National Voluntary Review to the HLPF: Portugal

Monday, June 26, 2017
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The new United Nations 2030 Agenda is an action plan focused on people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships (5Ps). Its ultimate goal is poverty eradication and sustainable development. All States and other interested stakeholders assume their responsibilities in relation to its achievement. It should be underlined that no one should be left behind.

A transforming sustainable development Agenda

The Summit of Heads of State and Government on the Post-2015 Development Agenda culminated in the adoption, by the United Nations General Assembly of the Resolution A/RES/70/1 entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, on September 25th 2015. As a universal agenda, based on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets to be implemented by all countries, the 2030 Agenda calls for the integration of the SDGs into the policies, procedures and actions developed at the national, regional and global levels.

According to former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, “the 17 SDGs are our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world’s leaders and the people”. António Guterres, in turn, has identified the support to sustainable development, along with working for peace and internally reforming the Organization, as one of the 3 priorities for his mandate as UN leader.

In fact, it should be noted that this is an Agenda with a universal dimension, to be implemented by all Parties, and not just the developing countries, in contrast with the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have therefore changed the way we approach development by i) integrating the 3 dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental); ii) being based on universal goals and targets to be implemented by all countries (and not only by developing countries); iii) having a much greater potential for tackling inequality and promoting human rights as a cross-cutting concern across all SDGs; and iv) involving new dynamic concerted efforts from a wide range of actors, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private corporate sector, academia, social partners and other members of civil society, including the co-operation between parliament, government, regional and local authorities. This is a challenge which concerns us all.

Portugal’s negotiating position in the process of adopting the 2030 Agenda

Portugal played an active role in drafting the document adopted at the Summit, including in the establishment of the common position to be taken by the European Union (EU), particularly in: i) recognizing the need to give more attention to issues pertaining to peace, security and good governance, with an emphasis on the situation of fragile States; ii) promoting and advocating the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, an issue of critical importance to Portugal; and iii) integrating a strong human rights dimension that tackles inequalities, while paying particular attention to the gender equality issues.

Portugal also argues that this Agenda needs to be based on genuine shared responsibilities between public and private actors, as well as between developed and developing countries, in addition to the traditional North-South approach.

Concerning the debate on the adaptation of the United Nations system to the challenges of the 2030 Agenda, Portugal has been arguing for an adjustment that would enable it to follow up on the degree of political commitment made, while highlighting the need to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of a UN system based on structured co-operation and complementarity between the different actors at the global, regional and national levels, that exploits synergies and interdependencies between their competences and strategies, avoids duplication and seeks to maximize capabilities and impact.

Implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the global level

Turning this vision into reality is primarily the responsibility of national governments, but the challenges also require new partnerships and a greater expression of international solidarity. All have a role to play so that no one is left behind.

Each country, including governments, civil society, companies and representatives of different stakeholders, will have to regularly assess the progress made. A set of about 230 global indicators will be used. Its results will be compiled in a comprehensive annual report, “The Sustainable Development Goals Report”. The report will highlight where the world stands regarding the implementation of these global goals, using statistical data and underlining the main gaps and the most pressing challenges facing the world.

The first report, published last year, shows that about 1 in every 8 persons in the world still lives in extreme poverty, some 800 million people are suffering from hunger, the birth of nearly one quarter of the children under the age of 5 years is still unregistered, women spend about 2.4 times more time per day on caregiving and household tasks than men, 1.1 billion people live without electricity and water scarcity now affects more than 2 billion people in the world.

These statistical data highlight the importance of a global coordination of the international cooperation efforts, but the goals, in fact, apply to all societies. As the former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, said, “the more developed societies still need to promote gender equality and eliminate discrimination”.

The approach at EU level

At the European regional level, the European Union seeks to set out a new approach to ensure growth and sustainability in its three dimensions (economic, social and environmental) beyond 2020. This process, which is associated with the review of the Europe 2020 strategy for a future time horizon, must reflect the internal and external achievement of the two major international milestones of 2015 in Sustainable Development: the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

In this respect it should be noted that sustainability in Europe extends far beyond its internal dimension. On the other hand, global challenges such as extreme poverty and inequality, conflicts, migration, terrorism, climate change, pandemics have, in the end, a direct impact on Europe, which is why sustainability in the region cannot be examined separately from its external dimension. The commitment to sustainable development across borders shall be matched with efforts to ensure the internal sustainability of the European Union. It is therefore crucial that the different actors incorporate and align their strategies, programmes and initiatives to the SDGs.

