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Helping parliamentarians budget to achieve the SDGs


Bangladesh ©UNHCR/Kamrul Hasan

The financial strains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic risk derailing progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

To help mitigate this risk, the IPU has published a new tool for parliamentarians: Guidelines for parliamentarians on budgeting for the SDGs. From cracking down on tax loopholes to using national statistics to track progress, parliamentarians have a range of options at their disposal to finance the SDGs.

The 2030 Agenda is a transformative plan designed to shape a better future. However, existing financial guidance and resources have largely focused on the actions required of governments and other actors, such as private-sector investors.

With these Guidelines, the IPU aims to help fill this gap by providing parliamentarians with a better understanding of issues related to budgeting, monitoring and policy choices for the SDGs. The publication provides information on key SDG budgeting challenges and identifies concrete actions parliamentarians can take to help achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda. It highlights three key approaches:

1: Maximize existing revenue streams towards the SDGs

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda, adopted at the Third UN International Conference on Financing for Development in 2015, explains how to bolster national and international revenue sources in order to finance the 2030 Agenda. Actions range from closing tax loopholes to finding new loan schemes to combating illicit financial flows. Other potential ways parliamentarians can boost revenue include:

• Supporting tax policies that incentivize women to join the formal workforce.

• Closing loopholes in tax treaties by reviewing existing legislation and supporting bills that fight tax avoidance and tax evasion.

• Advocating for tax policies that support sustainable development.

• Supporting efforts to end environmentally harmful subsidies.

• Requesting information from governments on national debt and debt sustainability.

• Ensuring that overseas development aid is recorded in national budget documents and reviewed.

• Strengthening anti-money-laundering laws.

• Requiring multinational companies to publicly disclose basic financial information.

2: Maximize budget expenditure towards the SDGs

This section focuses on making the most of limited public resources and exploring strategic policy approaches to help shape a world that is sustainable, inclusive and equitable for all – including for women and other underrepresented groups.

One way to ensure that long-term thinking is built into government strategy is to review the budget for coherence. Policy coherence involves considering the effects of policies beyond the current generation and national borders. Another way is to ensure that goals are incorporated into countries’ medium-term budgetary frameworks (MTBFs). MTBFs are a useful multiannual planning and budgeting tool and lend themselves well to incorporating strategic long-term objectives such as the SDGs.

To ensure a government knows what its citizens value the most and how best to achieve the goals to which it is committing, public debate on potential trade-offs is essential. Such discussions can also lead to the identification of synergies among the available policy options. Other parliamentary actions can include:

• Conducting a gap analysis on the budget for the SDGs.

• Developing partnerships with external institutions and home constituencies to source the necessary data.

• Collecting disaggregated data from constituents and feeding this into decisions related to the national budget to support equitable implementation of the SDGs.

• Ensuring national statistical offices are well resourced so they can provide the data needed to inform policy choices early in the budget process and help track progress on the SDGs nationally.

3: Monitor the SDGs throughout the budget process

Transparency and accountability are critical to parliaments’ credibility. However, according to the Open Budget Survey 2019, some 75 per cent of the 117 countries surveyed had insufficient levels of budget transparency.

In this environment, parliamentary oversight of the national budget is key to holding the government to account and ensuring that its policies and plans reflect citizens’ preferences. Using the SDGs as a monitoring tool can be a key way to map and track budgetary contributions. Parliamentarians can do this by:

• Reviewing access to information laws, scrutinizing regular spending and performance reports from the government, and participating in government spending reviews.

• Ensuring that parliament votes on national development strategies and participates in national and sectoral coordination dialogues on the SDGs.

• Guiding the government in translating the SDGs into national development strategies.

• Monitoring budgetary progress against the SDGs and targets.

• Requesting that budget proposal narratives include progress on the SDGs.

• Incorporating the SDG framework into existing committee oversight portfolios.

• Using SDG indicators to demonstrate national progress and inform the budget debate.

Parliamentarians’ responsibility

Ensuring that the SDGs are incorporated into strategic national development budgets is one of the most critical roles parliamentarians can play in helping to make sustainable development a reality. The IPU Guidelines aim to help parliamentarians create a sustainable, equitable future for all citizens.