Manoj Suji, Nilima Rai, and Sambriddhi Kharel
By adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN member states pledged to address inequality, deprivation and sustainable development. The Agenda sets out 17 ambitious goals that define globally sustainable development priorities and aspirations for 2030 and seek to mobilize global efforts around a common set of goals and targets. It includes a stand-alone goal on gender equality (Goal 5) as well as a number of gender-related targets and indicators across the other 16 goals. Some feminist scholars also projected the 2030 Agenda as a triumph for gender equality, and as crosscutting tools for transformative inclusive development(Esquivel 2016; Fukuda-Parr 2016, Razavi 2016; UN Women 2018), but a big concern is whether or not the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contributes to moving national gender equality agendas forward. Since the 2030 Agenda is non-binding, its influence will be mediated by national politics and processes. Nepal, as a member of the UN, signed the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in September 2015, the same year Nepal faced a devastating earthquake, political upheavals and promulgated a new Constitution.
Based on an analysis of official documents, secondary literature and a qualitative approach of 52 in-depth key informant interviews (June-December 2018) with relevant stakeholders in Nepal from civil society (women’s rights based organization, gender equality advocates and members of SDG forum), private sector representatives, government entities and development partners, this paper presents findings on how different actors view, interpret and domesticate the Agenda; and how this shapes progress towards gender equality. The research was funded by UN women, New York and conducted under the cross-country comparative project “Translating the 2030 Agenda’s gender equality commitments in to national action”.
The findings provide heterogeneous perspectives. Although not explicitly framed under the language of Sustainable development Goals (SDG), the women’s movement has directly and indirectly fostered the gender equality agenda. Most of the stakeholders perceive the Agenda as a national agenda for inclusive development. Government entities strongly believe that the agenda has been owned by the Government as evident in incorporation of SDG goals and indicators in the national development plans and SDG budget coding, and efforts made by the government to be inclusive through consultations with civil societies, development partners and private sectors. Development partners, mostly UN entities, are confident that Nepal has adopted the agenda as a national goal within its limitations. Most of the CSOs, particularly working on women rights, cautiously interpret the 2030 Agenda as a progressive and continuing process in terms of moving gender equality agenda forward in Nepal, provided there is proper implementation. However, many CSOs felt excluded in consultation processes and believe that the Government has not been able to address issues of marginalized groups and intersecting inequalities. Most stakeholders are concerned about the biggest challenge– effective localization and implementation of SDGs, particularly in the new federal political structures.