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Democratic governance matters for sustainable development

May 12, 2014

On 9 May 2014, International IDEA’s Permanent Observer to the UN, Massimo Tommasoli, addressed a group of Permanent Representatives and Heads of Delegations to the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG/SDGs) on the need for promoting inclusive, accountable and effective institutions in the post-2015 Development Agenda. The meeting was convened by Switzerland and Botswana.

Although the ongoing negotiations at the OWG/SDGs have highlighted the sensitivity of this topic a significant number of OWG Member States see democratic governance as an important enabler for the new SDGs and the post-2015 Development Agenda as a whole.

The meeting highlighted several issues that feature prominently in the conversation on whether, and how, democratic governance should be integrated within the post-2015 Development Agenda. These include the relevance of democratic governance at all levels by addressing both their national and international dimensions; the consistency of a global framework that will be universal in nature, which must therefore be relevant to all UN Member States not just to developing countries; and national ownership of a transformative agenda that should actively engage several stakeholders—from executives to legislatures, from civil society institutions to political parties, and from the media to business actors.

The event provided an opportunity to exchange views on how democratic governance could be addressed within the SDGs framework by referring to three levels:

  • Goal setting—by considering democratic governance both as a stand-alone goal and as part of a composite goal that includes also peaceful and inclusive societies;
  • Target setting—by highlighting the challenges of mainstreaming democratic governance at the level of targets throughout the framework;
  • Accountability frameworks—that is, frameworks used for monitoring progress on the achievement of the SDGs.

On the subject of democratic accountability frameworks, Tommasoli shared IDEA’s experience of people-centered, citizen-led assessment frameworks at the national (State of Democracy assessments) and sub-national level (State of Local Democracy assessments) in more than 25 countries. These frameworks have been tested and applied in different national and regional contexts in both the Global North and South, thereby demonstrating their universal relevance, national ownership and adaptability to domestic contexts.


Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, 9 May 2014

[From left to right]: Elizabeth Spehar, Director for Europe, UN DPA and Chair, Working Group on Democracy of the Executive Committee on Peace and Security; Massimo Tommasoli, Permanent Observer for International IDEA to the UN; and Koki Muli Grignon, Deputy Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN.
Photo ©: Rebecca Partanen-Dufour

Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, 9 May 2014

[From left to right]: Guilherme de Aguiar Patriota, Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN; Michael Gerber, Ambassador and Special Representative for Global Sustainable Development Post-2015, Switzerland; Charles T. Ntwaagae, Permanent Representative of Botswana to the UN; Anna Brandt, Ambassador for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Sweden. 
Photo ©: Rebecca Partanen-Dufour

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