The Swedish Agency for Public Management
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The 2030 Agenda in government agencies and local authorities. Interim Report (2019:15)

The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has been commissioned by the Government to monitor and analyse the impact of the 2030 Agenda on the sustainability efforts of government agencies and local authorities. The aim of this commission is to increase knowledge and provide a basis for developing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. This is an interim report on that commission. We will present our final report on 30 June 2020 at the latest.

The 2030 Agenda was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015 and comprises a fifteen-year action plan for global sustainable development. It contains 17 goals and 169 targets. The Agenda aims to end poverty and hunger, realise the human rights and ensure a lasting protection of the planet.

In this interim report, we analyse and follow up on whether, and how, government agencies and local authorities work with the 2030 Agenda, how it impacts on their sustainability efforts and whether the Agenda has created new collaborations or reinforced old ones. We also analyse how the county administrative boards contribute to the national implementation of the 2030 Agenda and whether the government agencies are using the global development policy (PGU) as a tool to implement the Agenda. In the final report, we will present a more in-depth analysis and propose possible developments for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The majority of the government agencies and local authorities use the 2030 Agenda in their sustainability efforts


In our surveys, a clear majority of the government agencies and local authorities state that they use the 2030 Agenda in their sustainability work. We can also see that the proportion of government agencies and local authorities using the 2030 Agenda has increased significantly in the last two years. There are also many actors who work with sustainability without expressly describing how this work contributes to the goals of the Agenda. But our follow-up does not capture the work of these actors.

We can see large similarities in terms of the types of activities that local authorities and government agencies have chosen to carry out in their work relating to the 2030 Agenda. The most common approach is to carry out internal activities that contribute to raising employee awareness of the Agenda and its relationship to their own activities. It is also fairly common for government agencies and local authorities to establish a function for the 2030 Agenda, or that they have revised their central policy documents to refer to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The sustainability efforts of most government agencies and local authorities have been influenced to a small extent by the 2030 Agenda

Since the goals of the Agenda are so ambitious, we have assumed that they require the organisations to raise the level of ambition in their sustainability efforts in order to implement the Agenda by 2030. But we assess the majority of the activities that government agencies and local authorities have carried out in connection with the Agenda to only make a small contribution to the development of their sustainability efforts.

Our documentation does indicate that the 2030 Agenda has led to several activities among government agencies and local authorities. But at the same time, we can see that, in most cases, the activities have not made an impact on the actors' working methods or priorities. Instead, it is often a matter of singular initiatives and smaller and time-limited side projects, such as seminars, short training programmes and surveys of the operation. The activities have been intended to help the stakeholders understand and analyse the content of the Agenda, and to relate it to their own activities. We find that the more concrete operational changes that the actors have made are superficial in many cases. For example, several organisations have established a 2030 Agenda function. But in many cases, this has simply entailed an actor changing the name of an existing function rather than reprioritising the organisation's resources. One reason for this is that many government agencies and local authorities do not have the understanding that their activities need to change as a result of working with the Agenda.

A few municipalities and government agencies have made more fundamental changes to their working methods based on the 2030 Agenda. However, in the regional authorities, we have not seen any examples of such comprehensive changes. A decisive factor in cases where a more fundamental change has occurred is that there has been support and an explicit willingness in the organisation management, not least from the political leadership of the municipalities. In several organisations, the level of ambition is linked to the commitment of individuals or the resources and authorisations given to work with the Agenda.

The 2030 Agenda has led to a few new collaborations, but it is unclear to which extent it has reinforced existing collaborations

Partnerships and collaborations are central components in implementing the 2030 Agenda, since actors from different sectors must collaborate to attain the goals. In our follow-up, we have seen a few examples of collaborations that have emerged solely as the result of working with the 2030 Agenda. But it is more common to work with the Agenda within already established collaborations.

Our analysis shows that the Agenda has provided support for government agencies and local authorities in working together on issues of sustainability. However, few government agencies say they have used the Government's action plan for the 2030 Agenda in this work.

In many cases, the Agenda has provided the public actors with a common frame of reference and a way to jointly talk about sustainability.

