Putting the principles into practice: In support of the 2023 ECOSOC cycle of work and in preparation for its 22nd session (2023), the CEPA working group will provide further policy recommendations on the application of the principles of effective governance for sustainable development for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.
The Committee noted early on that the SDGs would call for specific governance improvements in a variety of contexts. It accordingly defined a set of voluntary principles and practices of effective governance for sustainable development grounded in the 2030 Agenda and other United Nations agreements. The 11 principles of effective governance for sustainable development were endorsed by ECOSOC in July 2018. They are linked to 62 commonly used strategies for operationalizing responsive and effective governance, many of which have been recognized and endorsed over the years in various UN forums, resolutions, and treaties. [Learn more]
Over the years, the Committee has discussed different ways of putting these governance principles into practice. At its 20th session (2021), the Committee focused on ways to strengthen the analytical basis for reform policies based on the governance principles. At its 21st session (2022), the Committee discussed the application of the principles at the subnational level. Bearing in mind that subnational governments were very diverse in terms of capacities, access to resources and engagement with other actors, the Committee explored the preparedness of subnational governments to implement each of the 11 principles, as well as general strengths and shortcomings of governance and public administration at the subnational level. The Committee concluded that, as an analytical framework, the principles had been helpful in drawing attention to questions of effectiveness, accountability and inclusiveness, as well as good practices, while highlighting areas where governance improvements could be pursued, considering the context, needs and priorities of each country.
Recent CEPA observations and insights
Regarding the application of the principles of effective governance for sustainable development at the subnational level, subsidiarity, integrity, oversight, and participation are among the more salient elements. Effective multi-level governance is key. Ongoing reforms might be needed in this area to better support achievement of the Goals, alongside further efforts to strengthen subnational governments and promote whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches, while enhancing fiscal capacity and financial management systems. (CEPA 21st session, 2022)
There is a need to promote the integration of SDG implementation into national and subnational policies that reflect local priorities, needs, challenges and opportunities in order to strengthen overall policy coherence across sectors, as well as to promote multilevel governance arrangements. The localization of the SDGs, including their implementation and monitoring, requires different, integrated approaches and tools, including top-down and bottom-up approaches involving all levels of government, and a whole-of-society approach. The main strength of subnational governments lays in their close relationship with and proximity to citizens. Additional technical and financial support to subnational governments in many of the practice areas enumerated in the principles was seen as crucial. (CEPA 21st session, 2022)
Subnational authorities could consider institutionalizing integrity measures by establishing anti-corruption legal frameworks to boost freedom of information and whistle-blower protection, enhancing merit-based hiring to reduce inequalities and discriminatory practices within government, and expanding audit and control systems to enhance oversight. Raising awareness of the value of ethics and integrity among young people, through educational systems, could provide a solid foundation for future efforts. Strengthened efforts to promote transparency, access to information, open government and digital government and the promotion of participatory approaches, for example in budgeting, were identified as significant contributors to building trust in local authorities and engaging communities at the subnational level. (CEPA 21st session, 2022)
What action does ECOSOC recommend?
ECOSOC reaffirms the need for pragmatic ongoing improvements in national and subnational governance capabilities to achieve the 2030 Agenda and other international agreements, and encourages Governments at all levels to apply the principles of effective governance for sustainable development, endorsed by the Council in its resolution 2018/12 of 2 July 2018, to all public institutions and in support of the implementation of all Sustainable Development Goals, taking into account different governance structures, national and subnational realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities (ECOSOC resolution 2022/9, para. 9).
ECOSOC encourages the Committee to continue to identify and review related technical guidelines and experiences to operationalize the principles at the national and subnational levels, including from sectoral perspectives, and to further engage the relevant United Nations organizations, regional organizations and professional and academic communities in this regard, in an inclusive manner, together with all relevant stakeholders (ECOSOC resolution 2022/9, para. 10).
ECOSOC takes note of the initiative of the Committee to associate a set of indicators with each of the principles, with a view to contributing to strengthening the analytical basis for assessing the impact of reform policies on building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, and to engage with regional organizations in putting the principles into practice (ECOSOC resolution 2020/21, para. 10).
Technical guidance for government officials
UN DESA's work is supported by a growing series of strategy guidance notes on the many facets of effective governance for sustainable development which embody the knowledge and experience of hundreds of committed expert practitioners and academics from around the world.
Expert papers on this topic (2016-present)