The 2030 Substantial Development Agenda
In the year 2015, the United Nations laid out a comprehensive Universal Development Agenda comprising of 17 Goals and 169 corresponding targets. These 17 Substantial Development Goals (SDGs) marked the start of a new era of global prosperity, peace, and partnership. With the aim to stimulate worldwide action against the greater evils of poverty, inequality, and unsubstantial development, this agenda set out to build a better future for people all around the globe. All 193 members of the United Nations adopted the Substantial Development Goals and pledged to achieve all objectives by the end of 2030.
The trademark that helps this developmental plan stand-out in comparison to its predecessor (MDG) is the fact that it establishes a sound balance between the three dimensions of development, namely: economic, social, and environmental. However, the success of this plan in all entireties depends on the implementation by the member states. Thus, while taking into account the contrasting abilities of developed and developing states, an absolute and thorough execution of the plan in a period of 15 years seems like a farfetched dream.
This article aims to analyze the course of action taken by states for the enforcement of the 2030 SDGs and its level of success using Ukraine as a case study.
A Road towards Substantial Development in Ukraine
One of the first steps taken by the Ukrainian government was to develop a national report that would help set-up a solid base for achieving the 2030 SGDs; 17 working subgroups were established, each group reviewed and contextualized the goals according to the national context. A series of round table conferences were held; around 800 experts varying from diplomats, scientists, economists, health professionals, journalists, businessmen, ecologists, leaders of NGOs took part in the national SDG identification process. Next, a national SDG system was developed; this system consists of 86 national development targets and 172 indicators that would enable the government to monitor the targets. These indicators further have target values spread over a period of 15 years.
The report known as the “Substantial Development Goals: Ukraine” was publicly launched in 2017, and by September 2019, the President of Ukraine issued a decree to integrate SDGs in all areas of national policy.
To ensure public participation within the development plan, Ukraine partnered up with UNDP to develop three e-learning courses on SDGs targeting the civil servants, civil activists, and business leaders. Moreover, all 24 regions of Ukraine are now capable of using “SDG Baseline Analytical Studies” to develop reports that can be used to incorporate the SDG targets into regional development strategies. This will allow the authorities to make decisions that are based on evidence. Additionally, a framework has been established for communities and cities that help monitor the progress of SDG enforcement at the national level.
All these efforts combined seem to paint a compelling picture for the successful implementation of the 2030 Substantial Development Goals; however, various systemic obstacles are hampering the process. Unless these obstacles are dealt with, the Ukrainian road to development will remain rocky and capricious.
Constraints Hampering the Achievement of SGDs
A number of deep-rooted systemic loopholes have resulted in the stunted growth of Ukraine in all dimensions of development. These loopholes are now obstructing the successful implementation of SDGs. Therefore, in order to achieve the 17 Substantial Goals by the end of 2030, the government must first acknowledge and address the impediments that compromise the feasibility of attainting the SGDs.
An ineffective policy analysis cycle
The Ukrainian strategic planning system is not capable of carrying out a high-quality analysis for the government policies or resolution implementation. This ineffective system of analysis is making it hard to incorporate the SGDs within the national policy. A desk review carried out under the supervision of UNDP shows that the SDG targets adopted by the Ukrainian government have only been partially incorporated within the government policies.
The only element that is evident in the policy analysis cycles is problem identification; however, in the case of SDGs, even the problems identified mostly do not correlate with the goals. The Government Strategies and public policy (GSPP) indicate that decisions made by the government do not include stakeholder surveys’ or wider discussion. Thus, the policies are deemed to be ineffective.
Weak Monitoring and evaluation systems
The apparatus for data collection and statistics is not only deficient but also faulty. Thus, it is hard to assess the progress of any policy or find out the linkages between different factors. This inefficiency in performance evaluation indicates that the SGD implementation strategy is flawed. Furthermore, no methodology exists to evaluate the financial resources required to attain the SDG goals.
As a rule, the successful attainment of SDGs requires investments hence, the short-term budget planning and scarcity of funds may result in a shortage of financing needed to achieve the SGDs.
