Will Estonia, Finland, France and Germany lead the way towards Sustainable Development?

Written by Jussi Kanner from Kehys, Sigrid Solnik from AKU, Sami Asali from Coordination Sud and Sonja Grigat from VENRO.

Governmental representatives from around the world gather in New York this July to review progress made to deliver on Agenda 2030 in the first 10 months. Four EU Member States – Estonia, Finland, France and Germany – are among the first 22 countries to report on their national preparation for implementing the 2030 Agenda. National platforms of CONCORD have analysed the respective reports of their countries and pointed out their pros and cons.

The monitoring process of Agenda 2030:

Agenda 2030 outlines a global monitoring and review framework to follow the progress made towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The framework broadly consists of an annual High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) under the auspices of ECOSOC, a review under UN General Assembly every four years and thematic reviews in different arenas. The HLPF aims to cover more or less the whole spectrum of Agenda 2030 by pulling together a mass of information from various sources, including a Global Sustainable Development Report, a statistical Global SDG progress report and voluntary national reports.

These reviews must follow certain key principles. Some of these have already been listed in the Agenda 2030 itself. Most notable ones include  being open, inclusive, participatory and transparent for all people, being people-centred, gender-sensitive, and respecting human rights, and focusing on the poorest, most vulnerable and those furthest behind. The national reviews should also be country-led and maintain a longer-term orientation. Finally, they should address achievements, challenges, gaps and success factors, and track progress in implementing the whole universal Agenda including the Goals and targets, and the means of implementation.

These principles are a good starting point for monitoring and review, but they should be accompanied by strong and ambitious mechanisms that ensure true accountability. CONCORD has regretted the lack of ambition shown towards this end.

There are five elements that we think especially need greater emphasis and elaboration in the national reports:

  • Leadership: Successful implementation of Agenda 2030 requires strong leadership. This is an area that should be clearly indicated in the national reviews. What are the organisational roles in each country and where does the responsibility ultimately lie? EU Member States reporting this year should also show global leadership by providing credible reports reflecting also the gaps and challenges they face in the implementation. Not only cherry-picked success stories.
  • Principles and Means of Implementation: The voluntary national reports should not focus solely on the SDGs. They should also cover the key principles and Means of Implementation of the Agenda. Have the countries set aside sufficient resources for the implementation? Have they really ensured that no one is left behind?
  • Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development: It will be critical to measure and ensure that progress in one area of the framework does not undermine progress elsewhere in the framework in ANY way. In this regard, Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (PCSD) deserves special attention in the voluntary national reviews. The scope of review for PCSD mechanisms should cover design, formulation, implementation and monitoring and review aspects of the policy cycle.
  • Inclusiveness and Participation: Recognising the shrinking space of civil society all across the world the EU and its Member States should send a clear signal to the rest of the world: inclusive and accountable implementation and review of Agenda 2030 requires active participation by civil society and the general public. EU Member States should adopt, highlight and showcase transparent and participatory processes in the reporting exercise.
  • Indicators and Accountability: Measuring progress towards the SDGs with the right indicators is absolutely vital. The indicators used must be selected in a way which ensures that a focus on the most marginalized is maintained. Our countries must be able to collect and present disaggregated data in order to monitor progress in closing the gaps in equality. This will be instrumental for reviewing the key principle that no one is left behind.

Where do we stand in Estonia, Finland, France and Germany?

The review and reporting exercise has followed different paths in the four EU Member States who will be presenting their Voluntary National Reviews this year at the HLPF. While some of them have good examples to be shared, we have also found some key elements missing.

Situation in Estonia:


  • In Estonia the national sustainable development strategy, government’s policies and the national indicators for sustainable development will be assessed in the light of SDGs.
  • Civil society organisations from the Estonian Commission for Sustainable Development have been consulted in the report writing process.


  • There is no clear vision for the following steps in the Agenda 2030 implementation. The level of coordinated and strategic involvement of civil society and private sector remains unclear at this stage; at the moment, there is no communication plan in place for Agenda 2030.  
  • As the national policies will be assessed, the concept of Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development does not receive any real attention.
Situation in Finland:


  • Finland has done well in engaging with civil society in the reporting process by providing an opportunity to comment on the content and by organising participatory workshops.
  • Finland has also highlighted the importance of PCSD, and laid out clear next steps to adopt a national implementation plan, and monitoring and reporting framework.


  • Besides recognising the critical role of the PCSD, the report does not cover Means of Implementation even close to the level expected. Any references to the targets under Goal 17 – like the level of ODA to give only one clear example – are completely missing.
  • The indicator analysis is focusing on comparisons to other countries and missing the point of addressing inequalities and leaving no one behind.
Situation in France:


  • The political and institutional configuration engaged in this process has been confirmed in April. The Ministry for Environment, Energy and the Sea will be in charge of SDGs monitoring and implementation and Ségolène Royal, head of the COP 21, who enjoys a high international visibility, will lead the French delegation at the coming HLPF.


  • Civil society has not been involved in the reporting and early implementation of the Agenda, and the consultation process has appeared inconsistent Civil Society Organisations received a first draft of the French voluntary raport in early June, but they will not be consulted on the final report. The draft report lacks information regarding the mobilisation of different stakeholders, their roles and responsibilities in relation to this Agenda.
  • There is no political vision in the French report which rather consists of a catalogue of measures already implemented by the government. The French government has not announced any strategy regarding the monitoring and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda after the HLPF.
  • Similar to Finland, the means of implementations remain largely unknown and the French government does not intend to make new announcements within the report or at the coming HLPF.
Situation in Germany:


  • The German report clearly elaborates how and with which initiatives and programmes the German government wants to contribute to the national and international implementation of each SDG. The report is of high informational value to states as well as civil society organisations.
  • Germany has also regular dialogue with civil society and is planning to invite civil society to present its own view at the HLPF.


  • A number of non-sustainable concepts and programmes, such as policies on traffic route engineering or energy transition, have uncritically been presented as positive in its effects on sustainable development.
  • Germany also has failed to report on ODA as part of the Means of Implementation, although it managed to raise its contribution, however, only by adding spending for refugees in Germany.

We hope these points will be raised and discussed at the HLPF in order to contribute to the ever evolving reviewing exercise in the coming years. Otherwise the shortcomings in these reports may well set the bar too low for other countries to ensure accountable review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Authors: Jussi Kanner from KehysSigrid Solnik from AKU, Sami Asali from Coordination Sud and Sonja Grigat from VENRO.