The SDGs Secretariat
In 2018, the Auditor General presented a Value for Money Audit Report on Uganda’s preparedness for implementation of the SDGs. The report noted the need for effective coordination of SDG implementation and mainstreaming in all planning frameworks in the country. The report highlighted that, whereas government committed itself to implement the 2030 agenda and SDGs, gaps still existed in the operationalization of the SDGs coordination framework which posed a challenge in creating a suitable environment for SDG implementation. The gaps identified included:
• Absence of a systematic policy review mechanism to support policy harmonization and coherence processes;
• Dormancy of the SDG Technical Working Groups;
• Limited guidance for mainstreaming SDGs into sectors, MDAs and Local Government plans;
• Limited domestic resource mobilization efforts for the SDGs;
• Delay in mapping of existing and potential partnerships to harness synergies of the Whole of Government perspective for the 2030 Agenda;
• Inadequate knowledge and appreciation of SDGs and the 2030 agenda at all levels.
Following the Auditor General’s recommendations, in October 2019, Cabinet approved the establishment of a dedicated SDG Secretariat. The Office of the Prime Minister in partnership with the United Nations Country Team provided technical and financial assistance towards establishment of the SDG Secretariat.
In setting up the SDG Secretariat, Government envisioned an institution which would provide more dedicated support to the Directorate of Strategic Coordination and Implementation in the Office of the Prime Minister in fast tracking coordination of SDGs implementation in the country. The Secretariat is therefore charged with:
• Supporting oversight of the implementation of the SDG Coordination Framework.
• Coordinating monitoring and assessment of implementation and progress of the 2030 Agenda within the Government Performance Assessment.
• Building strategic partnerships with the Private Sector on financing and innovation for the SDGs Providing technical support, advice and expertise to Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Private Sector, Civil Society, and Academic Institutions to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
• Serving as a convergence center and hub of SDG information and data for the Government and other stakeholders.
Since its establishment in 2019, the SDG Secretariat has, with support from various partners and stakeholders, carried out many significant activities towards the implementation and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. These include the following:
• Revitalization of The Technical Working Groups
The work of Sector Working Groups, Ministries, Departments and Agencies, as well as Local Governments is guided by strategic plans developed by the institutions themselves. These plans are aligned to the National Development Plan and thereby, the SDGS. As such, there must be a strong link between these institutions as implementers of the SDGs. The Technical Working Groups (TWGs) are the coordinating bodies and are to this end, the backbone of the Coordination Framework. It is therefore critical that the TWGs meet quarterly and submit the required reports to inform and drive SDG implementation. Whereas there were some lapses previously, the SDG Secretariat has worked with the TWGs to ensure that these meetings happen as mandated and that such reporting feeds into the overall strategic planning for effective SDG implementation.
• Integration of the SDGs in Uganda Planning and Financing Systems
– Policy and Planning Alignment
Uganda’s planning authority ensures that planning frameworks at all levels are well aligned with the SDGs. The NDPII was 70 percent aligned to the SDGs, while NDPIII is now over 90% aligned to the SDGs. The SDGs continue to guide the determination of priority investment areas, to the extent that the NDPIII focus areas are Industry, Governance and Environment, which were identified as accelerators for the attainment of NDPIII based on SDG modelling using a customized Uganda iSDG model and following consultations with state and non-state actors.
– Aligning budgets to SDGs
To ensure conformity of the national budget with the third National Development Plan (NDPIII) and SDGs, the Government has maintained its innovative practice of assessing the quality of sector budgets to assess their compliance. This is complemented by the Certificates of Gender and Equity measuring the responsiveness of national and district budgets to gender and equity. The annual certificate of compliance indicated an improvement in SDG alignment from 60.9 percent in 2017/18 to 64 percent in 2018/19.
– Leaving No One Behind
The “Leave No One Behind” principle emphasizes the critical distributional aspects of the global development agenda. Uganda has embraced the three mutually reinforcing “levers” identified as cornerstones:
Empower through civic engagement and voice;
Enact through integrated, equity-focused SDG policies, interventions and budgets;
Examine, through use of disaggregated and people-driven data and information.
• SDG Progress Reports
In 2019, the Secretariat formed a national SDG Advisory Committee to oversee the development of the SDG Progress Report and Uganda’s second Voluntary National Review (VNR) Report. In August 2019, the Government conducted an assessment on progress made on the implementation of the SDGs and developed a National SDG Progress Report, which outlined progress made under each goal and set out priority recommendations arising from the analysis of the progress made in the implementation of SDGs within the context of the NDP. The SDG advisory committee held meetings to analyse the draft report. The final Progress Report informed the preparation of Uganda’s second Voluntary National Review (VNR) Report.
• Uganda’s Second Voluntary National Review
Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) are aimed at facilitating sharing of experiences, successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. VNRs also seek to strengthen policies and institutions of governments and to mobilize multi-stakeholder support and partnerships for SDG implementation.
In 2020, 47 countries, including Uganda, presented their national VNR Reports to the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF). Uganda’s report was successfully compiled under the political and technical leadership by the Office of the Prime Minister, coordinated by the SDG Secretariat. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, VNR consultations were done through an e-platform that facilitated collection of voices and views from key stakeholders and the public regarding implementation of SDGs in Uganda.