Insufficient engagement of stakeholders
The government has failed to engage the public, businesses, and donors in the process of identifying the potential problems of SDG implementation and their possible solutions. Moreover, hardly any effort has been made to communicate the meaning and importance of achieving the SDGs to the general public. As a result, there is inadequate feedback from the public, which could not only help accelerate the attainment of these goals but also provide relevant indicators for the GSPP.
At present, one of the most pivotal challenges in achieving the SDGs revolve around the deficient coordination between government agencies and government agencies and civil society organizations. Thus, the application of SDGs is further complicated under the principle of inclusivity.
An ineffectual mechanism for integrating SDGs into government policy
The governance system of Ukraine does not allow effective coordination for the integration of SDG indicators and targets into strategic planning. No mechanism has been established to verify any new policy against the SDGs within the government or the parliament. No dedicated departments exist for the coordination of these processes within the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economic Development and trade, or the Ministry of social policy. Moreover, the committee meetings and government agendas hardly involve any discussion regarding the achievement of SGDs.
Furthermore, reforms made in any sector are not coordinated with the SDGs, and at present, several sectors in Ukraine including social services, health care, energy, budget policy, pension system, and social services are undergoing considerable reforms. This lack of coordination will be of high cost to Ukraine in the long run.
Based on the limitations found within the SDG implementation strategy of Ukraine, the following steps must be taken to ensure the achievement of the Agenda by 2030:
- Set up a new a policymaking stratagem consisting of all components of the policy analysis cycle. The components of the cycle must be well organized and effective
- Develop an effective method of data collection using surveys and wider discussion
- A thorough assessment of financial resources required for the execution of SDGs
- Establish an apparatus that successfully monitors the implementation of SDGs
- Create a government policy analysis system that provides a greater insight to the experts and civil society.
- The public should be given more leverage in monitoring the performance of government institutions and public institutions.
- Establish a system for the coordination of reforms and new policies with SGDs
 Government of Ukraine, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine, Substantial Development Goals: Ukraine (Kyiv: Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine, 2017), 5.
 Y. Horokhovets, Implementing the 2030 Substantial Development Goals in Ukraine: analysis of government strategies and public policy ( Kyiv: Institute for Social and Economic Research, 2017), 8.
Unhappy Iran Battles for Lost Influence in South Caucasus
Events that might not matter elsewhere in the world matter quite a lot in the South Caucasus. Given a recent history of conflict, with all the bad feelings that generates, plus outside powers playing geostrategic games, and its growing importance as an energy corridor between Europe and Central Asia, the region is vulnerable.
This has been worsened by the two-year-long Western absence of engagement. In 2020, Europe and the U.S. were barely involved as the second Nagorno-Karabakh war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, leaving about 7,000 dead. With tensions now on the rise between Azerbaijan and Iran, Western uninterest is again evident, even though this might have wider ramifications for future re-alignment in the South Caucasus.
The drumbeat of Iranian activity against Azerbaijan has been consistent in recent months. Iran is getting increasingly edgy about Israel’s presence in the South Caucasus — hardly surprising given Israel’s painfully well-targeted assassination and computer hacking campaigns against nuclear staff and facilities — and especially its growing security and military ties with Azerbaijan, with whom Iran shares a 765km (430 mile) border. Iran has also voiced concern about the presence in the region of Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries, who were used as Azeri assault troops last year.
Much of the anger has been played out in military exercises. The Azeri military has been busy since its victory, exercising near the strategic Lachin corridor which connects the separatist region to Armenia, and in the Caspian Sea, where it has jointly exercised with Turkish personnel. Iran, in turn, sent units to the border region this month for drills of an unstated scale.
This week, the Azeri and Iranian foreign ministers agreed to dial down the rhetoric amid much talk of mutual understanding. Whether that involved promises regarding the Israeli presence or a pledge by Iran to abandon a newly promised road to Armenia was not stated.
Iran’s behavior is a recognition of the long-term strategic changes caused by the Armenian defeat last year. Iran has been sidelined. Its diplomatic initiatives have failed, and it has been unwelcome in post-conflict discussions.
