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Jakarta Post

Sustainable development by, for people

Magnus Bengtsson, Simon Hoiberg Olsen and Augustine Kwan (The Jakarta Post)
Hayama, Japan   ●   Tue, February 17, 2015

The year 2015 is going to be a busy time for government planners, climate negotiators, international donors and concerned citizens. In less than a year'€™s time the world'€™s governments are expected to adopt a new global agenda for development, with long-term sustainability at its core.

Amidst global trends of rising inequality, persistent social injustice, and continuing environmental degradation, they will have to agree on a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire at the end of this year.

The proposed 17 new goals will cover a wide range of global issues '€” including poverty reduction, food security, gender equality, and environmental protection '€” and provide a cross-cutting global development plan that galvanizes political support and guides international development efforts.

The SDGs are a key component of the so-called post-2015 development agenda. In many ways, the agenda is designed to encourage countries to examine their existing growth models and prompt them to formulate better and more sustainable development pathways.

For Indonesia, the launch of this new agenda offers an opportunity to reflect on its progress on the MDGs so far and to set a new direction for the future. The country'€™s current development model has helped Indonesians meet some of their aspirations '€” but there is still considerable unfinished business.

In a UN report on the region'€™s progress on the MDGs, Indonesia was highlighted as an early achiever in the eradication of extreme poverty and scored fairly well in education and gender-related goals. However, there is still room for improvement on health-related objectives.

In comparison with the MDGs, achieving the new development goals will require a more integrated whole-country approach.

While the MDGs were geared towards meeting the basic needs of low-income nations, the new development goals will be much more comprehensive and relevant to all countries. And unlike the MDGs, which were criticized for having been developed behind closed doors, the proposed SDGs are the result of the biggest consultative effort by the UN to date.

Thirteen open working group meetings were held with participants from more than 70 countries. Numerous national consultations were also conducted around the world. These meetings were not limited to governments but included many civil society groups, experts and others.

 Here in Asia, civil society groups in several countries have held complementary consultations, discussing how the new development goals can reflect their specific needs and circumstances. And at the regional level, ASEAN leaders agreed at their summit in Naypyitaw, Myanmar last November to develop measurable ASEAN development goals.

 These ongoing conversations '€” taking place at all levels '€” indicate that countries and their citizens are preparing to take more ownership of the new development agenda this time around.

Indeed broad ownership is crucial for bringing the new agenda into action.

So national governments may well be the ones taking the lead in negotiating and formulating the new agenda, but they are not going to be able to implement it on their own. That'€™s where various interest groups come in. The private sector, local administrations, civil society organizations, and even individual citizens will all need to be mobilized.

It will then be up to national governments to engage and empower these stakeholder groups, to listen to them and be responsive. This essentially calls for increased openness and a more inclusive style of government.

Transparency and accountability of public institutions, as well as how efficiently the administration can deliver public services will all be contributing factors to the successful implementation of the new agenda.

It is encouraging to see recent developments in Indonesia indicating that the new government led by President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo has a strong commitment to address environmental and social issues domestically.

Examples include the swift and bold abolition of fossil fuel subsidies and the strengthening of the public healthcare system. Such actions show the new administration'€™s ambition to achieve development that is both environmentally sound and socially just.

In its previous bid to achieve the MDGs, Indonesia established two coordinating government offices '€” one in the Ministry of National Development Planning and another in the Presidential Office '€” which contributed to the country'€™s progress on certain goals.

The upcoming development goals will be more comprehensive, more challenging, more cross-cutting and will require even better coordination across different ministries and economic sectors.

Lawmakers are one key group that must be better engaged. For the MDGs, Indonesia established a specific task force in the House of Representatives, which went some way to steering regulations and budgets towards achieving those goals.

For the SDGs, a special parliamentary committee could be established to raise awareness, promote greater alignment to national plans and legislations, and ensure effective monitoring and evaluation '€” moving the new development agenda from an issue of international cooperation to a priority issue for national development.

For many years, Indonesia has played an active and positive role in related UN processes and has demonstrated leadership in shaping global discussions, with former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono co-chairing the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda between 2012 and 2013.

Given Indonesia'€™s positive track record of involvement in UN processes and its good progress on the MDGs, the government is now poised to actively embrace the new development agenda.

Indonesia also has a long history of regional leadership, and the new agenda provides an opportunity to further strengthen this role. One way to do this could be to follow up on recent agreements in ASEAN, especially on common development goals and strengthening the ASEAN secretariat.

The region will be in a better position to benefit from the new development agenda if it also puts sustainability at the core of the future ASEAN Economic Community, which will see member countries deepening their cooperation beyond 2015.

The new agenda has come around at just the right time for Indonesia. The country now finds itself at a stage where it needs to reconsider its development model and must look at how it can provide long-lasting prosperity and well-being for all Indonesians now and in the future.

But while the government must certainly play the crucial role of convener and facilitator, Indonesia can only become a success story if target-setting, planning, and implementation are done by the people, for the people.

The authors work for the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) '€” a nonprofit policy research institute promoting sustainable development across the Asia-Pacific region. IGES is headquartered in Hayama, Japan and has branch offices and desks in Bangkok, Beijing, Jakarta and New Delhi.