This section provides an overview of the architecture of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Armenia. This includes institutional arrangements for coordination, mechanisms for stakeholder engagement and operational details.
The Government of Armenia (GoA) had in place various mechanisms (an interagency task force and thematic working groups) for coordinating action on the SDGs. Since the revolution in May 2018, however, these have been dormant and a clear signal as to their revitalization is yet to be given. Nonetheless, many ministries continue to work on integrating the SDGs. The institutional knowledge from the previous integration efforts also remains, including with staff in the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM)’s office. With the previous architecture on pause, there are few mechanisms available for intersectoral and vertical coordination. The GoA also does not yet have a mechanism for or practice with outsourcing research needs to think tanks or research institutes for the SDGs. The GoA does have an SDG Innovation Lab, hosted jointly with the United Nations (UN), which has great potential for supporting SDG acceleration.
On the side of the private sector, there seems to be wide scope for strengthening engagement, building on some of the good practices in place in Armenia. ImpactAim, for example, is a groundbreaking initiative which could be further utilized to widen private sector engagement for the SDGs. The participants in this initiative already speak the language that can bridge the private sector and the development community. The two main sources of innovative financing for delivering the SDGs in Armenia are the tech industry and venture capital linked to it, as well as the country’s large and wealthy diaspora who are eager to invest in the country. Awareness of the SDGs from both the private sector and civil society is still low and the mechanisms for engagement with civil society and other stakeholders, including subnational and local government entities, is uneven.
A constitutional referendum was held in Armenia in December 2015, which radically changed the country’s political system, shifting from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary republic. The new changes came into force in April 2018, resulting in a series of anti-government protests in response to the former president Mr Serzh Sargsyan's claim to the Prime Minister post. Staged by various political and civil groups, these peaceful demonstrations, which later resulted in a snap election on 9 December 2018 where Mr Nikol Pashinyan was elected Prime Minister, are known as the 2018 Armenian “Velvet Revolution”.
Prior to the revolution, the Government of Armenia has actively worked on creating the institutional architecture for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2015, the government repurposed the National Council on Sustainable Development (NCSD), originally set up in 2002, to be the custodian of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) and the lead entity in the process of taking forward the SDGs. The council was chaired by the Prime Minister and an Inter-Agency Task Force for SDG nationalization, under which four working groups were established in 2017. The groups were comprised of stakeholders from government institutions, civil society and international partners and were organized under four thematic topics: 1) Social (covering SDGs 1, 2, 3, and 17); 2) Economic (covering SDGs 7, 8, 9, 12 and 17); 3) Environmental (covering SDGs 6, 11, 13, 14, 15 and 17); and 4) Law and Democratic Society (covering SDGs 4, 5, 10, 16 and 17).
The operationalization of the NCSD, including the Inter-Agency Task Force and the four working groups, were suspended following the revolution in May 2018. Currently, the GoA is in the process of developing and establishing new national coordination mechanisms for the nationalization and localization of the SDGs. This process is expected to be completed in 2019. In addition, mechanisms and capacities for cross-sectoral coordination will need to be further strengthened, as well as mechanisms for vertical integration with subnational and local authorities. Coordination between the two DPM’s offices in the integration of the SDGs will also be of importance.
In view of the complexity and interconnectedness of the SDGs, the GoA, in collaboration with UN, launched the world’s first SDG Innovation Lab in November 2017. Implemented by UNDP, this Lab serves as a platform for research, piloting and experimentation. The Lab operates as a multi-stakeholder platform where various actors come together to develop new policies based on data analytics and behavioural insights. The hope is that this will support Armenia to “leapfrog” rather than “catch up” in the achievement of the SDGs.
A number of national documents related to the SDGs have been developed in Armenia since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in 2015. Key documents include:
At the moment, there is no formal mechanism for the engagement of stakeholders in the integration of the SDGs, pending the revitalization of the Steering Committee and Interagency Task Force or the set-up of new coordination mechanisms. The GoA has reached out, however, on multiple occasions and has a new practice of holding online consultations via its e-draft platform where draft legal acts are published. It also holds public hearings for its national budget. In addition, there are mechanisms for other processes, such as the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) committee, that could be utilized or duplicated.
1. CSOs / NGOs
As of 1 April 2018, 3,814 public organizations, 1,045 foundations, 640 trade unions, and 248 legal entity unions were registered in Armenia. Created under the constitution and accountable to the Prime Minister, Armenia has a Public Council consisting of 36 members and 12 area committees where leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and representatives of the Armenian diaspora participate on a pro bono basis. The main purpose of this council is to enable the society to engage in the process of policymaking carried out by the government, which in turn ensures that the government's activities are in line with societal demands. According to a report on the nationalization of the SDGs, while these committees are formal in nature, in the past there has not been active engagement with civil society organizations (CSOs), particularly on UN Sustainability initiatives such as the Rio+20 National Assessment Report (2012) and the Post-Rio+20 Strategy Plan (2015). However, the report suggests a more promising future for the SDGs for which attempts for engagement in the form of round tables, meetings and calls for participation have taken place.
