in: Sustainability 13 (13), article 7002
Achieving the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda requires strong and accountable institutions. However, the focus on sustainability outcomes set forth in the Agenda’s 17 SDGs has side-lined the debate on accountability mechanisms to ensure effective policy implementation. Six years into the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, it is time to assess progress made in this regard. Drawing on theories of public interest and rational choice, this paper argues that horizontal accountability between different state organs will be key to the emergence of national SDG accountability regimes. We provide evidence on monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for SDG progress based on an original database (AccountSDG) built through a document analysis of 136 Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) submitted between 2016 and 2019. Our analysis provides the first systematic cross-national empirical analysis of the role assigned to parliaments, Supreme Auditing Agencies (SAI), and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) in national processes of SDG implementation. We conclude that horizontal accountability, especially the role of SAI and NHRI, remains under-institutionalized in most countries. We conclude by discussing best practices and addressing the most important lacunae, as well as by pointing out limitations of our study and avenues for future research.