internet.

Internet users are individuals who have used the Internet (from any location) in the last 3 months. The Internet can be used via a computer, mobile phone, personal digital assistant, games machine, digital TV etc. Internet availability and use builds capacity in science and technology and so is essential.

Target 17.9: Enhanced SDG capacity in developing countries

Embracing the UN’s sustainable development goals is no longer a luxury for developed nations. It is something that all nations need to work towards. The degree to which developing countries can develop plans to implement all the SDGs is a valuable sign of global progress. Partnership here means that the developed world are supporting less developed nations with SDG support in the form of financial and technical assistance.

Target 17.10: Promote a universal trading system under the WTO

The UN wants to promote a “universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system”. Success is indicated by the weighted average tariffs that are applied to trade. Lower tariffs should mean more trade, something that should benefit the developing world.

Target 17.11: Increase the exports of developing countries

Driven by target 17.10 the aim is that exports from developing countries will rise, taking an increasing share of the global total of exports. Unlike most SDG targets, this target was set for the year 2020, rather than 2030, although this now looks very ambitious.

Target 17.12: Remove trade barriers for least-developed countries

Why are the exports from developing countries growing as rapidly as hoped? Perhaps in part because barriers such as import tariffs still hamper them. This target is about removing those barriers by implementing “duty-free and quota-free market access” for the least developed countries. To help with this there is a requirement that rules of origin applicable to imports from least developed countries are transparent and simple, and do not hinder market access.

Target 17.13: Enhance global macroeconomic stability

Macroeconomic stability helps business confidence and promotes investment. A lack of stability hits under developed countries worst of all which is why the “Macroeconomic Dashboard” has been set up to monitor stability.

Target 17.14: Enhance policy coherence for sustainable development

Policy coherence involves integrating the economic, social, environmental and governance dimensions of sustainable development at all stages of policy making. Countries need to have mechanisms that can enhance policy coherence and the target is simple: to increase the number of countries that have these mechanisms.

Target 17.15: Respect national leadership to implement policies

Providers of development cooperation (i.e. development partners) should design their interventions based on the objectives and results indicators that are drawn from the developing country own frameworks that will reflect that country’s development priorities and goals.

Target 17.16: Enhance partnerships for sustainable development

This target focusses on progress in multi-stakeholder development and assesses how many countries are tracking these. Multi-stakeholder partnerships enable knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources to be shared, in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Target 17.17: Encourage effective partnerships

Effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships that build on experience and shared resources naturally help to promote the aims of the SDGs. Monitoring the number of these partnerships indicates acts as an indicator of progress.

Target 17.18: Enhance availability of reliable data

It is essential for developing nations to understand their demographics and economies. Therefore the “availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts” is crucial.

This indicator is measured using the Statistical Capacity Indicator which provides an overview of the capacity of a country’s national statistical system based on a diagnostic framework that assesses three dimensions: Methodology, Source Data, and Periodicity.

Another indicator for this target is the presence of national statistical legislation, i.e. the number of countries that have national statistical legislation that complies with the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics. Alongside this, national statistical plans that are funded and under implementation represent yet another indicator

Target 17.19: Further develop measurements of progress

Statistical capacity is also part of Target 17.19 where the value of resources for statistical capacity is used to indicate progress. Additionally the completeness of census, birth and death registration is monitored. This involves measuring how many countries have conducted at least one population and housing census in the last 10 years; and have achieved 100 per cent birth registration and 80 per cent death registration.

Making progress

With so many targets, some of which seem to be relatively hard to measure, monitoring progress is difficult. However the UN makes an attempt to do so and reports the results on its sustainable development website. Progress is mixed. While personal remittances are at an all-time high, development aid is falling, trade tensions seem to increase, and the digital divide is slow to disappear. Enhanced international cooperation is needed to ensure that sufficient means of implementation exist to provide countries the opportunity to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.