Facing a demanding challenge
Growing environmental, economic and social challenges put sustainable development at the core of the global agenda and induced the international community to act in order to strengthen and share worldwide sustainable development commitments.
The last decade-long economic crisis has provided evidence for the growth of inequalities in Italy as well. A number of factors underlie this long-term process. Many of them are directly linked to the creation of “new winners and losers” as well as to the lack of appropriate responses to several critical issues: globalization, trade and financial integration, technological transformation, labour market, demographic trends, migration.
Towards a new development path
Identifying and sharing policy solutions capable of reviving and balancing growth and making it sustainable is thus essential. Spreading the benefits of an increased prosperity requires in turn a multidimensional and country-specific approach, since there is no preordained and universal formula. A set of coherent and effective policies is needed, going beyond an income-oriented approach, addressing other key dimensions of welfare and targeted socio-economic groups (in particular middle-class, low-income families). Inequality can only be effectively fought by adopting an integrated vision and restoring a sustainable, balanced and inclusive development. To this end, all available instruments must be used, including budgetary policies and structural reforms.
More widely, the same approach continues to be followed – in line with the SDG’s domestic implementation policy agenda - for the management of our external relations and in the Italian participation to all major United Nations and international fora starting from our responsibility for 2017 of UN Security Council member. Italy, being fully aware of the global dimension of this challenge, has been actively promoting Agenda 2030 and its SDGs also in the context of its current G7 Presidency.
Shaping and sharing a policy framework for sustainable development
The definition of a strategic framework is crucial to lay the foundations for a sustainable future and adjust the undertaken national reform route in a long term perspective. To this aim, Italy is actually engaged in integrating the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals to the economic, social and environmental programming, through drafting the “National Sustainable Development Strategy 2017/2030” (NSDS).
Following the 2030 Agenda, the Strategy shapes a new vision towards a circular, low-emission economy, resilient to climate impacts and to other global changes endangering local communities, prioritising the fight against biodiversity loss, alteration of the fundamental biogeochemical cycles (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus) and land-use change.
At the same time, together with the European Union and its Member States we are working to define a common framework for addressing and reflecting the challenges of the 2030 Agenda. Once defined, the EU framework for SDGs will provide a main reference for Member States in setting their final strategic objectives.
The external dimension: contributing to SDGs implementation all over the world
The NSDS recognises that global challenges can be solved only through a joint effort of the international community and that Italy has to help partner countries to reach the same Goals that have to be reached domestically.
The Three-year Strategic and Planning Document of the Italian Development Cooperation (which was reformed just before the adoption of the 2030 Agenda) related to the 2016-2018 period already adopts both content and structure of the Agenda. Macro-areas for action - that are reflected in the Partnership Section of the NSDS - have been re-arranged to take into account the integrated nature and the structure of the 17 SDGs and include new sectors for action – such as data for development and domestic resources mobilisation – together with those of more traditional engagement.
The Three-year Document served as a basis also for the active commitment of Italy in the elaboration of the new EU Consensus on Development. Consistently with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Government proposed and the Parliament approved a substantial increase of Italian Official Development Assistance funds for the year 2016. The increase has been doubled in 2017 and will be tripled in 2018 in order to allow Italy to contribute to the implementation of the “external dimension” of the Agenda.
Feeding a multilevel process
Following the spirit of the 2030 Agenda, civil society engagement and consultations with public and private institutions have been at the core of the NSDS process, from the context analysis drawing the distance in the SDGs achievement (“Positioning”) to the identification of main strengths and weaknesses to be addressed, leading to the definition of widely shared national objectives.
More than 200 NGOs have been involved providing a valuable contribution to the context analysis and useful inputs to reflect the vision of the 2030 Agenda into the NSDS. Public national administrations cooperated throughout the process in order to set shared National Strategic Choices and Objectives, as well as to identify viable and existing means of implementation. Universities and research agencies were also hugely involved to verify and consolidate the technical-scientific basis and contents of the context analysis. Regional authorities also had an active role in collecting territorial issues and priorities.
Stakeholders involved in the NSDS definition process are directly engaged in carrying out initiatives linked to SDGs and NSDS implementation. Among the others, the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development (ASviS), which gathers over 150 organizations in the economic and social field, launched in May 2017 the first Sustainable Development Festival, a large-scale awareness raising campaign to foster cultural-political reflections on the issue across the country. Asvis, in partnership with the Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, is working to turn it into a yearly event and a point of reference for all SDGs-linked initiatives.
Multilevel participation will also inform the NSDS implementation process, through the NSDS forum, where stakeholders and experts will contribute to monitoring and assessment activities. Contributions from the Third Sector will be ensured, also thanks to a recently renewed regulatory framework.
The 5Ps to deliver integrated strategic choices
The NSDS is organized in five core areas: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. The former four areas mainly cover the domestic dimension; the latter covers principles and purposes of international cooperation, as integrating and qualifying part of Italian foreign policy, draft by law 125/2014.
Each area identifies a system of priorities (National Strategic Choices), delivering strategic goals. The goals are strongly integrated, as they embody and synthesize the most relevant issues emerged from the consultation process.
The implementation of the NSDS is tightly interlinked with the existing national programming documents, namely the National Reform Programme and the Economic and Financial Document, as well as with the existing and binding objectives set by the European Semester (i.e. EU2020 targets) which have to be fulfilled and are accounted for.
In the next five years, Italy will focus on bringing the country back to at least the pre-crisis socio-economic prosperity conditions. The strategic topics to be addressed by the Government and envisaged within the framework of the NSDS are the following: decreasing poverty, inequality, discrimination, unemployment (particularly among youth and women), ensuring an environmentally sustainable economic development, increasing the opportunities for training, education and social progress, restoring the competitiveness of Italian companies through a “fourth industrial revolution” based on innovative and sustainable technologies.
Implementing, monitoring and assessing NSDS results
The NSDS is endorsed by the Italian Council of Ministers. A future Plan of Action will be developed by the end of the year and will include numerical and quantitative targets at 2030, as well as monitoring and review mechanisms and analytical models capable of measuring the impacts of policies on the NSDS objectives. The NSDS will undergo an annual review and monitoring process.
The Prime Minister will take the lead in coordinating and managing the Strategy, with the support of the Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, respectively for the internal and external dimension. The Ministry of Finance will be tasked to create strong synergies between the NSDS implementation and the formal economic policies and to coordinate models required to define such objectives. Given the importance of declining the SDGs on a local scale and provided that some of the areas of competence and responsibilities rely not only on the central administration, the Government, through the State and Regions Conference and in accordance with Art.34, of the Legislative Decree n.152 (April 3rd 2006), will enhance local and regional authorities to be active and take part to the implementation process.
The Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea will ensure the participation of civil society and relevant stakeholders by creating a Forum on the Strategy for Sustainable Development building on the positive experience of the NSDS consultation process and ensuring continuity by setting up similar multi-level consultation processes.
A huge effort is also being made by the Italian statistics system, together with the European, in order to guarantee at the earliest the availability of data and indicators gearing the Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs). To this aim, the National Statistical System is progressively releasing sets of indicators widely based on the BES project, launched in 2011 to measure equitable and sustainable well-being (BES) besides economic conditions. It considers economic parameters alone as inadequate to evaluate the progress of societies and views them to be complemented by social and environmental information as well as by measures of inequality and sustainability. For the first time, in 2017 4 BES indicators have been introduced within the Economy and Financial Document, following national legislation promoting the integration of BES within economic programming (L.163/2016).