By Desmond Brown
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (ACP-IDN) – While there have been several activities at sub-regional level aimed at stimulating Caribbean countries to position themselves for successfully implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the pace of implementation has remained slow.
Specifically, the lack of national institutional frameworks for SDG implementation in most Caribbean countries constitutes a major obstacle to effective implementation of the goals.
The SDGs are the cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which became effective on January 1, 2016, and is supposed to shape sustainable development efforts globally.
In light of the slow pace of implementation, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has set about providing policy makers with practical options for establishing and enhancing their national institutional frameworks for putting the SDGs into practice.
“ECLAC’s mission is to help the countries of the Caribbean to fully integrate the SDGs into their national development plans,” according to ECLAC Caribbean Director Diane Quarless. “ECLAC has also been charged with providing a mechanism for regular monitoring and review of implementation of Agenda 2030 in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
The 2030 Agenda places people at its core and aims to achieve rights-based sustainable development under a renewed global partnership, in which all countries participate on an equal footing. Poverty eradication and addressing inequalities are central in the new Agenda, and are key priorities for the Caribbean.
On May 18, ECLAC convened a workshop here bringing together senior government officials from the Caribbean in the areas of foreign affairs, economy, environment, sustainable development and planning, as well as officials of the United Nations system, regional and international organisations, and representatives of civil society and academia.
The aim was to discuss practical steps towards establishing national institutional frameworks for SDG implementation and provide a space for peer-learning on Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) for the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
“The Commission continues to play a relevant and valuable role in supporting the efforts of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to advance this new sustainable development agenda,” Mark Brantley, Saint Kitts and Nevis Minister of Foreign Affairs and Aviation, told IDN.
“No doubt its demonstrated commitment to advocating innovative solutions to persistent economic problems was rooted in the very early beginnings of the institution, at a time when the Third World had no voice.”
ECLAC’s contribution to development in the wider Caribbean over the last 70 years has also been recognised.
“ECLAC has never abandoned its structural roots and issues of structural heterogeneity, problems of poverty and inequality and the need for progressive structural change have been retained as part of its toolkit of analysis under a number of Executive Secretaries,” Deputy Executive Secretary Antonio Prado said.
“Equality is at the core of ECLAC’s thinking on how to promote sustainable development in the region.”
Putting the spotlight on the forthcoming celebrations for ECLAC’s 70th anniversary, which will take place in February 2018, Quarless underscored that since its founding, “ECLAC has always been at the vanguard of radical economic thinking and development practice in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Its focus has been on building resilience to promote sustainable development in the region,” she said.
The SDGs present a timely opportunity for Caribbean countries to successfully advance along a sustainable and transformative developmental path by designing country-relevant SDGs to address the root causes of current developmental challenges, and reactivate economic growth to end hunger, poverty, unemployment, food and nutrition insecurity, and appreciably enhance the general living standards of the population in these countries.
Despite making much social and economic progress since independence, Caribbean countries still face enduring developmental challenges, including achieving sustainable development and genuine economic transformation.
The SDGs promise a truly transformative development agenda that is both universal and adaptable to country-specific conditions.
But financing remains a huge challenge, and countries will require large and sustained amounts of investment funds, much of which will have to be sourced from domestic resource mobilisation, including public-private-partnerships, in addition to traditional overseas development assistance (ODA), multilateral development bank funding and foreign direct investments (FDI).
Compared with their situation in the 1960s and 1970s, Caribbean countries have made good economic progress.
Most, if not all countries have stable democracies; most countries are ranked in the top half of the Human Development Index (HDI), which takes into account life expectancy at birth (health dimension), years of schooling for adults, and expected years of schooling for children (education dimension), and gross national income per capita (standard of living dimension).
According to the World Bank, five countries are classified as ‘high income’, eight as ‘upper middle income’ and only one as ‘low income’.
In addition, under-nutrition rates are less than eight percent; with the exception of Haiti, all countries have sufficient food calories and macronutrients available to meet recommended dietary allowances of the population.
Unemployment, poverty and hunger, although at unacceptable levels, have declined relatively, and in the post-colonial period the region has displayed remarkable capacity for change, resilience and recovery when faced with natural disasters and other exogenous shocks.
Nevertheless, experts note that despite these positive developmental outcomes, severe challenges still remain and are compelling reasons for Caribbean countries to embrace the SDGs. [IDN-InDepthNews – 24 May 2017]