Sustainable Development Needs Public Participation

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: Big scale projections are seen over the general assembly building at United Nations headquarters
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: Big scale projections are seen over the general assembly building at United Nations headquarters on September 22, 2015 in New York City. The projections and peoples voices are seen during the celebration of UN70 and visually depict the 17 Global Goals. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images for Global Goals)

In 2015, a new global development agenda setting priorities for the next fifteen years has been launched. World leaders adopted Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September at the United Nations.

These goals represent a commitment by all countries to tackle some of the toughest global challenges: ending poverty and hunger, reducing inequality, providing good education, and achieving better health, good jobs and environmental sustainability. The goals also focus on peaceful and inclusive societies as well as international partnerships.

The new agenda is a universal one; sustainable development is about all of us. Achieving it requires us to reexamine how we live, work, consume, carry out our lives, build our industries and run our governments.

Armed with the Sustainable Development Goals, the world now has the bold roadmap it needs for inclusive and sustainable growth which doesn't wreck the planet.

Sustainable development requires whole of government approaches to economic, social, and environmental policies. But, engagement is also required from all sectors of society, and that requires vibrant, independent platforms for civil society. Goal 16 of the SDGs acknowledges this by calling for responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making at all levels.

New partnerships are needed for the SDGs' success. Initiatives like the Open Government Partnership (OGP) provide a clear example of what can work.

OGP was launched in 2011 as an international platform for domestic reformers committed to governance which is more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Since then, the partnership has grown from the initial eight countries to 66 participating countries now. In these countries, government and civil society are working together to develop and implement ambitious open government reforms.

UNDP's partnership with OGP members illustrates the breadth of ideas and creativity of what can be done; for example:

In Mexico, UNDP has worked with the government to integrate social inclusion indicators in an open data platform which allows users to explore and compare over one hundred indicators. It will allow citizens to follow Mexico's development progress and to engage with the government in creating solutions.

In Serbia, UNDP helped set up a parliamentary "mobile committee" which holds regular sessions outside the capital city, enabling greater public participation.

The transformation of our world is a tall order. The good news is that our generation has more wealth, more knowledge, and more technologies at our disposal than ever before. We have what it takes to achieve sustainable development for all.

Innovation and improvements in governance will be needed at every level. There is capacity to be built. Sweeping policy, legislative and regulatory changes are going to be needed for sustainable development. Whole of government approaches are needed across economic, social, and environmental decision making.

Success will require both political will and smart strategies to reach the last-mile of exclusion, and to confront the often painful and entrenched biases which have left those excluded behind.

The members of the Open Government Partnership have a head start in securing the commitment of both government and civil society stakeholders in building the kind of societies which make sustainable development possible: peaceful and inclusive societies which are characterized by institutions which are effective, accountable and responsive.

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, is the keynote speaker at the 2015 Global Summit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) on 28 October in Mexico City.

This post is part of a series produced by the Huffington Post and the Open Government Partnership (OGP) surrounding OGP's 2015 Global Summit, which is taking place in Mexico City from October 27-29.

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