Plans, Programmes and Budget

This section provides an overview of measures to incorporate the SDGs into national development plans, sector plans, budgets and other major initiatives and efforts to identify priorities related to the 2030 Agenda.

Prior to the revolution in 2018, Armenia had taken several steps to integrate the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs into its planning documents and institutional architecture. However, after the revolution and the subsequent changes in government (to a parliamentarian system) with elections in December 2018, further specific action on the integration of the SDGs was paused. As of February 2019 the new government announced a strategic framework and a government programme, which will be connected to the Armenian Transformation Strategy 2050, 26 new sectorial and subsectorial strategies, and a 5-year long government action plan. There have been some initial discussions around integrating the SDGs into the forthcoming sectoral strategies and the Armenia Transformation Strategy. Armenia has also committed to present its second Voluntary National Review at the 2020 High Level Political Forum, which may mean additional engagement on the SDGs in the lead up to the VNR.

Prioritised SDG targets

Source: Rapid Policy Integrated Assessment in Armenia

As of yet, the SDGs have not been “localized”, meaning no national targets and baselines have been set, nor have the SDGs been specifically integrated into the planning and strategic documents of the new government. The previous government did partner with the UN on some initial steps, such as the 2017 Rapid Integrated Assessment and the SDG Roadmap and Action Plan, but it is still to be seen how far these steps will be taken forward.

1.   Armenia Development Strategy for 2014-2025

The Armenia Development Strategy (ADS) 2014–2025 was the country’s former socio-economic development strategy and the basis for medium‐term, sectoral and other programme documents. The ADS 2014–2025 had three broad sets of goals:

  •   Reduction of poverty with total elimination of extreme poverty.
  •   Elimination of human poverty and ensuring accelerated human development. Armenia has already graduated to a group of countries with “High Human Development”.
  •   Mitigation of regional disparities and acceleration of economic growth of underdeveloped regions.

The former Centre for Strategic Initiatives, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s instruction of September 2017, was tasked to revise and update the Armenian Development Strategy 2014–2025, transforming the current development strategy into a long-term strategic development framework until 2030. The draft ADS 2030 was never adopted and the new Government is currently in the process of developing an Armenia Transformation Strategy (ATS) for 2050, including a long-term vision for 2050 and strategic actions for the period 2020–2030.

The Rapid Integrated Assessment undertaken by the UN examined the Armenia Development Strategy for 2014–2025 and 48 sectorial documents. The assessment found that 108 SDG targets were prioritized out of 169 and that the ADS alone reflected 64 SDG targets (40 percent) in total. Some concerns were raised in relation to SDG prioritization and compliance, and also the availability of indicators for prioritized targets. For example, as many as 36 percent of the targets were not prioritized in any of the sectorial documents, and as many as 84 percent of the national indicators did not comply with the corresponding global SDG indicator or did not exist at all. This will be an issue to look out for in the new ATS and sectoral strategies as well.

2.   Armenia’s SDG Roadmap and Action Plan

In July 2017, the GoA and the UN hosted the SDGs Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support (MAPS) Mission in Armenia to support the Government’s SDG implementation efforts, which produced the “Roadmap for SDG Implementation”. The Roadmap provides a conceptual framework for considering accelerators as solutions to SDG implementation bottlenecks. These accelerators were categorized into five focal areas: (i) Modern, Effective, and Efficient Public Administration; (ii) Strengthened Social Protections; (iii) Natural Capital Development/Green Economy (iv) Human Capital Development; and (v) High Growth High Employment Economy. While developed before the revolution, the Roadmap’s framework and identified accelerators remain relevant but would need to be updated given the recent changes in government. The Armenia SDG Innovation Lab initiated the development of an Action Plan but this was halted during the revolution and there are currently no plans for continuation.

3.    Armenia Government Programme

The GoA presented the Government Programme for 2019–2024 in February 2019. The document reflects the key objectives for Armenia over the next five years, outlining existing problems and proposing pivotal steps. Particularly, the programme establishes that the GoA will aim to build an export-led competitive and inclusive economy that meets high technological, industrial and environmental standards. This will be achieved by (i) expanding the opportunities for economic activities; (ii) enhancing efficiency in governance; (iii) developing human potential; and (iv) developing and expanding access to reliable infrastructure.

