To what extent is Russian strategic planning guided by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? Is it possible to set up public administration on the principles of sustainable development, given today’s conditions? What will it look like in practice? What historical and current experience should Russia draw on? And how can national development plans be aligned with the proposed UN 2030 Agenda? These issues were the focal point of discussions on the second day of the Gaidar Forum 2021 at the open dialogue “Sustainable Development in an Era of Volatility”.
The topic of sustainable development goals in Russia has become much more prominent in 2020, especially with the United Nations’ presentation of Russia’s first voluntary national SDG review. The 2030 Agenda gives all UN member states 17 goals and 169 targets for economic, social, environmental development. Over the past challenging year, a debate has evolved in the global community on whether the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda are relevant and achievable for the world in general and for each country in particular.
The discussion was attended by Anatoly Chubais, Special Representative of the Russian President for relations with international organizations for achieving sustainable development goals; Dmitry Zaitsev, Auditor of the Russian Audit Chamber; and Anton Tsvetov, Deputy Director of the Department of Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development.
Comparing the SDG strategy to the planned economy of the USSR, the panelists made it clear that the UN concept should be viewed through the prism of a market economy, and its principles should be taken as a starting point. “It’s quite clear that a country plan, if you like, a state plan, which is not contrary to the market economy and is developed in harmony with it, is a completely normal, natural phenomenon,” Anatoly Chubais said. “A country without a plan, without a purposeful vision is some kind of yesterday’s country, it’s already wrong. And I know that the Ministry of Economic Development and the government as a whole are preparing a big document called the Unified Plan to 2030, with clear indicators broken down by years and personal responsibilities for achieving them. We have returned to the global civilized community, where the market is the basis for country planning,” he added.
Dmitry Zaitsev, auditor of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, added that “the SDGs are not about a plan, a roadmap of sorts. The are about institutional goals. The UN 2030 Agenda is unlikely to be implemented without innovative changes in governance. And, frankly, these goals cannot be implemented without the efforts not only of the government, but also of business and the civil society and the people.”
Dmitry Zaitsev put a special emphasis on the fact that for many states, including Russia, the human-centric nature of the 2030 Agenda is very challenging. “The environmental problems are getting acute right now. And this message comes from the very bottom, from the people on the ground, and even we can say from the individuals who understand that economic growth or their personal comfort, being able to buy all the necessary products – these are this is not enough for their well-being, and they start to think in categories that are related to the environment, for example.”
“The whole concept of sustainable development is really centered around the human being,” Anatoly Chubais added. “You can’t measure everything in rubles, or in dollars for that sake. We have reached a stage where we have left behind the problem of mass hunger and poverty, so we can now look around and understand that there are challenges related to access to education, access to healthcare; the most urgent challenges today are related to clean water, the environment, the climate. They are not related to money, but they are absolutely crucial to the modern human.”
However, the main instrument for supporting this human-centric, sustainable approach to development is monetization, channeling the environmental and educational values down to rubles, discussion moderator Anton Tsvetov argued. “For example, putting an actual or direct price tag on carbon emissions. Or subsidizing loans to companies that comply with stringent environmental or social standards. The question is whether monetization of non-economic factors is the most effective way of ensuring equitable and sustainable development,” he believes.
Dmitry Zaitsev said that some countries are looking for new tools to assess companies and citizens based on the principles of sustainable development. “They are really trying to assess market economy actors not only in terms of market interactions, but also in terms of social and environmental factors. But you can’t get away from the equivalent. It’s not about the money, it’s about finding some kind of equivalent. Another issue is that this is a very complex new approach, and it is still debatable”, the auditor of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation explained.
Anatoly Chubais also commented on the presentation of the first Russian voluntary national SDG review at the UN platforms.
“The very fact that a voluntary country report exists is serious. Well done! The Ministry of Economic Development was at the focus of it, the Analytical Center of the Russian Government worked well, Rosstat provided good statistics. Everything looked solid. That’s for one thing. Secondly, the Accounts Chamber’s review of the report, as an auditor, is also the right thing to do. It is really an independent view. The Accounts Chamber went over the report and stated what it agreed and what it disagreed with, that added another dimension to the picture. Finally, the third dimension is the civil society. The civil society report is also included, and I also studied it thoroughly. To me, this is a very impactful document, a serious and weighted one. It may not have revealed all deeply specialized areas. But it still works like a 3D picture – a government report, the Accounts Chamber’s independent view, and the civil society report. I think when it all comes together, it turns out to be a civilized approach. And this is the first time that we as a country have come to the international arena, to the United Nations. This is a good start from which it is clear how to move forward,” Anatoly Chubais concluded.
The Gaidar Forum “Russia and the World After the Pandemic” will be held on January 14 and 15 at the Presidential Academy. The Forum will traditionally open the annual business agenda of Russia. In 2021, this large-scale event will be held in a hybrid format, both online and offline.
This time, the main discussion track will be social and economic transformations that have occurred in the country and the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The expert discussions will be focused on the national and global development goals and the search for practical solutions to the most urgent challenges of today. The Forum’s participants include ministers from the Russian Government, members of the Federal Assembly, governors of the Russian regions, largest world experts, representatives of foreign states.
The general partners of the Gaidar Forum are Gazprom PJSC and Gazprombank JSC.
The strategic partners are Russian Railways OJSC, Johnson&Johnson, ACIG Group, Novartis.
The partner of the forum is MasterCard, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF)
The discussion partners are Magnit, Pepsi, Huawei, Coca-Cola, AstraZeneca, Takeda, EY.
General media partners: TASS, Business FM, RIA Novosti, RBC. Strategic media partners: Interfax, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Kommersant Publishing House, RIA FederalPress, Invest-Foresight magazine. Main media partners: Anews, News.ru, lenta.ru. International media partners: Russia Today.
Media partners: PRO Business TV channel, AEI PRIME, Polit.ru, Strategy magazine, Public Administration magazine, Ekonomika i Zhizn newspaper, Econs portal, Finam, Bankovskoye Obozreniye magazine, Parlamentskaya Gazeta, Snob media project, Echo of Moscow radio station, Nauchno-Obrazovatelnaya Politika Telegram channel.