An example of such engagement is through open calls for CSO participation in planning the SDG framework released in 2017. Over 300 CSOs applied, were accepted and invited to take part in the activities of the SDG working groups. However, the Enabling Environment National Assessment (EENA), a national report which assesses how favourable national conditions are for CSOs, observes that of the 300 applicants, only around 10 CSOs were actively participating in working group meetings. In addition, several CSOs indicated that they were not included during the 2018 VNR development processes. While there is some interest, awareness of the SDGs among CSOs still appears low, and there is opportunity to raise awareness and encourage more participation. This is particularly true for organizations based outside of the capital Yerevan and those not already working with UN entities. Formalized mechanisms for engagement, like the Universal Periodic Review, would provide a more systematic approach.
2. Private Sector
The government has indicated there is an opportunity to tap into the private sector to drive development objectives through public–private partnerships, particularly through its growing success as a tech start-up hub. As of yet, no specific efforts have been made to raise awareness with the private sector on the SDGs or to engage representatives in their implementation directly.
There are a few exceptions, strongly driven by the UNDP, but with a growing uptake. One example is ImpactAim Accelerator, a platform which was established by the UNDP in partnership with several implementing partners like Enterprise Incubator Foundation, Innovative Solutions and Technologies Centre, Founder Institute Armenia, Impact Hub Yerevan and the Catalyst Foundation. ImpactAim is designed to drive the scaling up of local and international impact ventures. Through tailored mentorship and programmes and a specially designed curriculum, new initiatives strengthen market presence and scale up and increase investment absorption capacity. With the launch of the ImpactAim accelerator, UNDP in Armenia created a broader impact investment catalysing facility to support the expansion of impact ventures. The facility is comprised of three elements: impact venture incubation and acceleration, impact measurement and management, and partnership with fund managers to attract investor financing to impact ventures. Five Accelerator programmes have been implemented, with over 24 impact ventures in the pipeline touching several SDGs with defined impact.
While not specifically geared towards engaging the private sector on the SDGs, there are several innovation labs that touch upon the subject. One is the UNDP-led Kolba Innovation Lab, which has incubated more than 40 start-ups within the government, public and private sectors. In the public sector, Kolba organized an innovation challenge for civil servants. As a result, a team comprised of staff from the Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Prime Minister piloted a tool that applies machine learning to the government’s open data resources in order to provide free legal advice to citizens. The other is the world’s first joint National SDG Innovation Lab, launched in November 2017.
3. Faith based organisations
Religious groups play a strong role in influencing development policy and in Armenia this has meant churches adopting and promoting the SDGs. The Armenia Inter-Church Charitable Round Table Foundation has developed documentation indicating its commitment to the SDGs. Further, in cooperation with the UN and the World Council of Churches, a conference titled “Sustainable Development Goals and the Church” was hosted with the participation of more than 50 attendees, including clergymen of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It focused on the contribution of churches and strategies for their participation in the implementation of the SDGs.
4. Academia / research institutes
As part of an initiative in developing innovative solutions for SDG implementation under the SDG Innovation Lab (refer to section 2.6), Armenia has engaged with organizations such as UN Global Pulse and Unleash and several national and international academic institutions, including the American University of Armenia (AUA) and the Skolkovo School of Management and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. While national universities do SDG-relevant research, they have not systematically been engaged in government-led SDG discussions. Moreover, the GoA has no established practices on outsourcing research needs on the SDGs to think tanks or research institutes. Keeping that in mind, new mechanisms for research are emerging. The Manoogian Simone Research Fund is one example. Established in October 2018 by the Manoogian Simone Foundation, in cooperation with AUA and the GoA, the objective of the fund is to finance research in Armenian universities and by international experts, where appropriate, on topics of interest to the GoA. DPM Tigran Avinyan was instrumental in launching the initiative.
As another example, the organization Mission East developed an SDG game as part of its “Model Classrooms” project. According to their report, the game is “an educational board game for 4th grade children that introduce five sustainable development topics + Inclusion (Good health and wellbeing, Gender equality, Economic Growth, Responsible consumption and production, and Climate action). It is inclusive for most children and can improve the competencies of both children and teacher.”
5. Women’s groups
A number of women’s groups have engaged in and promoted the SDGs in Armenia. One such organization that has been actively engaging in the SDGs is Women2030. Some of the activities organised include a Policy Dialogue meeting with Armenian stakeholders on the SDGs, a shadow report on progress against the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Armenia, a gender survey on the SDGs, and the Women2030 Policy Forum. Women2030 partners with the Armenian Women for Health and a Healthy Environment and the Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF) in Armenia.
