Side event of the Coalition for Sustainable Development of Russia took place at the 2021 Regional Forum on Sustainable Development

On 11 March 2021, a side event titled “Follow-up process after first Voluntary National Reviews in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” was held as part of the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE region. The event was organised by the Coalition for Sustainable Development of Russia, the International Youth Alliance (Bulgaria), the Feminist League (Kazakhstan), the Women’s NGO Forum (Kyrgyzstan), and the Platform for Gender Equality (Moldova). 

This virtual meeting gathered civil society and government representatives to share experiences on the preparation of voluntary national reviews (VNRs), describe the current situation and highlight the main challenges concerning Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation. 

Watch the recorded meeting here (in Russian): 

The event was attended by the Deputy Director of the Department of Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Anton Tsvetov. He observed that the preparation and presentation of VNR have leveraged political and public debates on sustainable development issues in Russia. “If we compare the situation of 2019 when our work was just gathering pace with the current situation, we will see that the visibility of sustainable development, the recognition of its relevance and importance have increased significantly”, he stated.  

In his speech, Anton Tsvetov noted that the Analytical Centre for the Government of the Russian Federation, the agency that was responsible for the organisation of VNR preparation, tried to engage in the process not only government and business representatives but also civil society. “Of course, it is not always possible to include all those who wish to participate in the discussion. There is always room for improvement”, he added. 

To follow up on VNR, the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation will continue its work on integrating SDGs into the public administration system. “Last year our government adopted a set of new national goals, and a unified plan to achieve these goals is being developed. The Ministry will be working to compare this plan with SDGs to see what is matching and what is lacking”, Anton Tsvetov said. He also mentioned that the Ministry assigns a key role in SDGs integration processes to the business sector. The establishment of the Sustainable Development Expert Council under the Ministry of Economic Development is one of the first steps towards cooperation with business representatives on sustainable development. 

The coordinator of the Coalition for Sustainable Development of Russia Nelya Rakhimova addressed the meeting on behalf of the Russian civil society. She acknowledged the achievements made by civil society in the field of sustainable development, highlighting the creation of the Coalition and publication of the alternative, civil society review of SDGs implementation in Russia. She noted, however, that engagement of civil society in activities related to sustainable development at the national level remains very limited. “We would like to see the creation of a platform for multi-stakeholder cooperation on SDGs implementation, with civil society as an equal partner in the process. We have enough expertise”, Nelya Rakhimova argued. 

Nelya Rakhimova also pointed to several challenges preventing civil society from more active and effective participation in SDGs implementation processes in Russia, among which are the recent amendments to the legislation concerning NGOs and education, as well as efforts to limit the participation of civil society in the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. “These are some serious issues, we need to change this approach”, she stressed. 

At the end of the meeting, civil society representatives provided recommendations on possible ways to advance SDGs implementation in the UNECE region. The final recommendations will be submitted for further consideration by the governments.