The workshop was hosted by The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) subregional headquarters for the Caribbean, and jointly organized with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) Division for Sustainable Development Goals (DSDG) and Division for Public Institutions and Digital Governance (DPIDG). The workshop was held under the theme, `Integrated Policies and Policy Coherence for the SDGs’, on 13-15 November 2019 at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning and Development, Trinidad and Tobago, Ric Javed Ali, recognised the timeliness of the initiative, coming amidst Trinidad and Tobago’s preparation of its first voluntary national review on sustainable development to the High-level Political Forum in July 2020. “While it is the mandate of Government to invariably establish the broad policy, planning, regulatory and institutional frameworks in which the SDGs are to be achieved, it is the collective work of all parties in the country including the public sector, the private sector, civil society, academia and our development partners, such as UNITAR, UNDESA and ECLAC, which make achievement of the Goals realisable”. Ali also emphasized the importance of leveraging technical expertise and the commitment of the Ministry of Planning and Development to address the issues of alignment, coordination and coherence.
Also speaking at the opening ceremony, ECLAC Caribbean Director Diane Quarless, pointed to the need to mainstream resilience in sustainable development. “Given the range of vulnerabilities experienced in the Caribbean, it is timely that resilience - be it to climate change effects, extreme weather events, economic shocks, and high levels of emigration of skilled labour, - be integrated in policies and strategies for sustainable development, and developing national capacities to do this is a necessary precondition.”
Quarless also recognized that the pursuit of a successful long-term sustainable development strategy requires a strong institutional framework and the requisite skill sets to plan, implement, monitor and review policies and strategies in an integrative and cohesive manner with a vision that transcends short-term expedient objectives.
The workshop was designed to leverage the three organizing partners’ respective technical expertise. It included a training of trainers component which enabled participants to further transfer their acquired knowledge and skills. The national development planning landscape in Caribbean SIDS is eclectic, ranging from countries that have no autonomous planning agencies and no long-term development plans, to those that have a long history of development planning. Except for a few, a common challenge for these countries is the use of evidence-based processes to inform national development planning.
Also welcoming the joint initiative, Elena Proden of UNITAR mentioned that the partnership with ECLAC was instrumental in carrying out the workshop for Caribbean countries, with the training methodology on integrated decision-making for SDGs tailored for the best possible delivery. “It was important to mention that the workshop was designed to provide space not only to share knowledge but also to bring minds together around difficult topics to eventually start seeing possible solutions to some of these issues.”
Veronique Verbruggen, UNDESA DPIDG, reflected on the importance of stakeholders, multi-actors involvement based on system thinking and incremental reform to trigger the changes that are required to bring about transformation. She made mention to the work with ECLAC to contextualize the approach to the Caribbean subregion. “The workshop has touched upon the need for incremental institutional changes to enhance and support policy coherence through a whole of government approach and meaningful stakeholder engagement.”
With the SDGs, a new emphasis is placed on how policy coherence and better-integrated planning mechanisms can help countries strengthen their planning processes, develop holistic development frameworks reflecting global, regional and special commitments, such as the SAMOA Pathway for SIDS, and achieve their national development objectives in a more effective, efficient, equitable and sustainable way.