Representatives of government agencies and local authorities say that the Agenda has allowed them to collaborate with private and non-profit actors. At the same time, our surveys show that the majority of the collaborations entered by government agencies and local authorities regarding the 2030 Agenda only involve actors within the public sector. So to some extent, the Agenda has contributed, as intended in the Government's action plan for the 2030 Agenda, to reinforcing the conditions for cooperation and partnerships.

Most cooperation in relation to the 2030 Agenda has been intended to ensure that the cooperating actors learn about the Agenda together using different types of information initiatives, knowledge-building activities and the exchange of experiences. We see that government agencies and local authorities have needed this, but that many of them are still looking for concrete support in how to work with the Agenda. We have also seen a few examples of cooperation filling other functions, such as working more operatively and concretely together towards the goals of the Agenda.

The county administrative boards are contributing to nationwide implementation

The county administrative boards have had a special role in implementing the 2030 Agenda through various commissions in their appropriation directions. In the 2018 appropriation directions, they were tasked with promoting the attainment of the 2030 Agenda goals and disseminating information about the Agenda at the regional and local level.

We assess the work of the county administrative boards with the Agenda to primarily relate, thus far, to internal activities aimed at raising employee awareness of the Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. The county administrative boards have carried out a great number of activities of this type. Many representatives describe the efforts relating to the Agenda as still being in the initial stage. Externally, the county administrative boards have been working with different information initiatives to visualise the Agenda, as well as initiatives within the scope of already established cooperation structures. However, one third of the county administrative boards state that they have not carried out any external information initiatives in regard to the Agenda. This may be due to the commission in this regard only being applicable in 2018, and not all county administrative boards have thus had the time to implement it.

We can see indications of different county administrative boards prioritising the 2030 Agenda to various degrees, and that they also have varying views on the extent to which the Agenda should impact on activities. Some make the interpretation that the Agenda should not entail raising the level of ambition in the tasks that the county administrative boards already have, but that the efforts are primarily intended to achieve more cross-sectorial initiatives. It still means that the Agenda is a challenge to the county administrative boards, since their activities are highly sectorised. Other representatives make the interpretation that the Agenda is to be used to change the county administrative boards' working methods. In their assessment, they will enter a more operational phase ahead, although they have not yet reached that stage.
The county administrative boards are looking for a more clearly defined commission in regard to their role in implementing the 2030 Agenda. We have also seen indications that the role division between county administrative boards and local authorities is unclear in certain parts and that the Government may need to define these roles more clearly.

It is not clear to the government agencies how PGU is to be used in the work with the 2030 Agenda

Our documentation indicates that it is difficult for the government agencies to take in and understand the Government's ambition for them to use the global development policy (PGU) as a tool to implement the 2030 Agenda. Only one fifth of the government agencies that use the Agenda in their sustainability efforts state in our survey that they use the PGU in their work with the 2030 Agenda. But we also make the assessment that these agencies are unsure of how the link between PGU and the 2030 Agenda is intended to work. At the same time, we have noted that the fundamental principles of the PGU regarding consensus are expressed in the agencies' practical work with the Agenda, even if the agencies have not put this into words or are aware of it.

The Government may need to develop its steering of the agencies

Thus far, the Government's steering of the agencies has predominately related to an overall commission to integrate the 2030 Agenda into their activities or to contribute to the nationwide implementation of the 2030 Agenda. For the agencies, it has been difficult to translate this into concrete activity. The steering has also led to variations in how the work is conducted at various agencies, as well as in the level of ambition they have had in terms of carrying out their government assignments. We are able to note that the Government's choice of wording in its steering of the agencies may have led to uncertainty with the agencies and contributed to delaying the Agenda. We therefore make the assessment that the Government needs to develop its steering of the agencies' work with the Agenda.

Our focus in the final report

We will present our final report on 30 June 2020 at the latest. At that point, we will present proposals for how government agencies and local authorities can develop their work to implement the 2030 Agenda. This relates, for example, to how government agencies and local authorities need to be able to translate the 2030 Agenda into concrete action. We will also propose how the Government and local authorities can lead and take a strategically holistic approach to the 2030 Agenda. We will also analyse how the division of responsibilities between the county administrative boards and the local authorities can be clarified in regard to the 2030 Agenda. In the final report, we will also explore the possibilities for the Government to clarify its expectations of the government agencies, to develop a more activity-based steering of the agencies and to clarify the link between the Agenda goals and other objectives.