The Sustainable Development Goals Fund Steering Committee launched in April 2014 its first call for joint programme proposals open to 20 eligible countries. Conceived as a mechanism for transitioning from the MDGs to the SDGs, the list of eligible countries represents both lower and middle income countries from four different regions of the world. Some of these countries participated in the previous MDG-F with successful joint programmes, and were therefore familiar with the MDG-F approach. Others were to implement the approach for the first time.
A key criterion for selection of proposals was the measurable impact on the achievement of sustainable development, the expected level of national ownership of the programme (including the commitment of matching funds) and the promotion of coordination among UN Agencies.
The process, lasting from April to November 2014, entailed the formulation by UN country teams of a Concept Note coherent with the UNDAF and national development priorities. If approved, this Concept Note was further developed into a Joint Programme document endorsed by the National Steering Committee. The review and approval process for each programme was done by independent experts highlighting the quality and relevance of the submitted proposals.
The process followed these phases:
- Phase 1. Call for proposals: April – June 2014. UN Resident Coordinators of 20 eligible countries received the SDG-F terms of reference and call for proposals and were invited to submit a concept note proposal by June 16th, 2014. In order to facilitate the submission, application, management and reviewing process, joint programmes concept notes were submitted online through an online platform. As stipulated in the Terms of Reference a maximum of one joint programme per country would be selected. 29 Concept Notes were submitted across 19 countries and four regions, with 15 UN Agencies participating.
- Phase 2. Review of concept notes: July 2014. Concept notes were reviewed by an international panel of six development experts. Each of them assessed the concept note sectorial area (Inclusive Economic Growth, Water and Sanitation, Food security and Nutrition) and the cross-cutting issues (Sustainability, Gender equality and women’s empowerment, Public-Private Partnership) as established in the ToRs. In parallel to the experts review, the SDG-F Secretariat analyzed and reviewed all 29 concept notes and compiled all the recommendations from technical experts. The Technical Steering Committee, representing Spanish Cooperation and UNDP, met in Madrid in late July. Of these 29 proposals, 11 were pre-approved and 7 were requested to submit further information before receiving the approval to submit a full-fledged document.
- Phase 3. Formulation of full-fledged joint programme documents: July – September 2014. By, September 15th pre-selected joint programmes submitted full-fledged joint programmes documents, incorporating the technical feedback from independent reviewers. Meetings and workshops with national partners, communities and beneficiaries took place to ensure that programmes responded to stakeholders needs. More than 1,500 people participated in several of the local consultation processes. The SDG-F Secretariat and Steering Committee members review the documentation provided by joint programmes. The Steering Committee, in its meeting in Madrid on 7 October 2014 approved the new SDG Fund joint programmes.
- Phase 4. Signature of approved joint programmes and disbursment of first tranche of funds: November 2014 – January 2015. The MPTF, the SDG Fund administrative agent, reviewed financial information, and after official signature of joint programme document by programme partners disbursed the first tranche of funds. With that the implementation programme phase starts.