6. Diaspora organizations
The Armenian diaspora has been a big contributor to the country’s socio-economic development efforts. In addition to facilitating aid flows from multilateral and bilateral aid agencies via effective lobbying, the Armenian diaspora channels significant amounts of money via private donations and transfers. A large number of development activists and foundations are based in the United States of America and Europe. Examples include the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), the Armenian Relief Society, the Lincy Foundation, Aznavour pour l’Armenie, and Charitable Foundation Initiatives for Development of Armenia (IDeA). In 2017 alone, Armenia received remittances that were four times the total Official Development Assistance inflows. While there is potential for further growth, the diaspora is dispersed, and efforts are equally scattered. There might be potential to use the SDGs as a supportive framework for diaspora engagement. Some interest has already been shown: in 2016, diaspora organizations proactively participated in prioritizing migration-related SDG targets. In January 2018, the IDeA Foundation, UNDP and the Permanent Mission of Armenia brought together relevant stakeholders in New York, including leading philanthropists and impact investors, civil society and diaspora organizations’ representatives in “raising the partnerships, supporting good governance and exceptional leadership and promoting sustainable development efforts in Armenia and the SDGs”.
There is a large international donor and development community in Armenia, including the UN, ADB, ADA, GIZ, EU, ICRC, USAID, WB, IMF, EBRD and the Russian Federation, and the country has received significant support from international financial organizations and the donor community. According to Armenia’s VNR, they have largely been involved in the implementation of large-scale institutional and infrastructural programmes and projects that contribute to the attainment of sustainable development objectives. For instance, with the support from International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and other development partners, Armenia has invested around US$200 million, since 2016, into energy efficiency at industry, municipality and household levels. However, there is limited understanding on how these projects have contributed to the country’s implementation of the SDGs. The potential nationalization of SDG targets and indicators thereby presents an opportunity for these development partners to consider more specifically how their support is contributing to the SDG.
In early 2019, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Ventures Technical Assistance pledged support to ImpactAim Accelerator’s Climate Change Technology Accelerator (CCTA) to pilot, deploy and scale up impact and business models in Armenia and worldwide. The main aim of CCTA is to foster the building of a sustainable mechanism for the enhancement of innovation capacities and replication of technological solutions in climate change adaptation and mitigation activities associated with agricultural and forestry sectors, as well as urban development challenges. ADB is also in the process of developing its new country strategy for Armenia in line with its new corporate Strategy 2030. The objective is to ensure that programming in Armenia is well aligned with the SDGs.
Another example of how the government and international development partners can align their priorities with the SDGs is the comparative assessment of the Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and the Georgia-EU Association Agreement (AA) in the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With funding from the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and support of the EU delegation, the GoA and other key stakeholders in Armenia and Georgia, UNDP mapped the countries’ EU approximation commitments to SDG targets.
The objective of the mapping exercise is to provide policymakers and international development partners with a framework that will facilitate cross-country collaborations and sharing of lessons learnt through governmental dialogues and the scale up or replication of already successfully implemented initiatives and projects. The next step will be to map the recently developed and agreed CEPA roadmap to the SDGs to further link the two frameworks. As the CEPA roadmap is considered a “living” document, there is potential to align it more and raise its ambition. The CSO committee that is being set up to monitor the CEPA could also be an example for stakeholder engagement for the SDGs.
The EU is also in the process of initiating discussions on the post-2020 Eastern Partnership (EaP) at the regional level and it is likely that a comparative analysis of the future EaP deliverables and the SDGs will be conducted as part of this work. The SDGs may in this way also play a role in the discussions on the future bilateral strategy with Armenia for the period 2021–2027 and in the Action Stage 2020–2030 of the upcoming Armenia Transformation Strategy 2050.
There are several specific SDG-labelled initiatives spearheaded by the UN. For example, the aforementioned ImpactAim Accelerator jointly with UNHCR and UNICEF has set up a dedicated incubation programme named Accelerator #5, which targets SDG 5, where women and girls can learn technology skills, find employment with private companies, or create their own start-ups.
The SDG Innovation Lab, UNDP and UNICEF have also started a collaborative project with the GoA to monitor the progress in implementation of SDG 16 through the development of an SDG Barometer (see sections 2.3 and 4.5.6). To date, a multi-stakeholder working group has been established to map data availability as well as collect new data related to peoples’ perception of the delivery of justice in Armenia.
The Government-led National Strategic Review (NSR) of Food Security and Nutrition (SDG 2) was completed in 2018 with the support of WFP to comprehensively analyse the four interlinked pillars of food security in Armenia: availability, access, utilization and stability. The strategic review served as a platform for formulating investments and set priorities in achieving SDG 2.
Other examples include the development of an SDG Baseline Dataset on Child Right Monitoring by UNICEF; an SDG Baseline Report on Food and Agriculture covering 21 indicators and targets (2018) along with statistical trainings for stakeholders by FAO; and a Migration Snapshot of Armenia, which is based on a revised and aligned with an SDGs questionnaire for Migration Section of Integrated Living Conditions Survey by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
There have been many organizational changes based on the new political system and the newly elected government, as well as ongoing public financial management and public administration reforms, although none specifically for the SDGs. As mentioned above, institutional mechanisms for the SDGs are still to be re-established.
Prior to the revolution, the Parliament had limited engagement on the SDGs. Currently, one of the pillars of the new UNDP parliamentary support project is capacity development, including parliamentarian capacity to support the implementation and monitor progress of the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda.