Two years into implementation of the new sustainable development agenda, most countries are still in the process of mainstreaming it into national policy, budgets and monitoring processes. To help the process, the Independent Research Forum last year launched a series of regional retreats for policy-makers to share their ideas and experiences.

Wild Flamingos stand in a salt lagoon of Atacama desert, Chile. Photo credit: Getty Images / longtaildog

These meetings are modelled on the series of successful retreats organized by IRF in 2014–2015 to support drafting of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “The IRF retreats are designed as a complement to more formal processes,” explains SEI’s Karina Barquet, one of the retreat’s organizers and facilitators. “They give policy-makers a chance to talk more openly about issues of substance, without feeling they have to represent a national position.”

The second of the new set of IRF retreats took place in Bogota in October 2017, bringing together 30 people working directly with the implementation of the Agenda at government planning offices and ministries in 12 countries. It was hosted by SEI and the Latin American Center for Rural Development (RIMISP) on behalf of the Independent Research Forum, together with the National Planning Department and the Chancellor’s Office of Colombia.

Discussions in the retreat ranged widely. Countries shared some of the main questions they had been grappling with, such as:

  • How to bridge between the long-term strategies demanded by the 2030 Agenda and the shorter-term perspective of political cycles.
  • How to coordinate implementation between different sectors and governance levels.
  • How to decentralize the 2030 Agenda, and even make it a unifying force in countries where territorial cohesion is problematic.
  • How to identify and meaningfully report “2030 Agenda spending”.
  • How to access financing for implementation, especially given the middle-income status of many Latin American countries.

As described in the new brief, published today in English and Spanish, countries also presented their own best practices, hopefully providing inspiration to the other participants.

In the words of one participants: “This has been an entirely different type of dialogue. It has been honest; a recognition of the challenges ahead that changes my personal perception. I came here thinking ‘I’m the leader’, but I go home realizing that many of our neighbours are doing great things as well”.

Funding for the new retreat series comes from two IRF partners: SEI and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). The retreat series has been endorsed by members of the High Level Group in support of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which was created in 2015  at the initiative of the Prime Minister of Sweden. The retreats will be hosted by members of the group: Colombia and Liberia (in 2017), Germany and Timor-Leste (in 2018).


Read the policy brief in Spanish »

Read more about the IRF retreats »