How do we achieve the SDGs, what makes societies crisis-proof, how do advisory bodies contribute to future-oriented politics? These and many other questions were dealt with by Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz attending events in summer.
High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 2021: DIE represented by deputy director and hosted own event
On 30 June 2021, the 4th OECD Roundtable on Cities and Regions was hosted in digital format, bringing together key stakeholders from cities, regions, national governments, the private sector, civil society, academia, philanthropy and international organizations. Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz participated in the session on „Cities and Regions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)“ in her position as co-chair of the United Nations Independent Group of Scientists (IGS). Discussions focused on the contribution of city-city partnerships to the local implementation of the SDGs and to what extent the principles for city-city partnerships as discussed by the G20 are suitable to strengthen this contribution. Imme Scholz highlighted that the IGS will address policy levers for the implementation of the SDGs and in this context include innovative approaches at the city level. She emphasised that the contribution of German development policy to urban sustainability policy in Germany and in international partnerships is substantial and is currently being evaluated. In her view, partnerships are an important instrument for joint learning processes, which are probably most productive when they are focused and anchored in actual change processes on the ground. SDG partnerships could certainly also benefit from the wide range of subnational and city activities for implementing the Paris Climate Agreement.
Crisis management in times of Corona
In 2021, the deliberations of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) were again held virtually. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the HLPF focused on the possibilities and perspectives of sustainable and resilient crisis management which then enables an inclusive and effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) was represented by its Deputy Director, Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz. Additionally, the institute co-organized a side event on the topic „Global Policy Roundtable: As governance crises worsen COVID-19 impact, is SDG 16 key for recovery?“
Leverage for the implementation of the SDGs
On 9 July 2021, in her capacity as co-chair of the Independent Group of Scientists (IGS), Imme Scholz briefed UN Member States on the main content of the next Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) to be released in 2023. The session was chaired by Prof. Dr. John Agard (University of the West Indies), the other IGS co-chair. Major interest was evoked by the two guiding questions: How did Covid-19, and the ensuing increase in poverty, and other trends such as commitments to climate neutrality, change the conditions for implementing the SDGs? How can the levers for implementation – e.g. economic and financial policies, individual and collective action, governance structures – be designed and used more effectively? On the evening of 9 July, Imme Scholz also spoke at the HLPF session on „Mobilizing science, technology and innovation (STI) and strengthening the science-policy-society interface.“ Imme Scholz emphasized that pathways to sustainability were context-specific and knowledge-intensive. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that effective STI systems are important for a well-functioning science-policy-society interface and that both are helpful in containing the virus. In many developing countries, however, research and innovation systems are weak which creates major hurdles to transformation. Investments in STI should therefore also be understood as investments for the global common good and strengthen developing countries in this area. STI investments fail if they are primarily intended to strengthen one’s own science system and economic competitiveness.
On July 12, the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) hosted a virtual side event to the HLPF and discussed the functions sustainability councils (multistakeholder advisory bodies) should assume in (sustainability) policy and with which content advisory bodies could contribute to a future-oriented policy. As deputy chair of the RNE, Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz spoke about successful interventions of the RNE (e.g. a statement on sustainable food systems in 2020 and the long-standing work on the German Sustainability Code for companies as well as on sustainable finance, among others with the Frankfurt Stock Exchange). She also emphasized that multistakeholder advisory bodies can gain influence when they succeed in negotiating ambitious compromises between different stakeholders and when the relationship between government and advisory bodies is based on trust and mutual respect for each other’s autonomy and role.
Strengthening societies‘ resilience to crises
Likewise, the European Union’s (EU) side event on 14 July 2021was dedicated to the theme „Building a better world after COVID-19“, holding a global perspective. Representing the DIE and the Independent Group of Scientists (IGS), Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz reported on the ongoing work on the next GSDR to be published in 2023. She particularly emphasized that poverty, hunger, and social inequalities had worsened in the wake of the pandemic; at the same time, experts agreed that adherence to the SDGs will strengthen societies‘ resilience to crises. Recent reports from UNEP and the World Bank had shown that reducing extreme inequalities is conducive for achieving a green economy, while the costs of inaction would be enormous. It is important to use the leverage of legal frameworks and economic incentives to set transformative collective and individual action in motion, she said. For both low- and middle-income countries, however, it is crucial to gain financial leeway and fiscal space to link pandemic response and transformation, as the EU is striving to do with the Green Deal and the Next Generation EU Fund. For developing countries, this will require debt restructuring and debt relief as well as strengthening and reforming tax systems. The individual fields of action of the European Green Deal must also be supported by international cooperation measures in order to avoid burden-shifting and negative impacts on developing countries. Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz concluded her presentation by stating that strategies for achieving climate neutrality by 2045 should not be implemented at the expense of sustainability policy. Rather, climate policy would benefit if it were designed to be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. The presentation of Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz as well as the whole EU Side Event can be watched and listened to here: UN HLPF SIDE-EVENT ‚THE SDGS AS THE COMPASS FOR RECOVERING AFTER THE PANDEMIC AND BUILDING FORWARD BETTER‘ – Streaming Service of the European Commission (europa.eu).