It is true that Iran was never a dominant power in the South Caucasus. Unlike Russia or Turkey, the traditional power brokers, it has not had a true ally. Iran was certainly part of the calculus for states in the region, but it was not feared, like Russia or Turkey. And yet, the South Caucasus represents an area of key influence, based on millennia of close political and cultural contacts.
Seen in this light, it is unsurprising that Iran ratcheted up tensions with Azerbaijan. Firstly, this reasserted the involvement of the Islamic Republic in the geopolitics of the South Caucasus. It was also a thinly-veiled warning to Turkey that its growing ambitions and presence in the region are seen as a threat. In Iran’s view, Turkey’s key role as an enabler of Azeri irridentism is unmistakable.
Turkish involvement has disrupted the foundations of the South Caucasian status quo established in the 1990s. To expect Turkey to become a major power there is an overstretch, but it nevertheless worries Iran. For example, the recent Caspian Sea exercises between Azerbaijan and Turkey appear to run counter to a 2018 agreement among the sea’s littoral states stipulating no external military involvement.
The Caspian Sea has always been regarded by Iranians as an exclusive zone shared first with the Russian Empire, later the Soviets, and presently the Russian Federation. Other littoral states play a minor role. This makes Turkish moves in the basin and the recent improvement of ties between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan an unpleasant development for Iran — fewer barriers to the Trans-Caspian Pipeline threatens the Islamic Republic’s ability to block the project.
This is where Iranian views align almost squarely with the Kremlin’s. Both fear Turkish progress and new energy routes. The new Iranian leadership might now lean strongly toward Russia. With Russia’s backing, opposition to Turkey would become more serious; Iran’s foreign minister said this month that his country was seeking a “big jump” in relations with Russia.
The fact is that the region is increasingly fractured and is being pulled in different directions by the greater powers around it. This state of affairs essentially dooms the prospects of pan-regional peace and cooperation initiatives. Take the latest effort by Russia and Turkey to introduce a 3+3 platform with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, as well as Iran. Beyond excluding the West, disagreements will eventually preclude any meaningful progress. There is no unity of purpose between the six states and there are profound disagreements.
Thus, trouble will at some point recur between Iran and Azerbaijan, and by extension Turkey. Given the current situation, and Iran’s visible discontent, it is likely it will take some kind of initiative lest it loses completely its position to Turkey and Russia.
Author’s note: first published in cepa
Right-wing extremist soldiers pose threat to Lithuania
It is no secret that Lithuania has become a victim of German army’s radicalization. Could this country count on its partners further or foreign military criminals threaten locals?
It is well known that Germany is one of the largest provider of troops in NATO. There are about 600 German troops in Lithuania, leading a Nato battlegroup. According to Lithuanian authorities, Lithuania needs their support to train national military and to protect NATO’s Central and Northern European member states on NATO’s eastern flank.
Two sides of the same coin should be mentioned when we look at foreign troops in Lithuania.
Though Russian threat fortunately remains hypothetical, foreign soldiers deployed in the country cause serious trouble. Thus, the German defence minister admitted that reported this year cases of racist and sexual abuse in a German platoon based in Lithuania was unacceptable.
Members of the platoon allegedly filmed an incident of sexual assault against another soldier and sang anti-Semitic songs. Later more allegations emerged of sexual and racial abuse in the platoon, including soldiers singing a song to mark Adolf Hitler’s birthday on 20 April this year.
It turned out that German media report that far-right abuses among the Lithuania-based troops had already surfaced last year. In one case, a soldier allegedly racially abused a non-white fellow soldier. In another case, four German soldiers smoking outside a Lithuanian barracks made animal noises when a black soldier walked past.
Lithuania’s Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said later that the investigation was carried out by Germany and that Lithuania was not privy to its details. The more so, Lithuania is not privy to its details even now. “We are not being informed about the details of the investigation. […] The Lithuanian military is not involved in the investigation, nor can it be,” Anušauskas told reporters, stressing that Germany was in charge of the matter.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, German defence minister, said that these misdeeds would be severely prosecuted and punished. Time has passed, and the details are not still known.
