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Implementing the 2030 Substantial Development Goals in Ukraine

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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[1]. 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[2].

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.

Recommendations

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

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

A student at the National Defense University, Islamabad pursuing a bachelor's degree in International Relations.

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Eastern Europe

Latvia developed new tasks for NATO soldiers

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Member of the Latvian Saemas’ national association “Everything for Latvia!” and Freedom”/LNNK Jānis Dombrava stated the need to attract NATO troops to resolve the migration crisis. This is reported by la.lv.  In his opinion, illegal migration from the Middle East to Europe may acquire the feature of an invasion. He believes that under the guise of refugees, foreign military and intelligence officers can enter the country. To his mind, in this case, the involvement of the alliance forces is more reasonable and effective than the actions of the European border agencies. Dombrava also noted that in the face of an increase in the flow of refugees, the government may even neglect the observance of human rights.

The Canadian-led battlegroup in Latvia at Camp Ādaži consists of approximately 1512 soldiers, as well as military equipment, including tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.

Though the main task of the battlegroup in Latvia is country’s defence in case of military aggression, Latvian officials unilaterally invented new tasks for NATO soldiers So, it is absolutely clear, that Latvian politicians are ready to allow NATO troops to resolve any problem even without legal basis. Such deification and complete trust could lead to the full substitution of NATO’s real tasks in Latvia.

It should be noted that NATO troops are very far from being ideal soldiers. Their inappropriate behaviour is very often in a centre of scandals. The recent incidents prove the existing problems within NATO contingents in the Baltic States.

They are not always ready to fulfill their tasks during military exercises and training. And in this situation Latvian politicians call to use them as border guards! It is nonsense! It seems as if it is time to narrow their tasks rather than to widen them. They are just guests for some time in the territory of the Baltic States. It could happen that they would decide who will enter Latvia and who will be forbidden to cross the border!

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Eastern Europe

Changes are Possible: Which Reforms does Ukraine Need Now?

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Photo: Robert Anasch/Unsplash

The past 16 months have tested our resilience to sudden, unexpected, and prolonged shocks. As for an individual, resilience for a country or economy is reflected in how well it has prepared for an uncertain future.

A look around the globe reveals how resilient countries have been to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have done well, others less so. The costs of having done less well are almost always borne by the poor. It is for this reason the World Bank and the international community more broadly urge—and provide support to—countries to undertake economic and structural reforms, not just for today’s challenges but tomorrow’s.

One country where the dialogue on reform has been longstanding and intense is Ukraine. This is particularly true since the economic crisis of 2014-2015 in the wake of the Maidan Revolution, when the economy collapsed, and poverty skyrocketed. Many feared the COVID pandemic would have similar effects on the country.

The good news is that thanks to a sustained, even if often difficult, movement on reforms, Ukraine is better positioned to emerge from the pandemic than many expected. Our initial projection in the World Bank, for example, was that the economy would contract by nearly 8 percent in 2020; the actual decline was half that. Gross international reserves at end-2020 were US$10 billion higher than projected. Most important, there are far fewer poor than anticipated.

Let’s consider three reform areas which have contributed to these outcomes.

First, no area of the economy contributed more to the economic crisis of 2014-2015 than the banking sector. Powerful interests captured the largest banks, distorted the flow of capital, and strangled economic activity. Fortunately, Ukraine developed a framework to resolve and recapitalize banks and strengthen supervision. Privatbank was nationalized and is now earning profits. It is now being prepared for privatization.

Second, COVID halted and threatened to reverse a five-year trend in poverty reduction. Thanks to reforms of the social safety net, Ukraine is avoiding this reversal. A few years back, the government was spending some 4.7 percent of GDP on social programs with limited poverty impact. Nearly half these resources went to an energy subsidy that expanded to cover one-in-two of the country’s households.

Since 2018, the Government has been restructuring the system by reducing broad subsidies and targeting resources to the poor. This is working. Transfers going to the poorest one-fifth of the population are rising significantly—from just 37 percent in 2019 to 50 percent this year and are projected to reach 55 percent in 2023.

Third, the health system itself. Ukrainians live a decade less than their EU neighbors. Basic epidemiological vulnerabilities are exacerbated by a health delivery system centered around outdated hospitals and an excessive reliance on out-of-pocket spending. In 2017, Ukraine passed a landmark health financing law defining a package of primary care for all Ukrainians, free-of-charge. The law is transforming Ukraine’s constitutional commitment to free health care from an aspiration into specific critical services that are actually being delivered.

The performance of these sectors, which were on the “front line” during COVID, demonstrate the payoff of reforms. The job now is to tackle the outstanding challenges.

The first is to reduce the reach of the public sector in the economy. Ukraine has some 3,500 companies owned by the state—most of them loss-making—in sectors from machine building to hotels. Ukraine needs far fewer SOEs. Those that remain must be better managed.

Ukraine has demonstrated that progress can be made in this area. The first round of corporate governance reforms has been successfully implemented at state-owned banks. Naftogaz was unbundled in 2020. The electricity sector too is being gradually liberalized. Tariffs have increased and reforms are expected to support investment in aging electricity-producing and transmitting infrastructure. Investments in renewable energy are also surging.

But there are developments of concern, including a recent removal of the CEO of an SOE which raised concerns among Ukraine’s friends eager to see management independence of these enterprises. Management functions of SOE supervisory boards and their members need to remain free of interference.

