Cyprus’ 2nd voluntary national review (VNR) provides an overview of the progress and the remaining challenges in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The challenges have been aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic which halted socio-economic and environmental progress.
Governance / Stakeholder Engagement:
Building on a lesson learned from the 2017 VNR, an Intergovernmental Commission has been established for the implementation of the SDGs under the coordination of the Ministry of Finance, while the responsibility for each SDG target remaining with the competent ministry. Under the adopted integrated policy framework, stakeholders from Civil Society, Active Citizenship, Volunteerism and Non-Governmental Organizations play a pivotal role in the implementation of SDGs.
Response to Covid-19:
The Covid-19 reality, brought unprecedented challenges and changes to everyday life. Cyprus’ government top priority was the protection and health of its citizens as well as the support of the social and economic fallout of the pandemic. The prompt public health interventions, including non-pharmaceutical measures and active contact tracing, with extensive and targeted testing, proved to be a valuable combination of strategies to effectively control the COVID-19 outbreak. Furthermore, to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy, the government has adopted a support package for employees, the self-employed, vulnerable groups and businesses, which in 2020 amounted to €2.6 bln or 12.5% of GDP. Cyprus’ pioneering mobilization of its volunteer network, under the coordination of the Office of the Commissioner for Volunteerism and NGOs, received EU wide recognition for its prompt and effective support of vulnerable groups following prescribed security protocols.
In the period that elapsed since its first VNR in 2017, and given the five years of continuous high economic growth, Cyprus has shown progress in most SDG indicators, even though it continues to rank low among the EU countries. Cyprus performs well with regard to reducing poverty, securing good health and high tertiary educational attainment, but falls behind in quality education. It is ahead of many EU countries in terms of the gender pay gap and shows some improvement in the number of women in leadership positions. On the other hand, Cyprus experiences the highest influx of migrants in the EU with the number of asylum applications rising to 8746 in 2019 compared to the EU average of 1411 applications. Finally, regarding the environment, Cyprus’ performance is below the EU average in most SDGs. Severe challenges exist with respect to sustainable agriculture, clean water and sanitation. Cyprus continues to lack behind with respect to affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production and climate action. However, the data show a continuous improvement towards most environmental goals, reflecting the fruition of targeted government policies and initiatives.
Building Forward Better:
Cyprus is in the process of preparing a Long-Term Strategy in order to adopt a robust new growth model to strengthen the economy’s resilience and the country’s potential for economically, socially and environmentally sustainable long-term growth and welfare. This objective will be achieved through an appropriate country-specific mix of investments and reforms included in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, with an overall budget exceeding €1.0 bln of investment for the period 2021-2026. The NRRP takes into account the need to mitigate the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and the need to strengthen the foundations of the economy.
At the Governance level for the SDGs, Cyprus is implementing a project in cooperation with UNITAR aiming towards a whole-of-government approach in implementing a sustainable Development Agenda and at a stronger partnership with all stakeholders. Next steps include among others:
Cyprus’ coordinated efforts to implement projects, initiatives and actions reflect its commitment towards achieving the vision of the 2030 UN Agenda. The National Recovery and Resilience Plan is a key tool towards Cyprus’ effective green and digital transition while leaving no one behind.
The Republic of Cyprus’ national voluntary review on implementation of Agenda2030 offers an overview of progress so far, in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Cyprus. It outlines the main priorities and planning in a process of incorporation of the SDGs in national policies and the activities of government and non-government sectors towards this direction, as well as Cyprus’ international activity towards promotion of priority SDGs. It also describes the efforts towards generating institutional and civil society ownership of the effort to implement Agenda 2030.
The review presents the results of a preliminary analysis and mapping exercise on Cyprus’ current progress, identifies challenges and outlines next steps. It describes the institutional framework set up to work on this mapping and illustrates the present situation for each of the SDGs, highlighting progress already made, related government or EU policies and challenges faced. A statistical annex is also included.
The compilation of the review was coordinated by the Department of Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is to be presented to the Council of Ministers for information and formal approval.
Cyprus’ institutional mechanism for the implementation of Agenda 2030 is comprised mainly of Ministries and other governmental services, such as the Statistical Service, under the coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A relevant line Ministry has been assigned as coordinator for each one of the 17 Goals. A mapping exercise was initiated at the end of 2016, aiming to define stakeholders, national or EU strategies and indicators, if applicable, for each of the targets. Meanwhile, the Cypriot Statistical Service gathered all indicators available. Priorities were set based on the government priorities as well as on horizontal focal areas, such as youth.
