UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator to Jamaica, Bruno Pouezat, surrounded by Team Jamaica at United Nations Headquarters last week during the High level Political forum on the Sustainable Development Goals where Jamaican submitted its Voluntary National Report. From Left Nicola Barker Murphy, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the UN Deidre Mills, Jamaica's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN; Dr Arlene Bailey, Senior Research Fellow and Associate Dean, SALISES, UWI, Mona; Toni-Shae Freckleton, Director, Population, PIOJ; Prof Aldrie Henry-Lee, Professor and University Director for SALISES, UWI, Mona

By Bruno Pouezat, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Jamaica


A United Nations High-Level Political Forum recently gathered delegates in New York from every region of the world to present Voluntary National Review (VNR) reports of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The staid proceedings droned on until, among the delegates, a bright yellow jacket popped up, then a second, then a third: Team Jamaica had landed. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, with State Minister Pearnel Charles Jr. in the lead; Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), led by Director General Dr. Wayne Henry; STATIN; and UWI/SALISES jointly presented a colourful video of a Jamaica on the move and a sunny report on the country’s progress towards the SDGs. The crowd perked up.

Delivered by the State Minister, Jamaica’s upbeat VNR presentation highlighted the extent to which Jamaica’s Vision 2030 National Development Plan is aligned to Agenda 2030 – 93% according to a Rapid Integrated Assessment conducted with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) support. Important progress is also being made towards key targets, especially in areas related to SDG 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing, SDG 4 – Quality Education, and SDG 5 – Gender Equality and SDG13, Climate Action.

The Sustainable Development Goals – The World We All Want

Jamaica has a plan and is on its way to achieving the SDGs by 2030 – provided it roots the SDGs by moving from a ‘Whole of Government’ approach to a ‘Whole of Society’ approach.

To first achieve ‘Whole of Government’ adoption of the SDGs, everyone must understand that reaching the SDGs depends first and foremost on effective use of the state budget. Agenda 2030 cannot rely on Official Development Assistance (ODA). At less than 0.2% of Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), ODA represents less than 1% of the state budget (tax revenue is about 26% of GDP). Instead, Jamaica must ensure that all of government expenditure is understood, and accounted for, as contributing to the SDGs – as does private sector investment, whether foreign (5.6% of GDP in 2016) or indeed domestic (remittances alone amount to 17% of GDP). The objective must be for all resources available nationally to target explicitly the national development priorities.

Local-level administration must get on board, too — beyond the recent consultations over the preparation of the Voluntary National Review, through to local authorities and civil society formulating and implementing local sustainable development plans that clearly contribute towards the SDGs and bring tangible benefits for Jamaican families.

‘Whole of Government’ must also reach beyond the executive branch. The Honourable Prime Minister led a very successful event at Parliament for UN Day 2017, and the Senate requested UN training for its members. This good start should be widened to include civil society actors.

In parallel, ‘Whole of Society’ public outreach on the SDGs will decentralize ownership of SDG implementation and energize people’s talents, resources and networks around a shared vision for the nation. We need every Jamaican on board to turbo-charge progress on the Agenda 2030 to its 2030 deadline.

Yet, on the ground in Jamaica, the global Agenda 2030 only really ‘talks’ to a fairly small group in the executive branch, in academia and in civil society. A coalition of national and UN partners is now putting a lot of efforts into sustaining a pattern of ever-widening circles, expanding partnerships and raising awareness on the SDGs across the island to ensure that the SDGs are not just a symbol of progress but a reality lived by all, particularly the youth.

Getting to The Jamaica We All Want – in the Caribbean We All Want

Jamaica’s launch of its ‘Dialogue for Development, The Jamaica We Want’ campaign last year started taking the SDGs to the people. This outreach continues this year, supported by PIOJ and UN Jamaica. Beyond the placards on a bus plying Kingston’s streets, a ‘road show’ into smaller towns around Jamaica is using youth-friendly, innovative digital/smart-phone based ‘edutainment’ to popularize the goals, help persons feel a sense of connection and ownership, and make the point that Vision 2030 is taking Jamaica towards the SDGs.

The United Nations are committed to help. The 2017-2021 UN Multi-country Sustainable Development Framework (UN MSDF), our five-year programme provides a common, cross-UN framework for supporting 18 English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean countries and territories. The UN MSDF aims to make available to our partners the full range of expertise of the UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes through a focused, coherent and integrated programme aligned to the SDGs.

Most of the UN MSDF programming remains national. However, our first cross-Caribbean, cross-UN activity was the organization in Jamaica, in June 2017, of Caribbean Action 2030, a high-level Caribbean SDG Conference held on the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. Hosted by the Government of Jamaica with UNDP and UWI support, the conference brought together Ministers and high-level officials of 19 Caribbean countries. Together, they agreed to establish a Partnership Framework on the SDGs and an online platform for inter-governmental collaboration and knowledge-sharing on the SDGs.

Eyes on the Prize – the SDGs by 2030 for all Jamaicans

2030 is just around the corner. For Jamaica to meet its Sustainable Development Goals by the deadline, now is the time for everyone to roll up their sleeves and get involved.

The UN looks forward to supporting the SDG-focused national priorities that have emerged under the new Medium-Term Framework. In his intervention in New York, PIOJ DG Wayne Henry mentioned developing a national spatial plan, improving risk identification and reducing vulnerability for coastal communities, strengthening the Fiscal Responsibility Framework, enhancing the capacities of communities to participate in creating a safe and secure society, and implementing a national financial inclusion strategy, all of which will help make the SDGs a tangible reality for all Jamaicans, leaving no-one behind.

Minister Charles concluded: “My country is firmly committed to advancing this shared global agenda to contribute to a better world – one in which there is peace, equity, prosperity, partnership and, importantly, a healthy natural environment. Jamaica has begun the journey with the commitment of leaving no one behind as we go for the Goals!”

The technical and financial resources of the UN MSDF will help Jamaica reach the Goals by 2030.

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