The second challenge is to strengthen the rule of law. Over recent years, the country has established—and has committed to protect—new institutions to combat corruption. These need to be allowed to function professionally and independently. And they need to be supported by a judicial system defined by integrity and transparency. The move to re-establish an independent High Qualification Council is a welcome step in this direction.

Finally, we know change is possible because after nearly twenty years, Ukraine on July first opened its agricultural land market. Farmers are now free to sell their land which will help unleash the country’s greatest potential source of economic growth and employment.

Ukraine has demonstrated its ability to undertake tough reforms and, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, has seen the real-life benefits of these reforms. The World Bank looks forward to providing continued assistance as the country takes on new challenges on the way to closer European integration.

This article was first published in European Pravda via World Bank

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Eastern Europe

Liberal Development at Stake as LGBT+ Flags Burn in Georgia

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Photo: Protesters hold a banner depicting U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan during a rally against Pride Week in Tbilisi, Georgia July 1, 2021. Credit: REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

Protests against Georgia’s LGBT+ Pride parade turned ugly in Tbilisi on July 5 when members of the community were hunted down and attacked, around 50 journalists beaten up and the offices of various organizations vandalized. Tensions continued the following day, despite a heavy police presence.

On the face of it, the Georgian state condemned the violence. President Salome Zourabichvili was among the first with a clear statement supporting freedom of expression, members of parliament did likewise and the Ministry of Internal Affairs condemned any form of violence.

But behind the scenes, another less tolerant message had been spread before the attacks. Anxiety about this year’s events had been rising as a result of statements by the government and clergy. Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili suggested the march “poses a threat of civil strife.” The Georgian Orthodox Church meanwhile condemned the event, saying it, “contains signs of provocation, conflicts with socially recognized moral norms and aims to legalize grave sin.”

For many, these statements signified tacit approval for the abuse of peaceful demonstrators. Meanwhile, the near-complete absence of security at the outset of the five-day event was all too obvious in Tbilisi’s streets and caused a public outcry. Many alleged the government was less focused on public safety than on upcoming elections where will need support from socially conservative voters and the powerful clergy, in a country where more than 80% of the population is tied to the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The violence brought a joint statement of condemnation from Western embassies. “Violence is simply unacceptable and cannot be excused,” it said. The Pride event was not the first and had previously been used by anti-gay groups. Violence was widespread in 2013 — and the reality of attacks against sexual minorities in Georgia remains ever-present.

In a socially conservative country such as Georgia, antagonism to all things liberal can run deep. Resistance to non-traditional sexual and religious mores divides society. This in turn causes political tension and polarization and can drown out discussion of other problems the country is marred in. It very obviously damages the country’s reputation abroad, where the treatment of minorities is considered a key marker of democratic progress and readiness for further involvement in European institutions.

That is why this violence should also be seen from a broader perspective. It is a challenge to liberal ideas and ultimately to the liberal world order.

A country can be democratic, have a multiplicity of parties, active election campaigns, and other features characteristic of rule by popular consent. But democracies can also be ruled by illiberal methods, used for the preservation of political power, the denigration of opposing political forces, and most of all the use of religious and nationalist sentiments to raise or lower tensions.

It happens across Eurasia, and Georgia is no exception. These are hybrid democracies with nominally democratic rule. Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and others have increasingly more in common, despite geographic distance and cultural differences.

Hungary too has been treading this path. Its recent law banning the supposed propagation of LGBT+ materials in schools must be repealed, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on July 7. “This legislation uses the protection of children . . . to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation . . . It is a disgrace,” she said.

One of the defining features of illiberalism is agility in appropriating ideas on state governance and molding them to the illiberal agenda.

It is true that a mere 30 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union is not enough to have built a truly liberal democratic state. Generations born and raised in the Soviet period or in the troubled 1990s still dominate the political landscape. This means that a different worldview still prevails. It favors democratic development but is also violently nationalistic in opposing liberal state-building.

Georgia’s growing illiberalism has to be understood in the context of the Russian gravitational pull. Blaming all the internal problems of Russia’s neighbors has become mainstream thinking among opposition politicians, NGOs, and sometimes even government figures. Exaggeration is commonplace, but when looking at the illiberal challenge from a long-term perspective, it becomes clear where Russia has succeeded in its illiberal goals. It is determined to stop Georgia from joining NATO and the EU. Partly as a result, the process drags on and this causes friction across society. Belief in the ultimate success of the liberal agenda is meanwhile undermined and alternatives are sought. Hybrid illiberal governments are the most plausible development. The next stage could well be a total abandonment of Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

Indeed what seemed irrevocable now seems probable, if not real. Pushback against Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice is growing stronger. Protesters in front of the parliament in central Tbilisi violently brought tore the EU flag. Twice.

The message of anti-liberal groups has also been evolving. There has been significant growth in their messaging. The anti-pride sentiment is evolving into a wider resistance to the Western way of life and Georgia’s Western foreign policy path, perhaps because it is easily attacked and misrepresented.

To deal with this, Western support is important, but much depends on Georgian governments and the population at large. A pushback against radicalism and anti-liberalism should come in the guise of time and resources for the development of stronger and currently faltering institutions. Urgency in addressing these problems has never been higher — internal and foreign challenges converge and present a fundamental challenge to what Georgia has been pursuing since the days of Eduard Shevardnadze – the Western path to development.

Author’s note: first published at cepa

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