Uniting for Sustainable Development: Insights from the 1st National Conference on SDGs

March 5, 2024
National Conference on Accelerating Sustainable Development Goals

04 - 05 March 2024

Jaipur, Rajasthan

In March 2024, NITI Aayog, in collaboration with the Government of Rajasthan, UNDP, and UN in India, hosted the 1st National Conference on Accelerating Sustainable Development Goals.

The two-day conference, which began on March 4, brought together senior government officials from 31 States and Union Territories and representatives from various Government of India Ministries, including Suman Bery, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, Dr. VK Paul, Member (Health) NITI Aayog, Sudhansh Pant, Chief Secretary, Government of Rajasthan, Dr. G.P. Samanta, Chief Statistician of India and Secretary of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).

The conference aimed to bring together States and Union Territories to assess SDG localization, share experiences in institutionalizing SDGs at subnational levels, explore SDG finance at national and subnational levels, and chart a path for accelerating progress toward the mid-point of the 2030 SDG agenda. The conference included technical sessions on "Beyond SDG Monitoring: Translating Data Insights into Actionable Outcomes and Interventions," "Institutionalization of the SDGs: Lessons from States," "Financing the SDGs," and "Lessons from Localizing SDGs in India and the Path Ahead." An SDG exhibition further enriched the experience, providing a platform for States and Union Territories to showcase their innovative approaches to SDG localization.

The conference highlighted the Ministry of Panchayati Raj's progress in implementing the Local Indicator Framework (LIF) and measuring it through the Panchayat Development Index (PDI). To ensure cohesive SDG monitoring systems, aligning LIFs with State and District Indicator Frameworks (SIF & DIF) is crucial. While successful in some states, accelerating SDG progress will require support from SDG-aligned budgets or SDG budget tagging by 2030.

The Ministry of Finance's Department of Economic Affairs emphasized the potential of leveraging private capital and innovative financial instruments for SDGs, including climate financing. Outcome-based SDG financing, where investors fund SDG-aligned interventions with payments tied to achieving predetermined outcomes, holds promise. UNDP's Regional Sustainable Finance Hub shared successful initiatives relevant to Indian sub-national governments.

The sessions

Dr. Samanta, Chanchal Kumar, Secretary of MDoNER, and Ramesh Meena, Additional Chief Secretary of the Government of Tamil Nadu, participated in the first technical session chaired by Suman Bery on "Beyond SDG Monitoring: Translating Data Insights into Actionable Outcomes and Interventions." Commending the efforts and progress on SDG monitoring at the state level, the session discussed and deliberated on how to accelerate actions toward Agenda 2030 and Viksit Bharat 2047.

The second session “Institutionalization of the SDGs: Lessons from States,” was chaired by Dr. Paul, with panelists including Alok Kumar, Principal Secretary (Planning), Government of Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Ashutosh Ojha from MoSPI, Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, Resident Representative a.i., UNDP India, and Dr. Manoj Kumar Pant, ACEO, CPPGG, Department of Planning, Government of Uttarakhand. It emphasized the need to translate the gains of SDG monitoring into action. He highlighted the importance of regular review and monitoring mechanisms at administrative and political leadership levels to maintain momentum on SDGs and target outcomes.

“Financing the SDGs” was the theme of the third session chaired by Dr. Krishna Kant Pathak, Secretary of Finance (Revenue), Government of Rajasthan. Panelists included Geetu Joshi, Department of Economic Affairs, Pankaj, Special Secretary Finance and Director of SJHIFM, Government of Haryana, Vivek Misra, Regional Public Finance Specialist, UNDP Asia Pacific Regional Hub, and Christopher Garroway, Economist, United Nations Resident Coordinator Office (UNRCO). The session explored potential areas for governments at the national and sub-national levels to engage with SDG budget-tagging and sustainable finance instruments, including blended finance instruments. Case studies from peer countries in the Asia-Pacific region were shared along with subnational experiences in India.

Dr. Yogesh Suri, Senior Adviser (SDGs), chaired the fourth and final session on “Lessons from Localizing SDGs in India and the Path Ahead.” The session included discussions with K Senthil Kumar, Principal Secretary, Planning & Development Department of the Government of Bihar, R Ramakrishnan, Principal Secretary & Development Commissioner of the Government of Nagaland, Vikas Anand, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India, and Ravi Jain, Secretary & Commissioner (Panchayati Raj) of the Government of Rajasthan. The discussions focused on leveraging localization for SDG acceleration, SDG data-based action plans, budgeting, innovative financing, and south-south cooperation.

Way forward

As the outcome of the workshop, NITI Aayog and MoSPI officials called upon the states to leverage the gains from establishing SDG monitoring systems at the state and district levels to create action plans with the departments. They highlighted that the prerequisites of inter-departmental and whole-of-government approaches will be key to developing effective, measurable, and trackable action plans. The development of thematic SDG acceleration plans for context-specific priority sectors emanated as a future strategy for several states.

Lastly, there is a sizeable interest among states in learning from each other, and the work of several state governments and their successes in localizing the SDGs has the potential to be an important area for fostering India’s south-south cooperation initiatives.