Taiwan proposed its first VNR in UN in response to SDGs
The symposium focused on government agencies' implementation of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as auditing department's role and contributions in monitoring agencies'work progress. All attendees participated with great enthusiasm. The event was opened with welcomes from Auditor General Ching-Long Lin and EPA Minister Ying-Yuan Lee, who also talked about Taiwan's Voluntary National Review (VNR) presented in 2017 in his speech, “Joining the World: Taiwan's Implementation of UNSDGs.”
In his speech, Minister Lee first thanked the NAO for organizing the symposium as it took place on 5 June , the World Environment Day, making the event even more meaningful. Through the presentations of different speakers, attendees could understand the effects of government budgets and expenses and whether the resources were used on the most necessary places. Exchanges and discussions in the symposium also allowed people to examine Taiwan's achievements in sustainable development. Minister Lee pointed out that the 2018 World Happiness Report, recently released by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), ranked Finland as the happiest country in the world. Taiwan's ranking rose from 33rd to 26th as the happiest in East Asia. Taiwan performed well in key evaluation variables like gross domestic product (GDP), unemployment rate, social support, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and corruption perception, showing Taiwanese ranked high in happiness index in Asia.
It was a remarkable moment when Minister Lee presented Taiwan's first VNR in the UN in September 2017. The report was a response to the 17 sustainable index of UN Commission of Sustainable Development (UNCSD). Currently, Taiwan is faced with challenges like dense population in limited living space, increasing environmental loads, low economic growth, as well as not being a UN member. But pollution sees no borders, and Taiwan will keep answering UN's call to improve with the same standard, pursuing sustainable development for the whole earth.
The symposium's first session focused on Taiwan SDGs. The Executive Director of the EPA's Office of Sustainable Development Dr. Huichen Chien talked about the process of setting Taiwan's SDGs. National Council for Sustainable Development member Angela Chang then gave a talk titled “Taiwan SDGs: Facing Challenges for a Sustainable 2030” and conducted discussions. It was followed by Mr. Reed and Ms. Gelfand’s respective talks, “Leading Practices in Auditing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals” and “United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Audit in Canada.” Both emphasized the importance of the whole of government and policy coherence in dealing with SDGs.
Finally, Deputy Auditor-General Li-Jen Wang and NAO staff elaborated on the actual practices and audits in a presentation titled “Audit on National Sustainable Development.” Deputy Wang emphasized that NAO should set up long-term strategies to conduct audits on the progress of the government's SDGs, including issues such as gender equality. Also, participants have to understand the government’s “starting and end points” and “new tracks” to compare Taiwan’s SDGs with UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as assess Taiwan's future.
Executive, legislative, and private sectors jointly promote sustainability
After a day of heated exchanges, attendees all agreed that sustainable development should be the focus of future policies. Taiwan should first take references of UNSDGs’ frameworks and follow their principles. Local sustainability indicators that are suitable for the current situation should be discussed and set up by taking Taiwan's status, environment, and citizens' needs into consideration in order to achieve actual sustainability. The legislative branch, government agencies, and private sector are the three main and essential forces for sustainable development. As a result, connection and communication between them are of great importance for setting up SDGs. And the auditing agency can help with monitoring in order to encourage all participating parties to fully meet the international community's expectations for SDGs and audit tasks.
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)