In that sense, the European Commission has published, on November 22nd 2016, a Communication on the “Next steps for a sustainable European future” that sets out how the 2030 Agenda is to be implemented within the EU. That document confirms that sustainable development has for long been at the heart of the European project. The EU Treaties recognize the economic, social and environmental dimensions, which should be addressed together, reflecting a commitment to development that answers to today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.

The EU response to the internal implementation of the 2030 Agenda includes two work streams:

  • The first one, presented in the said Communication, is to fully integrate the SDGs in the European policy framework and the Juncker Commission's ten priorities for its current term, identifying the most relevant sustainability concerns, but also assessing European policies and the efforts to achieve the 17 Goals;
  • A second one will launch reflection work on further developing a long-term European vision and the focus of sector-based policies after 2020 which enable the long-term implementation of the SDGs. The new Multiannual Financial Framework beyond 2020 shall also reorient the EU budget's contributions towards that same end.

In addition, several EU financing instruments complement the European policies and initiatives and contribute horizontally to the SDGs. Particular emphasis is given to the cohesion policy – through the European Structural and Investment Funds – as it is the EU’s main investment policy, with a view to achieving economic, social and territorial development by reducing disparities between the various regions. Simultaneously, regarding the external implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the Commission also presented on 22 November 2016 a Communication on the revision of the European Consensus on Development (2005) with a view to adapting the EU development policy to the new international development architecture. The revised European Consensus will be adopted in 2017 and is organized around the 5Ps of the Agenda 2030. It will have a decisive impact on the elaboration of development instruments and programmes of the EU and the Member States, fostering their alignment with the SDGs and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

On the other hand, the EU's impact outside its borders is not limited to its external action agenda. Many of the EU's policies contribute to the implementation of the SDGs worldwide. Therefore, achieving coherence across all EU policies is crucial for achieving the SDGs.

Other ongoing multilateral processes

Moreover, Portugal has been strongly involved in the efforts undertaken by other international bodies to align their respective policies and instruments to the SDGs, in particular: i) the newly created contact network of the Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa (CPLP) [Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries] aimed at achieving the SDGs and, in so doing, promotes experience sharing and partnerships for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda; ii) the adoption of an Action Plan of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the SDGs with a view to mainstream the SDGs across the organization’s work; and iii) the process of modernizing the OECD Development Assistance Committee and the financing tools and the statistical reporting system, in the light of the SDGs.

Institutional model applied in Portugal: coordination and participation

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for coordinating the national position for the drafting of the 2030 Agenda. However, its implementation at the national level brings new challenges which require some reshaping of institutional models to reflect and meet the inherent cross sector coordination requirements.

In this process, it’s also relevant to create mechanisms that provide the necessary coordination between the various institutional stakeholders, with a view to present the progress reports in a number of different fora in which the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is discussed.

Accordingly, the Council of Ministers has adopted the first intra-governmental guidelines for the 2030 Agenda on February 25th2016. Taking into account the need for close alignment between the two axels of the Agenda – internal and external –, as well as the mandatory component of a structured dialogue with the United Nations bodies, within which the political management of the implementation will be carried out, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took on a general coordination role, together with the Ministry of Planning and Infrastructures.

Pursuant to those guidelines, this role is played at an institutional level through the commissions responsible for the inter-ministerial coordination of foreign policy (acts as a coordination forum in charge of overseeing the domestic implementation by several ministries and preparing the reports that will inform the monitoring processes at different levels) and the inter-ministerial coordination for cooperation policy (responsible for coordinating the incorporation of the SDGs into Development Co-operation, the external dimension of the Agenda).

Operationally speaking, a network of focal points from different government departments has been established. This mechanism enables, in a consistent and integrated manner, public authorities to better coordinate and exchange information between them, thus contributing to regular updates and monitoring of the progress the country will have to make during this 15-year-period.

Thereafter, each of the SDGs was allocated to a coordinating Ministry responsible for its implementation, monitoring and review. However, within a complementarity framework, it is important to promote the constant dialogue with other ministries and stakeholders, in a spirit of cooperation, with a view to implement this Agenda in an integrated and inclusive manner.

In this context, the country’s baseline analysis on the implementation of the Agenda began with the collection of data and information in relation to the 17 SDGs, and, as a result, we have obtained a mapping of national policies contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. In this exercise, the crucial role of the National Statistical Institute and the Agency for Development and Cohesion should be underlined. Indeed, in view of the challenges facing the country, the availability of (quantitative and qualitative, online at www.ine.pt1) data is essential for the planning, monitoring and evaluation of economic and social programmes and policies with an impact on development.

