Of the 64 countries that submitted a national voluntary review during the 2016 and 2017 sessions of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF), 23 mentioned ongoing measures to link the SDGs to the national budget, or that they had considered such action. How do these countries plan to integrate the SDGs into their budgetary processes and why do they plan to do this? Do they plan to track the resources allocated to the SDGs, or do they intend to use the SDG framework to better inform decisions about the allocation of resources? What challenges do they face in doing so? What are the primary objectives of the tools and methods developed? The objective of this study is to give insights into the different uses of the SDGs in budgeting processes and into the potential added value for SDG implementation.
IMPLEMENTING THE SDGs THROUGH BUDGETING PROCESSES
As the primary political and economic expression of government policy, the budget seems a natural starting point for the integration of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aim of this study is to examine why exactly this could be relevant and how it should be carried out, as this is rarely specified by the countries that announce their intention to integrate the SDGs into their budgetary processes. Based on nine case studies conducted through interviews, this study shows that all countries are eagerly looking for support to develop these tools and to participate in the exchange of good practice.
INTEGRATION OF SDGs INTO NATIONAL BUDGETING PROCESSES REMAINS IN ITS INFANCY
We have identified four ways in which countries integrate the SDGs into budgeting processes. Most countries we studied either map their budgets against the SDGs or include qualitative reporting in their main budget document, giving an overview on how the budget is linked to different SDGs. Less often, countries use the SDGs to improve their budget perfor- mance evaluation system or as a management tool for resource allocation and arbitration. These approaches are not mutually exclusive and there is scope for better interchange between the four ways of integration. Another step forward would be to link them to public policy evaluation so as to assess the antagonistic or synergistic effects of different programs to improve policy coherence. Courts of audit could play a key role in such evaluations.
PUTTING SDGs INTO POLITICS IS NOT ONLY ABOUT BUDGETING
Integrating the SDGs into budgeting processes faces similar challenges to attempts to incorporate new wealth indicators into the budgetary discus- sion: indicators can be used as tools for steering public action if they are used at all stages of public policymaking, both upstream to legitimize and institutionalize a phenomenon and to monitor its evolution, and downstream to evaluate the results of a policy strategy. Therefore, the SDGs and the objectives they support have to be recognized as a national priority on the political agenda. This requires parliamentarians, civil society, other political parties and ministries to actually use the SDGs to improve the budget debate. Only then can budgeting processes play a role in putting the SDGs into politics by providing a forum for debate between the different actors and interest groups.