India has committed to the SDGs acknowledging that ‘India’s success in achieving SDGs will largely determine the global outcomes’ and mainstreamed Agenda 2030 into India’s development strategy and plans. Despite all its efforts, India cannot underestimate the enormous challenges it faces in achieving SDGs. The fulcrum of this challenge lies in securing the SDGs for the vulnerable and marginalized (the "leave no one behind") population groups. A large proportion of Indians living below the national and global poverty lines are subjected to discrimination and social exclusion; they face barriers and constraints in accessing entitlements and state provisions and do not have the means to access private provisions. They are challenged in enjoying their human rights, citizenship and justice.
There is some progress made because SDGs provide civil society with a framework to work on with the government. Although, achieving the SDGs in the way they were envisioned might be unrealistic due to the continued lack of focus on the LNOB principle. The government data monitoring progress on SDGs is not disaggregated enough to understand the challenges of a diverse population, and their policies so far don't account for the dedicated inclusion of the many marginalized groups. Civil society was included in the VNR 2020 process but important communities such as religious minorities and refugees were left out if the process and no real efforts have been made to work on the recommendations that came out of the process.
National planning, implementation and budget commitments
There are no specific budget allocations for SDGs. The goals and the targets within them have been adopted and aligned with existing government departments and initiatives but the priorities there too aren't moving in a desirable direction. The first national budget since the pandemic has seen a substantial reduction for schemes supporting scholarships, employment guarantees, etc. Additionally, there was no increase in the budgets for health and social protection despite the significant and lasting impacts the Covid-19 crisis has had in India.
Progress since last VNR
India presented its VNR in 2020 and while the government engaged with civil society to inform the LNOB section of their official report, they are yet to take the findings and the recommendations of that process into account in their policies. Any follow-up has also been impacted by the ongoing pandemic, but the communities in focus have borne a disproportionate burnt in terms of livelihood, education and health given their already vulnerable status vis-a-vis these factors so there is a need to review, revise and work upon the recommendations to actually live up to the Agenda 2030. Also, Religious Minorities and Refugees were excluded from the government report despite UN and civil society consultations about the same, and no efforts have been made to include them in the efforts towards achieving SDGs thus far.
Key communities who face being left behind
Scheduled Castes (Dalits), Scheduled Tribes and Religious Minorities are some groups that have been recognised by the government as marginalised and more likely to experience poverty, exclusion and violence in spheres of life, education and work. These groups also majorly comprise of the informal workforce making them further vulnerable. Along with this there are those made vulnerable due to their gender, sexual orientation, health conditions, age, and remote locations.
How have you engaged across communities?
For the VNR process, we organised 16 national and 36 sub-national consultations to holistically map the challenges faced by different vulnerable groups and come up with overarching and community-specific recommendations which were presented to the government. Apart from this we work extensively with communities to build their capacities to collect citizen-generated data and use it to engage with their local policymakers. We have also helped set up 5 Open SDG Clubs in different regions of India to help bring togther civil society and other stakeholders to understand key challenges and together work towards developing strategies to address them. The biggest challenge is to get government to recognise civil society work and data as legitimate basis to inform policy changes.
Overview of climate change
Climate change still remains to be addressed with enough capacity and desired eﬀort. Most of the present climate change eﬀorts being undertaken are by sub-national governments and are reactive in nature. However, they are cognizant of the fact that a proactive approach is required in the long run given the inherent uncertainty associated with climate change risks. At the national level, there are energy initiatives like National Clean Energy and Environment Fund, Green cess, Ujjwala Scheme for Clean Energy, National Electricity Policy but in practice, non-sustainable modes of agriculture, transport, clean production of electricity and such are still far-fetched goals.
Civil society priorities
Strengthening of Civil Society Organizations’ (CSOs) capacities to monitor SDGs, Long term engagement with communities for wider reach, Continued engagement with communities a must to meet SDG targets, strengthen data gathering and analysis processes to deliver better, steps for ensuring inclusion in all policies, schemes and programmes, record the progress through formal reporting at regular intervals.
- Increase awareness about SDGs within public, civil society, and government at all levels
- Recognise the importance of multi-stakeholder engagements at the local level and find ways to work together with civil society especially in the interest of marginalized communities
- Create guidelines for citizen-generated data so that civil society can help creating evidence on community needs and challenges to inform policy decisions
Civil society engagement
The Government of India officially engaged with civil society on Leave No One Behind Section for the 2020 Voluntary National Review. Nationally, Wada Na Todo organised to engage 1000+ civil society organisations in the consultations held for VNR 2020. Sub-nationally, organisations part of our coalition have been able to make headway to establish working relationships with the government at different levels and are to some extent recognised for the knowledge they can bring to better the governance structures. But civil society data or evidence collected is still largely dismissed.
There are materials created by the government and UN which are available online, but no efforts have been made to reach out to the public or even government workers at all levels to increase awareness about SDGs and their utility.
SDG materials are mainly translated by the UN system to local languages.