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Focus Government: New ways of thinking and doing politics in Germany and partner countries [Die Welt im Wandel: Agenda 2030]

For the last time in 2017, the FIW hosted yet another event as part of its current lecture series “Die Welt im Wandel”. Entitled “Focus Government: New ways of thinking and doing politics in Germany and partner countries”, the audience was looking forward to a fruitful discussion regarding the implementation of SDGs with experts from Namibia, Georgia, and Germany.

Following introductory remarks by Holger Hank, moderating the event, Dr. Ingolf Dietrich, Commissioner of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) opened the evening with a keynote address. Focusing on the BMZ’s role in pursuing the Agenda 2030 in Germany, Dr. Dietrich pointed to the strategy of supporting domestic actors in the field of academics, civil society, as well as in the private sector. He further phrased the overarching goal of aligning Germany’s national agenda for sustainable development with the Agenda’s 17 goals. In order to better communicate and navigate through those goals, he pointed to the action-oriented principles of people, planet, peace, prosperity, and partnership – the so called 5Ps. The BMZ’s priorities are along the lines of the Agenda’s 5 Ps. 
 
Elaborating on why we are not on track in achieving the goals of the Agenda, Dr. Dietrich then turned to the challenges currently hindering progress. He emphasized that financing the Agenda and the lack of resources are among the largest problems. Therefore, he called for a decisive increase in domestic resource mobilization in combination with a turn to sustainable investment throughout the private sector. Further, we need more inclusion and participation by civil society and less isolated decision-making by the government. Thirdly, he emphasized the Agenda’s innovative systemic approach. Focusing on one sector, he stressed, is not the right way to move towards the implementation of the Agenda’s goals. A final important aspect to consider is the current knowledge about SDGs throughout German civil society. Giving the statistic that only one in ten German citizens knows what SGDs are, raising awareness about them will be crucial. Nevertheless he ended his remarks on a positive note. Drawing on the example of decreasing numbers of smokers, he claimed that cultural change, even over a rather short period of time, is possible – and unleashing this kind of energy will be decisive in further implementing the Agenda 2030.
 
Opening the panel, Hank then brought in Kety Sarajishvili, Head of the Public International Law Department at the Georgian Ministry of Justice. Asked about the role of the Agenda 2030 for Georgia’s national agenda, Sarajishvili pointed out that the nationalizing of the SDGs was largely possible due to the many vantage points such as issues of good governance, inequality, and discrimination. Further touching upon the call for popularizing the SDGs throughout civil society, Sarajishvili acknowledged that those efforts also need to be increased throughout governmental institutions. 
 
Hank then turned to Ned Sibeya, Director of Development Coordination at the National Planning Commission in Namibia, and asked him about the role of the Agenda 2030 for Namibia’s domestic development goals. Sibeya briefly introduced Namibia’s “Vision 2030”. Implemented through 5-year national development plans, this architecture helped to domesticate many aspects the Agenda’s SDGs. Mainly aimed at avoiding two documents pursuing similar goals, the mainstreaming of the international SDGs into the national development plan equips Namibia with a pathway towards sustainable development. Asked about a concrete example, Sibeya pointed to the declared object of reducing poverty as part of Namibia’s current 5-year plan by 50% by 2021. In summary, Namibia looks at the Agenda’s long-time goals over a short-time perspective by means of its national development plans. This led Sarajishvili to phrase a similar strategy within a Georgian context. And also Dr. Dietrich concluded that the stress should be on pathways and also short-term strategies rather than a single bundle of objects to be strictly achieved by 2030. 
 
As questions by the audience were, as always, encouraged, one guest wanted to know why Germany would not link the SDGs to its national budget. The process of phrasing national objects and proposing a structure for achieving domestic development goals, the member of the audience suggested, has been undertaken by Germany more than a decade ago. Still, the implementation is lacking and Germany is, in fact, running behind many of its voiced goals. Dr. Dietrich replied that, even though the allocation of more resources is inevitable, a sole input-oriented approach may not be perfectly suitable for achieving all SDGs. Pathways as flexible structures, he insisted, remain the better option. Looking at Namibia, Sebeya put forward that by mainstreaming SDGs into the national plan, there is a clear connection to the national budget without the necessity of setting aside a fixed amount for their implementation. Sarajishvili pointed to a similarly mixed approach in Georgia. 
 
Following subsequent questions by the audience, it was Dr. Dietrich who closed the panel discussion by once again stressing to not approach the Agenda 2030 by isolated targeting of selected goals but by breaking it down to concrete measures, e.g. targeting food waste or green mobility in line with each country’s demands. 

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