It should be said Germany has for years struggled to modernize its military as it becomes more involved in Nato operations. Nevertheless problems existed and have not been solved yet. According to the annual report on the state of the Bundeswehr made in 2020 by Hans-Peter Bartel, then armed forces commissioner for the German Bundestag, Germany’s army “has too little materiel, too few personnel and too much bureaucracy despite a big budget increase.” Mr Bartels’ report made clear that the Bundeswehr continues to be plagued by deep-seated problems. Recruitment remains a key problem. Mr Bartels said 20,000 army posts remained unfilled, and last year the number of newly recruited soldiers stood at just over 20,000, 3,000 fewer than in 2017. The other problem is radicalization of the armed forces.
Apparently, moral requirements for those wishing to serve in the German army have been reduced. Federal Volunteer Military Service Candidate must be subjected to a thorough medical examination. Desirable to play sports, have a driver’s license and be able to eliminate minor malfunctions in the motor, to speak at least one foreign language, have experience of communicating with representatives of other nationalities, be initiative and independent. After the general the interview follows the establishment of the candidate’s suitability for service in certain types of armed forces, taking into account his wishes. Further candidate passes a test on a computer. He will be asked if he wants study a foreign language and attend courses, then serve in German French, German-Dutch formations or institutions NATO.
So, any strong and healthy person could be admitted, even though he or she could adhere to far-right views or even belong to neo-Nazi groups. Such persons served in Lithuania and, probably, serve now and pose a real threat to Lithuanian military, local population. Neo-Nazism leads to cultivating racial inequalities. The main goal of the neo-Nazis is to cause disorder and chaos in the country, as well as to take over the army and security organs. Lithuanian authorities should fully realize this threat and do not turn a blind eye to the criminal behaviour of foreign military in Lithuania. There is no room to excessive loyalty in this case.
Lithuanian foreign policy: Image is everything
It seems as if Lithuanian government takes care of its image in the eyes of EU and NATO partners much more than of its population. Over the past year Lithuania managed to quarrel with such important for its economy states like China and Belarus, condemned Hungary for the ban on the distribution of images of LGBT relationships among minors, Latvia and Estonia for refusing to completely cut energy from Belarus. Judging by the actions of the authorities, Lithuania has few tools to achieve its political goals. So, it failed to find a compromise and to maintain mutually beneficial relations with economic partners and neighbours. The authorities decided to achieve the desired results by demanding from EU and NATO member states various sanctions for those countries that, in their opinion, are misbehaving.
Calling for sanctions and demonstrating its “enduring political will”, Lithuania exposed the welfare of its own population. Thus, district heating prices will surge by around 30 percent on average across Lithuania.
The more so, prices for biofuels, which make up 70 percent of heat production on average, are now about 40 higher than last year, Taparauskas, a member of the National Energy Regulatory Council (VERT) said.
“Such a huge jump in prices at such a tense time could threaten a social crisis and an even greater increase in tensions in society. We believe that the state must take responsibility for managing rising prices, especially given the situation of the most vulnerable members of society and the potential consequences for them. All the more so as companies such as Ignitis or Vilnius heating networks “has not only financial resources, but also a certain duty again,” sums up Lukas Tamulynas, the chairman of the LSDP Momentum Vilnius movement.
It should be said, that according to the Lithuanian Department of Statistics, prices for consumer goods and services have been rising for the eighth month in a row. According to the latest figures, the annual inflation rate is five percent.
Earlier it became known that in 2020 every fifth inhabitant of Lithuania was below the poverty risk line.
Pensioners are considered one of the most vulnerable groups in Lithuania. In 2019, Lithuania was included in the top five EU anti-leaders in terms of poverty risk for pensioners. The share of people over 65 at risk of poverty was 18.7 percent.
In such situation sanctions imposed on neighbouring countries which tightly connected to Lithuanian economy and directly influence the welfare of people in Lithuania are at least damaging. The more so, according Vladimir Andreichenko, the speaker of the House of Representatives of the Belarus parliament, “the unification of the economic potentials of Minsk and Moscow would be a good response to sanctions.” It turned out that Lithuania itself makes its opponents stronger. Such counter-productiveness is obvious to everyone in Lithuania except for its authorities.
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