• SDGs

Inclusive subnational participation in Voluntary National Reviews

Regions are crucial for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, yet, there are many challenges for the subnational governments’ effective participation on this agenda that has increasingly garnered global attention. The contributions of the Council of Governors (CoG) in Kenya’s review of SDGs are a great example of the regional governments’ efforts to overcome these challenges. Through this Council, Kenyan counties participated in the official institutional framework for the country’s review, reporting on their measures and progress in territorialising SDGs and proposing actions to move forward.

The Council of Governors has been facilitating the localisation of the global agenda on SDGs. Adopted in 2015 by the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Developmentcontains 17 SDGs and 169 targets. Annually, a global review of the SDGs takes place at the United Nations High-level Political Forum (HLPF), in which national governments present their findings, practices and experiences through Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). The national reviews have the responsibility of including input from various stakeholders, in convergence with the fact that contributions of relevant actors at all levels are expected for the successful implementation, follow-up and review of the SDGs.

There has been a call to guarantee that institutional channels allow for regions to participate in national reviews. According to Regions4 surveys conducted in 2017 and 2018 with regional governments of countries presenting their reviews of SDGs, only half of these regions had the opportunity to provide input to their respective country’s national review, even if 75% of them reported knowing about the reviews. Along with 42 countries, in 2017 Kenya presented its VNR, which has mechanisms to include regional governments that are a good practice to be considered by other countries. Kenya has developed a comprehensive and inclusive framework, which fully recognises the importance of localising the SDGs. 

Such framework is part of Kenya’s multi-level development plans of the last two decades. Kenya has been a major advocate of the 2030 Agenda since its planning phase, when it co-chaired the UN working group mandated to create a set of goals on sustainable development. Since 2008, a long-term development policy, Kenya Vision 2030, has been implemented through the five-year rolling Medium Term Plans (MTP) at the national level and the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs) at the subnational level. These plans are in line with the Constitution adopted in 2010 that attributes responsibilities and competences to the county governments, especially in terms of developing specific economic, environmental and social plans for each subnational government. Further, the Roadmap to SDGs: Kenya’s Transition Strategy 2016-2018 was adopted with the goal to include SDGs in policy, planning, programming, budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and reporting at all levels. As a result, all SDGs targets and indicators have been mapped with the Kenya Vision 2030 and assigned to the respective development actors. In preparation for its VNR, Kenya established the Inter-Agency Technical Committee (IATC) to spearhead the implementation of the SDGs, ensure that the SDGs are mainstreamed in the development planning documents, and track and report on SDGs progress. The IATC was a multi-stakeholder platform that aimed to increase ownership of the process. 

The Council of Governors was one of the umbrella bodies that held consultations and prepared reports as input into Kenya’s VNR, facilitating contributions from the county governments. The CoG is composed of the Governors of the 47 counties and promotes a forum for consultation, leadership, and collective voice on policy and governance issues, being the focal point for the county governments in national affairs. The CoG developed a template and circulated to all counties to guide them in SDGs reporting. The consultation resulted in replies from 23 counties, whose reports were shared with the national government for incorporation into Kenya’s VNR, which was eventually validated by the county governments. The report from CoG included diverse relevant information, such as (i) the counties’ progress in implementation of SDGs, including statistics, when available; (ii) measures planned for the attainment of SDGs; (iii) areas for cooperation between counties and national government, and between county to county; (iv) best practices, lessons learned, emerging issues and areas for which support was required; among others. The CoG in collaboration with UNDP is currently working with 5 county governments (Taita Taveta, Kwale, Marsabit, Kisumu and Busia) to develop County Voluntary Reports on SDGs implementation. The initiative follows the UN guidelines on voluntary reporting and aims at showing that subnational governments can also demonstrate their progress towards the implementation of the SDGs.

In addition, the CoG took several actions to implement SDGs at the subnational level. It established the SDGs Liaison Office (SLO) within its Secretariat to work closely with the SDGs Coordination Department at the national government and the 47 county governments, seeking to ensure proper coordination and implementation of the SDGs at the national and subnational levels and between the two levels of government. Also at the Secretariat level, all 12 CoG committees have mainstreamed SDGs in their work plans to assist counties in implementation and monitoring. Moreover, the CoG supported the county governments in mainstreaming the SDGs in their programmes, projects and activities by preparing and disseminating the guidelines for the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs).

The CIDPs mirror the priorities of the MTPs at the national level and seek to ensure that the SDGs and Africa’s Agenda 2063 are mainstreamed and fast tracked, reducing or eliminating existing regional disparities. Further, the CoG undertakes dissemination of Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials on SDGs, which act as a means of advocacy and awareness of the SDGs to enhance publicity and support. The CoG is currently engaging with the Kenya SDGs forum, which is a national NGOs coalition on SDGs, to explore possibilities of engaging with civil society to reach out to the communities for sensitisation on SDGs. Finally, the CoG promotes capacity building of SDGs to the county government officers including planning, budget, monitoring and evaluation, using a standardised training kit. The trained officers act as Trainers of Trainers (TOTs) with the aim of ensuring that the SDGs action will trickle down to the ground by providing training to civil servants who will train others in their respective institutions. Currently, the CoG has coordinated and supported all the 47 governments to establish county SDGs champions who are responsible for local coordination and reporting on the progress and process of SDGs implementation

In the scope of the VNR and beyond, the CoG played a crucial role for measuring SDGs implementation. It held trainings jointly with national government agencies such as the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics on the identification of 128 priority SDGs indicators for Kenya out of the 230 from Global Indicator Framework to support tracking of implementation progress. Additionally, the CoG aims to build its capacities to use the national indicators and promote the collection of disaggregated data in the county governments. More recently, the CoG collaborated with sectoral national ministries on monitoring and tracking progress of thematic SDGs, including the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Water and Irrigation.

In spite of all progress, there are important challenges ahead. One such challenge is to guarantee that the national SDGs Coordination Committee be more active and hold regular consultation with various stakeholders. Another is to ensure the effective reporting on implementation of SDGs through quality, reliable and timely data that is disaggregated appropriately. Yet another is to adequately respond to the need for additional support, capacities or trained staff, and financial resources. Next steps should include intensifying awareness creation and capacity building, mainstreaming of SDGs into strategic plans, strengthening multi-stakeholder participation in the SDGs process, and enhancing resource mobilisation to bridge the county government budget deficit in implementation of SDGs.

All in all, the case of Kenya is a good practice on the inclusion of the regional governments in the elaboration of the VNRs. The successful implementation of the SDGs hinges upon the existence of an inclusive institutional framework with distinct but complimentary roles, responsibilities and accountability mechanisms. The relevant role played by CoG demonstrates the fruitful collaboration between national and regional levels of governments, which allows the alignment of their planning and implementation instruments and ultimately contributes to the achievement of the SDGs.


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