It should also be noted that the local authorities played a significant role in implementing the 2030 Agenda within their territory. They did it through a set of initiatives that, while respectful of their respective autonomies, undoubtedly contributed to the implementation at the national level, as a result of proximity and concrete action

At the same time, a public consultation on the 2030 Agenda implementation at the national and local levels took place in 2016. This process was led by a group of non-governmental organizations of the Portuguese civil society2, and counted on the support of the Camões – Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua, I.P. [Camões – Institute for Cooperation and Language] and the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC), with a view to collecting input on the operationalization, evaluation and monitoring of the Agenda, namely for the purpose of preparing periodic sectorial “shadow reports”. Between April and July 2016, eight workshops took place, in different parts of the country, with a significant geographical scope, with participants representing more than 130 organizations. This process also included an online enquiry in an attempt to reach a wider audience and providing an opportunity for every citizen to share their views on this issue, individually or on behalf of an organization. The main recommendations drawn from the civil society consultation process were presented during a seminar that took place in the Parliament on April 19th 2017 with a view to contributing to the planning and implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Portugal. In addition, being aware of the holistic and inclusive nature of this exercise, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also organized, on March 29th 2017,a multi-stakeholder seminar that brought together civil society representatives. The purpose of this event was to present the inter-ministerial work, inform about the methodology used for drafting the present report as well as on the next steps be taken in preparation for the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, and hear the participating organizations’ views on how the Agenda 2030 has been integrated into their activities.

Finally, the UN Global Compact Network Portugal coordinates the multi-stakeholder platform “Alliance SDGs Portugal” whose purpose is to raise awareness, inform, implement, monitor and evaluate the contribution of the private sector and other civil society partners to the SDGs at national level. Its purpose includes building bridges for dialogue and cooperation, as advocated by the SDG17, and creating a sustainable basis for the development of partnerships, projects, programmes and actions within the framework of the 2030 Agenda.

The encouragement of partnerships is thus both necessary and a priority, to be continuously updated within the scope of the Agenda 2030 implementation.

National priorities

The main level of the 2030 Agenda implementation being undoubtedly national, each country has to establish how the SDGs should be implemented. Given that there are 17 SDG and 169 targets, there is the natural tendency for each State to establish their own strategic priorities. Viewed from this perspective, a reflection on the country’s priorities, as a strategy closely associated with the cross-cutting evaluation of the state of play of the SDG implementation, forms part of the national ambition.

While respectful of the national priorities and strategic guidelines, the 2030 Agenda implementation is carried out in i) a full and comprehensive manner, taking into account the national effort to achieve all SDGs; ii) an integrated manner that keeps a global view of sustainable development promotion and avoids considering policies in separate silos; and iii) a focused manner, by clearly identifying the priority SDGs in the light of the country’s development strategy, embodied in particular in the National Reform Programme. The incorporation of the 2030 Agenda into national strategies, plans and policies is organized around the thematic areas identified as 5Ps:

  • People – reflects the determination to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment;
  • Prosperity – ensures that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature;
  • Planet – strengthens the conviction that the planet needs to be protected from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations;
  • Peace – emphasizes the determination to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence, while recalling that there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development;
  • Partnership – mobilizes the means required to implement the 2030 Agenda through a revitalized Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people, leaving no one behind.

In light of the foregoing, Portugal embodies its strategic priorities for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the SDG 4, 5, 9, 10, 13 and 14. In relation to this aspect, as set out in the National Reform Programme, Portugal attaches great importance to education, training and skills throughout life. In so doing, Portugal seeks to reverse historical lags and exclusions having a direct impact on people’s well-being, on economic performance, on the fight against poverty, the promotion of equality and social cohesion, citizenship and environment. This objective is, therefore, regarded as a priority area and cross-cutting issue for other Sustainable Development Goals, the SDG4 – Quality Education.

One of the State’s fundamental tasks is to promote equality between women and men. Non-discrimination on grounds of gender identity or sexual orientation is a fundamental principle of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic and a structural element of the democratic rule of law. There is a clear obligation on any government to pursue active gender equality policies, – a duty built on an obligation that applies to society in general. The gender equality dimension should therefore be taken into account whenever any public policy is devised and carried out. Equality between women and men is in itself an imperative and a social objective; it is essential to fully experience citizenship and as such is a prerequisite for building a more modern, fair and equitable society, as well as for achieving truly sustainable development that fully respects human dignity.


