By Peliwe Lolwana, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.
As the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pick up from where the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) left off, it makes sense to start with the comparison of the two. The SDGs seem to have more of a universal appeal than the preceding MDGs. This reflects the extent and nature of consultations that took place in the development of the SDGs. Also, what did not work with the MDGs was the lack of coordination across MDGs. They worked in silos. The SDGs on the other hand aim to ensure coherence horizontally and vertically. So, we expect more from the SDGs.
However, we should also reflect on the concept of Global Governance in relation to the SDGs, and question how real a concept it is.
Firstly, there is an assumption that there is a group of people who govern the implementation of these goals somewhere. The MDGs looked more coordinated as donors were mobilised to assist countries and regions like Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in the implementation of such goals. So far, there is no indication that such financial assistance has been mobilised yet and poorer countries are likely to focus only on what they can afford. Unless, there is a mobilisation of resources to help low-income countries, we cannot start talking about global governance of education and training. Also, SSA is just beginning to get into its own national planning rhythms. Therefore, it is not very clear how SSA countries will manage their national plans or goals vis-à-vis the SDGs. Which master do they serve? In other words, how are the national plans related to the SDGs?
Secondly, the responsibility of achieving the SDGs in many SSA countries is taken solely by governments, as the formal private economic sector tends to be smaller than in more developed countries. Whilst governments have a big role to play, this cannot be just a government job. Other stakeholders have to be strategically brought into the equation. In other words, the role of other stakeholders is not very clear – it is implicit. In particular, the private sector has a particular obligation to fight the triple problem of poverty, unemployment and inequality especially in developing countries. Like in most low-income countries or regions, in-country inequality tends to be more pronounced than inter-country inequality in SSA. What does it take to make the private sector the agent of change in these countries and reduce the levels of mistrust between government and the private sector? SSA countries seem not to have figured out how to make the private sector agents of change in the countries they make profits from. In-country governance has to be a reality first before SSA countries can look up to the powers outside their geographic boundaries.
Thirdly, the SDGs rely on data to set targets and assess progress. At the moment there does not seem to be a global framework that governs the collection and analysis of data. Then where is the concept of global governance? When there is no universal framework for the collection and use of data, private institutions sometimes manage this function on behalf of countries and the consequence is that democracy is severely undermined by this process. It was easier to manage data collection for the MDGs as this effort focused on averages (as compared to the strong need to disaggregate data in relation to the SDGs). SSA is beleaguered with the problem of data collection and lack of capacity to analyse data. A Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data has been established. This is
‘a multi-stakeholder network of more than 150 data champions harnessing the data revolution for sustainable development. Its members represent the full range of data producers and users, including governments, companies, civil society groups, international organisations, academic institutions, foundations, statistics agencies and data communities. The Global Partnership serves as an invaluable convener, connector and catalyst, building trust and encouraging collaboration among stakeholders to fill critical data gaps and ensure data is accessible and usable to end extreme poverty, address climate change and pave a road to dignity for all by 2030. SSA countries have a strong presence in this collaboration and working through the African Union and African Development Bank, SSA has organised itself to take care of the African interests in data collection and analysis’.
Peliwe Lolwana is the Visiting Associate Professor at the Centre for Researching Education and Labour at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in South Africa. Peliwe.Lolwana@wits.ac.za
NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training) is an internationally recognised, multi-stakeholder network which has been seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation for almost 30 years. NORRAG has more than 4,300 registered members worldwide and is free to join. Not a member? Join free here.