4.    Armenia Strategic Framework and its sectorial directions

The Armenia Strategic Framework is made up of five strategic directions: 1) Infrastructure, 2) Justice, 3) Human Capital, 4) Financial – Economic, and 5) Public Administration. The key sectors within these directions are outlined below. Donor engagement forms a component of the strategic framework and support is envisioned in the key areas, and also at sector and subsector levels. This presents a great opportunity to ensure that the SDGs are integrated.

Source: National Strategic Framework (2019), Government of Armenia

The first sectoral strategy discussion with donors took place on 3 September 2019 where the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport presented its vision for the education sector and the draft of this vision has since been circulated for written inputs.

5.    Armenia Transformation Strategy 2050 (ATS)

As mentioned above, the GoA is currently in the process of initiating the development of the Armenia Transformation Strategy (ATS) for 2050, including the 2030 Action Plan with Mega Goals. The draft structure was presented to the donor community on 26 July 2019, and establishes that the socio-economic ambition for Armenia is to be in the top 30 countries in terms of living standards, competitive positioning in innovation, education, health and finance as well as in the top 20 in defence capability by 2050. Five economic structures of importance to achieve this goal are mentioned in particular:

  • Exploitation of Natural Resources - Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, Mining
  • Manufacturing, Construction and Infrastructure - Manufacturing, civil, commercial and residential construction, electricity, gas, water supplies, waste management and processing
  • Primary Services - Services related to sales of goods and exploitation / maintenance of infrastructure (trade, hotels and restaurants, transport, storage, etc.)
  • Knowledge-Based Services - Activities requiring intellectual knowledge and skills and / or creativity (ICT, R&D, education, healthcare, public administration, financial services, etc.)
  • Exponential Economy - Ultra-productive and agile growth companies based on transformative technologies that massively transform industries beyond borders.

  • As for the strategic actions, the government plans to undergo a three-step process to deliver on its 2030 vision. This includes (i) identifying Mega Goals/actions for the country within the next 5 to 10 years; (ii) uncover strategic issues and solutions for each Mega Goal; and (iii) ensuring measurability and comparability of each solution. The final number of Mega Goals/actions is still to be determined but the GoA is currently in the process of establishing 16 working groups for each of the Mega Goals. Some key donors have indicated that the ATS 2050, particularly the Mega Goals/actions for 2030, would need to be in place for the GoA to secure additional funding.

    While inclusion or inclusivity was mentioned by many of the government representatives, it was not clear whether there is a common understanding of what it entails and how it will be implemented. Additional budget resources have also been allocated to social sectors, such as education, compared to the previous government.

Armenia presented its first Voluntary National Review to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York in July 2018. The report identified safe drinking water, health, clean energy, disaster risk reduction, equal rights for women, income inequality and regional partnerships as key priorities. During the Q&A session, Armenia highlighted plans to increase women’s representation in Parliament to 30 per cent; a commitment to address energy, corruption and environmental issues; the importance of youth participation in the governance of the country; the role of the international community in overcoming problems faced by landlocked countries; and the Armenian National SDG Innovation Lab. Armenia’s Voluntary National Review of 2018 noted that the VNR process coincided with the process of forming a new leadership in Armenia, which facilitated strong momentum for multiplying SDG efforts and searching for innovative ways in accelerating SDG implementation.

Armenia has committed to present its second Voluntary National Review at the 2020 High- level Political Forum and this presents an opportunity to catalyse engagement on the SDGs in the lead up to and the development process of the second VNR.

Despite the institutional architecture for the SDGs remaining dormant since the revolution, several ministries have continued specific activities to align their work and strategies with key SDG targets. Horizontal integration within national plans across sectoral areas exist, but could be further improved. In Armenia, positive examples of such integration can be seen in strategies and concepts in the areas of the health care, child health, gender and education. Cross-sectoral linkages can range from complete to moderate synergy through to no interaction; and onwards through SDGs moderately to fully offset each other. Examples include the Ministries of Education, Environment and Justice. Several ministries are also implementing programmes with the UN and other development partners that highlight the SDGs. The ongoing development of the 26 new sectoral and subsectorial strategies (with the same timeline in their implementation) will be an important entry point for greater integration of both the SDGs and some of the principles of the 2030 Agenda, such as “Strengthened Policy Coherence” and “Leaving No One Behind”. The methodology document and instruction guide for the development of these new strategies could be a particular opportunity to provide guidance for greater SDG integration. Costing of the new strategies, and linking them to the new Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) is also a process to be strengthened to ensure better alignment between policies and strategies, action plans, budgets and SDG targets.