Thus, when prioritizing the SDGs at the national level, it was concluded that the SDG5 – Gender Equality – is particularly important.

On the other hand, economic growth, social development and climate change adaptation and mitigation are interlinked with investment in adequate infrastructure, in a modern, enterprising and sustainable industry, technological progress and economy digitalization. Portugal is committed to addressing these challenges by presenting, to this end, strategies and programmes aimed at supporting and developing the infrastructure, industry and innovation sectors, as well as at mobilizing public and private resources for that purpose. In its programme, the current Government has announced its intention to create the dynamics for balanced economic growth and social cohesion which mutually reinforce one another, ensuring the consolidation in the public finances; and adopted its medium term strategy for the development of the Portuguese economy in the National Reform Programme. It is therefore a priority to achieve SDG9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

Within a prosperity framework, the principle of economic, social and territorial cohesion, widely recognized as the new paradigm of territorial development, attempts to tackle social and economic inequalities, as well as regional disparities, while being firmly based on the development of strategies to promote social justice as a normative principle associated with equity or equal opportunities. The Government’s priorities for 2016-2017 include: combat poverty and social exclusion by implementing measures especially aimed at the most vulnerable groups; reduce inequalities by further increasing the disposable household income and promoting access to essential goods and public services for all citizens. This aspect will be reinforced in the combat against poverty and protect human dignity. The structural intervention intended for these areas shall therefore be underpinned by sustainable and multi-faceted criteria. It will cover areas as diverse as health, education, a more fair and inclusive labour market, income recovery and a more balanced distribution of income, through wage policy, social protection, and fiscal policy adjusted to the changes in society and guaranteeing minimum social standards to the most vulnerable people. In this context priority is given to SDG10 – Reducing inequalities.

As mentioned above, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out clear economic, environmental and social objectives, including concrete targets to combat climate change. We have just recently reached two important agreements: (1) a comprehensive market-based mechanism for measuring aviation CO2 emissions within the framework of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),; and (2) the amendment to the Montreal Protocol to reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), one of the most powerful greenhouse gases (GHG). The challenge facing us in 2017 and in the coming years include ensuring that States, the private sector and civil society uphold the implementation of agreed commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase the share of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency and increase the interconnection capacity, thereby gradually increasing the level of ambition set out in the Paris Agreement. Such commitments may be reviewed in 2018. In this context, the responses to climate change (adaptation and mitigation) should be framed and integrated so as to promote the proper planning and development of a resilient, competitive and low-carbon economy. In this situation, the relevance of the SDG13 – Climate Action – should be noted.

Finally, in a geopolitical context, Portugal is the largest coastal EU Member State, and as such, plays a central role in the Atlantic basin. Its maritime areas cover about 4 million km² of continuous coastline, and as such, establish the breadth of an inter-territorial sea that brings both an archipelagic and Atlantic dimensions to the country. Consequently, Portugal plays a relevant role in ocean sustainability and governance. Considering the importance of the Sea from the point of view of its history, geography and identity, Portugal has been supporting the UN efforts to promote a global mobilization for the protection of the oceans and the sustainable exploitation of their resources. As seldom before, 2017 will be a particularly intense, rich and demanding year regarding the thematic area of Oceans within the UN framework, calling the United Nations member States to make additional efforts towards political and diplomatic mobilization and involvement in several ongoing negotiations, in order to meet the challenges ahead. This framework supports the prioritization of a last, but not least important SDG, SDG14 – Protecting Marine Life.

National ambition to achieve sustainable development

Regarding the national commitment to sustainable development, enshrined in the Constitution, Portugal volunteers to present the national efforts to review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the 5th High-level Political Forum in the year whose focus theme is poverty eradication and promoting prosperity in a changing world. The SDGs under review at the global level this year are the SDGs 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14 and 17. The fact that 3 of the national priorities that have been identified are to be review this year should also be underlined. This report sets out the national voluntary review of the Agenda 2030 implementation process, as a result of inter-ministerial coordination and public consultation efforts. It reflects the national perspective on each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, identifies priorities and challenges, policies and initiatives contributing towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, and shares good practices and national measures with the world. Much more than just a reporting exercise, this report testifies Portugal’s strong commitment to sustainable development, human rights and multilateralism embodied in the Agenda 2030.

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National Voluntary Review to the HLPF: Portugal