On the Means of Implementation and Systemic Issues of the Sustainable Development Goals

by Lei Covero

Securing the Means of Implementation (MOI) is at the heart of Agenda 2030, otherwise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would remain as pipedreams. The MOI in the Agenda encompass development financing, capacity-building, technology transfer, trade and systemic issues. But at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) last July 18-20, 2016 at the UN Headquarters, there is an alarming absence of focus on MOI and related systemic issues in the Secretary General’s report, national voluntary reviews, and the Ministerial Declaration.

This makes one wonder if the reality on the ground is that which is unspoken and unrecognized at the HLPF.

First, how can the SDGs be implemented by underdeveloped countries, when there are no means to implement it? In the first place, the economies of these countries are not oriented towards sustainable development but to servicing the needs of developed countries for cheap raw materials, cheap labour, and markets for basic and consumer goods. Decades of neoliberalism has destroyed the economies and undermined the national sovereignty of underdeveloped countries, and it will take more than mobilisation of MOI to bring these countries to the path of sustainable development.

Second, science, technology and innovation (STI), albeit a very crucial tool, is only one aspect of MOI to achieve the SDGs. Transfer of technologies, capacity building and increased funding for STI – howsoever welcome and even necessary – will not solve the poverty experienced by farmers, workers, women and the many groups and sectors which are “furthest behind” unless systemic and structural barriers are addressed first.

Third, the rise of mega trade deals and public-private partnerships (PPPs) is not only a subversion of the SDGs, but will also intensify the super-exploitation and dispossession of the peoples of the world, and plunder of underdeveloped countries.

For example in Asia Pacific, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) if both signed and ratified will dismantle what remains of labour protections and other measures for the protection of social welfare and environment, privatize and commercialize sectors of the economy still under the public ownership, undermine national sovereignty, and increase corporate power by securing capitalist property and profits.

Additionally, the rise of PPPs especially in developing countries have had severe ramifications on issues of equity and access, especially for the poor and marginalised. PPPs have likewise facilitated human rights abuses, including land grabs and displacement of indigenous peoples, rural and urban communities.

The TPP has just been signed four months before the HLPF, while the RCEP is targeted to finish negotiations before the year ends. Yet at the HLPF, this important context is largely ignored.

The HLPF, as a platform providing political leadership and guidance to Agenda 2030 should primarily and urgently address the deeply rooted systemic barriers to development such as: landlessness and lack of access to productive resources, flexibilization and contractualization of labour, unequal trade and investment policies and agreements, corporate capture of development agenda, patriarchy and fundamentalisms, and militarism and war. The immense challenge of mobilising resources for sustainable development can then be tackled.


Lei Covero is Programme Officer of IBON International working on themes such as Trade & Investment & PPPs.


  1. Lanre Rotimi says

    Great Article. Wonder why it is not attracting Great Comments. There is a need for the CC and GC to address this Coldness.

    However, the Article focus on Problems. Can there be a focus on Solutions without addressing points raised in this Article?

  2. Lanre Rotimi says

    Dear Lei,

    I expected your reaction to my earlier comments.

    Please find Article moving forward points made in earlier comment.


    The fundamental issues raised in your Article and the two comments are too important for CPDE Executives and Members to ignore or wish away.

    Achieving increasing convergence between CPDE Vision Intention and Reality in 2017 and beyond greatly depends on CPDE Executives, Institution Members and Individual Members willingness to pick up the gauntlet and grapple effectively with real and complex Challenges on the ground from Community to Global levels in all North and South Countries highlighted in the Article and Comments.

    I do hope you will react this time and your comment would catalyze contribution to this dialogue from CPDE Executives and Members.

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