Ahead of presenting the report to the HLPF, the Office of the Prime led by the Focal Point Minister for SDGs laid the report to the Speaker of Parliament. The SDG Secretariat also developed a recorded statement which was presented by the Minister to the HLPF in July 2020, alongside a representative of Special Interest Groups. Following the presentation to the HLPF, Uganda also organized a side event, hosted by the UN Resident Coordinator.
The presentation of the VNR Report revealed many successes, as well as challenges and gaps in the process of SDGs implementation. Going forward, the Government will work with both state and non-state actors to bridge any gaps and steer the country forward. This is a primary function carried out through the SDG Secretariat.
Based on the findings from the consultation process, and in addition to goal-specific actions that will be undertaken by various stakeholders, Uganda will continue to pay close attention to overarching themes for the way forward:
– Stronger partnerships, coordination and collaboration;
– Deeper localization and popularization of the SDG agenda;
– Building a leadership culture for the SDG agenda at all levels;
– Promoting SDG-focused innovation by all the people in Uganda, especially young people;
– Focusing on Financing for SDGs;
– Strengthening Technology and Information Systems in SDG Reporting.
• Roll Out of Voluntary Local Reviews
Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) complement the VNR process that governments use to report national-level progress on the SDGs. The VLR process can serve as a way for local governments to engage citizens in the SDG review process, which contributes to strengthening accountability and increases inclusive governance. To incorporate the sub-national perspectives into the SDG follow up and review process, the UN launched a VLR lab process to share lessons learned from local governments to engage citizens in the SDG review process. In 2020, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) piloted the VLR process in four selected countries including Uganda, where it was carried out in Ngora district.
Results from the Ngora VLR indicate that Ngora District has integrated the 2030 SDG Agenda and aspirations of Agenda 2063 in the district development processes, feasibility studies and budgets. Building on this VLR experience, the district has committed to pay more attention to the SDGs and allocating more resources to the goals where performance is lagging.
With support from UNDP and the Government, the Office of the Prime Minister through the SDG Secretariat has also kicked off VLRs in other districts including Nebbi, Bugiri, Sheema, Kitagwenda, Kyotera and Sironko.
• Localization and Popularization of the SDGs at District Level
The 2020 VNR report indicated that there is identical inadequate awareness of the SDG framework even with those involved directly in implementation. This leads to leadership and policy loopholes and lack of awareness from the locals at individual, household, community and national level. The SDG Secretariat has therefore conducted fieldwork to assess the level of understanding and the implementation of SDG in the Local Governments and to identify champions and SDG focal persons per district. Over 75 districts were reached in the last three quarters of the FY 2020/2021. To support the Secretariat’s efforts in localization of the SDGs, UN Human Rights also worked with UNCDF to produce materials in more local languages than the previous ten. The SDGs are now translated into 13 local Ugandan languages.
• Development of a New SDG Road Map 2021-2025
Following the expiry of the SDG Roadmap (2018), the Government in consultation with UN in Uganda and the CSOs embarked on the review process of the SDG Coordination Framework and the roadmap. With support from UNDP, the Office of the Prime Minister undertook this exercise, which the SDG Secretariat coordinated. The process started with a review of the SDG Coordination Framework, which then informed the development of the new roadmap. The new SDG roadmap is aligned to NDPIII and the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF). The roadmap has been reviewed and approved by the National SDG Task Force which is chaired by the Permanent Secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister. UNDP has committed to editing, designing and printing the roadmap, as well as supporting the official launch of the roadmap. It is expected that this launch will take place in August 2021, after the COVID-19 lockdown.
• Establishment of an SDG Innovation Hub
The SDG Secretariat coordinated the development of a concept note on establishing the SDG Innovation Hub that will act as a convergence center for SDGs in Uganda. As a result of this action, development partners like GIZ showed interest and supported the establishment of the hub at the Secretariat’s premises on the Third Floor of Postel Building.
The hub is a space for engagement and innovations and is expected to bring together different partners and stakeholders including the youth, Civil Society, Minority Groups, women, the elderly, Persons with Disability and any other thematic groups. It will also facilitate dialogue and foster unique innovations that promote SDGs in the country and to provide a platform for tracking, monitoring and evaluating the implementation of SDGs by all stakeholders.
GIZ has also provided support in branding the SDG Secretariat reception area with communication materials that enable passers-by or visitors to gain quick information about the SDGs.
To add onto the Innovation Hub, the Office of the Prime Minister signed an agreement with Absa Bank to set up an SDGs youth facility within the premises of the Secretariat. Discussions are also ongoing with UNDP to set up an SDG Accelerator Lab. UNDP has also committed to support the Secretariat with furniture and materials to establish a resource center.
– Leadership Team
– Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda, is the chair of the SDG Policy Coordination Committee.
– Rt. Hon. Justine Kasule Lumumba is the Minister for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister and the Focal Point Minister for SDGs.
– Ms. Lucy Nakyobe Mbonye is the Head of Public Service. She chairs the SDG Implementation Steering Committee.
– Mr. Keith Muhakanizi is the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister. He chairs the National SDG Task Force.
– Dr. Albert Byamugisha is the Senior Technical Advisor on SDGs and the Head of the SDG Secretariat in the Office of the Prime Minister.