One example of action at the ministerial level is by the Ministry of Justice. In cooperation with UNDP, the SDG Innovation Lab and UNICEF, the ministry has recently started a collaborative project titled “Rule of Law Reforms in the light of SDG 16 and SDG 16+ nationalization”. This project will develop and test possibilities to support the establishment of mechanisms and platforms for participatory reform processes aligned with the 2030 Agenda and other national policies and strategies. Currently, the project is mapping available data in the GoA’s administrative registers and databases as well as other forms of qualitative and quantitative information. The objective is to assess peoples’ perception of the delivery of justice in Armenia, showcase Armenia’s progress in implementing SDG 16 using an online-based SDG barometer, and disclose patterns of inequality and discrimination.

Integration efforts with some other ministries have been paused, as for example with the Ministry of Agriculture. Before the revolution, the ministry, with support from FAO, undertook a baseline assessment and developed a two-year action plan. This work is now awaiting further guidance from the newly elected government leadership.

Another example of the GoA’s commitment to invest in human development is the continued increased budget allocation and expansion of the national school meals programme, which gradually is being handed over by WFP. By 2023, WFP will have completed the handover to a fully operationally and self-financed Government programme.

To date, there is no evidence that subnational SDG plans have been developed nor that sub-national and local governments have been involved in any SDG related processes.

Armenia is not involved in any large-scale regional plans and programmes specifically to advance the SDGs. However, an initiative which aims to consider the SDGs going forward is the Eastern Partnership (EaP). The EaP is a “joint policy initiative that aims to deepen and strengthen relations between the EU, its Member States and the post-Soviet nations”, including Armenia. The top four priorities include supporting:

  1. Economic development and market opportunities
  2. The strengthening of institutions and good governance
  3. Connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change
  4. Mobility and people-to-people contacts.

The 2019 Summary Report on the EaP has considered the contributions and opportunities presented by the 20 deliverables for 2020 which are part of the EaP and found them to mutually reinforce the SDGs.

There is evidence of NGOs, philanthropic organizations and the private sector taking major action and or having executed large-scale projects to specifically advance the SDGs so far. A few of these are outlined here:

  1. National SDG Innovation Lab

    Partnering with the United Nations, Armenia established a National SDG Innovation Lab (SDG Lab) in November 2017. The SDG Lab is at the nexus of government, civil society, academia and the private sector and serves as a platform to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the national level. The SDG Lab’s overall budget is $1,122,960 for 2018 to 2020. The SDG Lab partners with innovation and technological centres globally and brings in expertise and experience to Armenia. The SDG Lab’s first projects include attempting to increase the take-up rate of cancer screening programmes through behavioural experimentation, applying artificial intelligence to understand tourist sentiments about Armenia, improving tax compliance through making the taxpayer a part of the public spending decision-making process and bridging the gap between education and the labour market through evidence-based policymaking.

  2. Mission Possible: Armenia Students Design their SDG Projects

    Mission Possible was launched in September 2016 by the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) with the support of the Government of the Republic of South Korea and in partnership with the UN Association of Armenia. It is a global citizenship education programme for high school students in Armenia in which they learn about the UN and the SDGs and apply their acquired skills and knowledge in student-led projects which address global issues also relevant in local Armenian communities. Twelve projects were designed and implemented which addressed SDGs 3, 4, 11, 12 and 16.

In the last 25 years, Armenia has made considerable progress in its public financial management reforms, with 2019 being the first year for its new Programme-Based Budget and Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). It remains a work in progress with, for example the link between the MTEF and the upcoming 26 sectoral strategies still needing to be established. However, noticeable progress has been made, specifically in its budgeting practices. Recently, Armenia made the switch towards programme-based budgeting which is a challenging process and requires new budgeting processes and practices. There is an opportunity to support Armenia in this regard and UNDP Armenia has recently developed a proposal to work with the Ministry of Finance to integrate the SDGs into the budget process. The GoA is already looking into climate budget tagging as well, although the overall budget for the Ministry of Environment remains low.

Where SDGs have been incorporated into ministerial and sectoral plans, there is opportunity for these to be linked to appropriate budgetary spending. Armenia has acknowledged through its 2018 VNR that the “extent to which the strategies and corresponding action plans aiming to directly achieve the SDG targets are funded by the budget is essential for effective implementation. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that adequate funding is made available in the state budget, at national and subnational levels, to finance activities towards achieving SDG-related targets.”