Upon the initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a process has been launched for indicating the most appropriate coordinator for SDGs implementation at domestic policy level. Due to institutional transformations occurring in the past year, under the restructuring of the public service and the possible creation of State Ministries -still under discussion in the House of Representatives- the coordination of both the domestic and the foreign policy aspects of the SDGs, as well as communicating and coordinating with the civil society, remained under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation, where relevant, with line Ministries.
Cyprus faced a deep, unprecedented economic crisis that reached its peak in 2013. It was, therefore, essential to focus on short-run difficulties of the various affected groups and measures to address them, which led to an inevitable focus on the economic and social dimensions of policies. Legislation or other policies already exist for most SDGs and targets, through national and European strategies. Moreover, the structural and institutional reforms promoted, especially in the public sector, the health system and other sectors, aspire to lead breakthrough systemic transformations, aiming at creating employment and enhanced governance, transparency, competitiveness, as well as more efficient service provision to citizens, including with the further development of e-government.
The mapping exercise indicated the absence of a horizontal strategy covering all three dimensions of sustainable development. In its place, strategic programming, albeit short to medium-term one, and other actions, cover most, if not all, of the SDGs. The review outlines the Republic of Cyprus’ priorities (mainly SDGs 1, 3, 7, 8, 9, as well as SDGs 4 and 14) and the policies involved in achieving them. Cyprus’ international activity in promoting SDG implementation is also described.
Following an extensive promotion, during 2015, of the various dimensions of sustainable development to the Cypriot public, an effort undertaken in the framework of the European Year for Development by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Cypriot NGOs, the Cypriot civil society carried out numerous projects, promoting all or specific SDGs. Engagement with the private sector is mainly undertaken by the Directorate General for European Programs, Coordination and Development, in the context of promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility and in cooperation with many other stakeholders. The House of Representatives’ Committee for the Environment has initiated parliamentary discussions on Agenda 2030, by requesting an informative session with the SDGs Coordinator (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) on Cyprus’ progress in SDGs achievement. More activity is expected to follow in all areas of cooperation, including towards engagement of the local authorities in the process of Agenda 2030 implementation.
Progress is observed in all the SDGs, while planning is already in place for most of them, especially the priority ones, through all the line policies. The Republic of Cyprus takes pride in its success in achieving a number of targets at a 100% level, many of them in the framework of SDG 3. Best practices include the provision of free and easily accessible education to everyone at all education levels, without discrimination, addressing the challenge of Cyprus’ limited water resources and supplying excellent quality of drinking water to consumers, as well as the efforts made towards combating human trafficking, by effectively enforcing new legislation and expanding the role and competences of the Police Anti-Trafficking Bureau. On the international sphere, Cyprus actively promotes international cooperation on issues such as the protection of cultural property and regional cooperation for the protection from marine pollution. Concerning progress foreseen, there has been an upward trend in the use of renewable sources of energy, while steps are being taken towards a more sustainable tourism product.
Being at the initial stages of implementation of Agenda 2030, it is obvious that there is more work to be done to fully achieve the SDGs. Main challenges for Cyprus include, among others, addressing a high public debt and a relatively high unemployment rate after the economic crisis, the low contribution of the agricultural sector in the GDP, energy dependency on imported sources, under-representation of women in political and public life, the need for a sustainable consumption policy, a high percentage of non-attainment in mathematics, science and reading and the need to increase Official Development Assistance to reach the desired level.
The process for Cyprus has been initiated with the mapping exercise and the preparation of the current review. Next steps include the assignment of a coordinator for the implementation of Agenda 2030 at domestic level, with the competency to overview future strategies and effectively incorporate the SDGs. Remaining indicators will be selected in collaboration with the Statistical Service, and benchmarks and targets will be set by the competent authorities. In the meantime, Cyprus will continue to participate in defining and implementing the future EU 2030 agenda as well as in relevant international events.
In the framework of reinforcing activity and cooperation between all stakeholders and as follow up to the online survey organized by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education and Culture on SDGs priorities, an extensive public information campaign will commence. More involvement of the House of Representatives is also expected in 2017. Engagement of local authorities is also considered a necessary step towards creating ownership and involvement of the totality of the Cypriot society.