Localizing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Tanzania: Redefining Responsibilities

Published: 17 March 2021

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Executive Summary

There is a shared understanding among stakeholders in Tanzania of the urgency of addressing the many socioeconomic and environmental issues standing in the way of sustainable development. A crucial step in achieving this was the adoption of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To ensure the development of a sustainability and inclusive economy, the government has taken several steps to localize the SDGs and create awareness of these goals among key stakeholders. Despite that, the sense of ownership of the SDGs within the political arena is still limited.

Based on primary and secondary data, this brief concludes that the government officials, CSOs/NGOs and other key stakeholders are aware of the SDGs and have aligned their policies and frameworks (such as the Five Year Development Plan (FYDP)) with the SDGs. However, at community level, awareness of SDGs is very low and mainly confined to elites. Moreover, localization and attainment of SDGs are faced with many challenges including lack of localized action plans, weak partnership and collaboration between key partners, as well as limited human and financial resources. In addition to that, the study found that monitoring and evaluation of SDGs at the local level is critical but limited by a lack of up-to-date data and limited skills in monitoring, evaluation and reporting of SDGs.

To tackle these issues, the following key policy recommendations are made:

  • Allocate responsibility for local SDGs implementation activities to relevant specific LGA departments.
  • Conduct research studies and build databases, tool and methodologies on SDGs localization with the support of the local governments and development partners.
  • Enhance collaboration on SDGs policy with the central government and MPs in order to secure political support for the SDGs related advocacy work and obtain domestic resources for SDGs implementation and activities.
  • Available SDGs localization toolkits and resources should be adopted and tailor-made to local content.
  • CSOs should promote communication, partnership, collaboration and sharing of experiences between entities working in the same local areas to avoid duplication of efforts.
  • Promote participation of the community especially women, uneducated and other marginalized groups in development, planning and implementation of SDGs localization.
  • Create a nationwide SDGs awareness and advocacy program through radio, TV and social media.
  • Incorporate the localization of the SDGs agenda in the next FYDP III.
  • Translate all SDGs documents and materials into Kiswahili to enable more public outreach.



In September, 2015, Tanzania adopted a list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) issued by the United Nations (UN), which aim at accelerating the transition towards sustainable development by 2030. Although great efforts have been deployed so far by the government and other key stakeholders to adopt the SDGs in Tanzania, the adoption has not been well localized due to limited involvement of crucial development stakeholders like local authorities/actors and the wider public. Engagement and participation of local stakeholders, particularly Local Government Authorities (LGAs), are crucial for the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. While implementing the 2030 Agenda is primarily the responsibility of national governments, partnership and coordination with the LGAs are critical to ensuring that implementation is informed by local priorities and solutions and makes use of a whole-of society approach. The bottom up approach to sustainable development with its recognition of key role of the LGAs, CSOs, private sector and the public has been recognized by development partners such as the EU.

This brief mainly focuses on the main gaps in the current SDGs implementation model that key stakeholders need to focus on. The brief also suggest practical modalities that Tanzania could adopt to fully harness the potential of SDGs at the local level. This analysis is based on a review of academic and institutional literature, as well as key informant interviews with representatives from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), and with national and local governments responsible for the implementation of SDGs strategies in Tanzania. The brief also uses responses from a survey made in Shinyanga, Mwanza, Dodoma and Moshi to assess the awareness of SDGs among the public. Finally, the brief outlines emerging standards and good practices with respect to localization of the 2030 Agenda, with the aim of informing Tanzania’s approach.

          Summary of Findings

The current coordination, implementation and monitoring framework for SDGs is done from the central government particularly via the Ministry of Finance and Planning (MoFP) which is the national focal point for SDGs. These are overseen by the Prime minister’s office and assisted by the Steering Committee consisted of Permanent Secretaries of key ministries.

The MoFP has the responsibility to (a) coordinate at national level; (b) provide engagement with Local Government Authorities (LGA), development agencies and donors; (c) set priorities and allocate resources; and (c) manage relations with development partners.

At the local level, each LGA takes due consideration of the SDGs and their relevance in line to the strategic actions proposed. Furthermore, SDGs are not designed as a standalone plan but as a contributor to the National Development Plan and the commitments of the SDGs under the individual goals.

Members  of Parliament (MPs) are instrumental in sending the core messages regarding SDGs to the local level, and in ensuring that government budgets include SDGs as priority spending areas, fully integrated into local development plans and projects. A Parliamentary Group on Sustainable Development (PGSD) monitors the implementation of the SDGs at the local level, and provides regular feedback and guidance.

Other key stakeholders that are important in the implementation of the SDGs include CSOs, NGOs, and development partners such as  the UNDP. These have been instrumental in the advocacy for policy design and implementation framework, open data initiatives, data sharing opportunities, mapping and provision of forums for discussion in relation to domestication of SDGs indicators.

Key Achievements in the Implimentation Strategy of SDGs in Tanzania 

  • CSOs have formed The Tanzania Sustainable Development Platform (TSDP) for coordinating involvement and contribution towards the implementation and follow-up, and the review of the SDGs. TSDP also offers a platform for engagement with the Government, UN system and other stakeholders on the Goals.
  • Several stakeholders’ consultations on the SDGs implementation were conducted country-wide, involving representatives from the private sector/businesses, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), CSOs, Development Partners, ethnic groups, academia, professional groups, labour associations, women networks and youth networks as well as the media.
  • As part of the preparatory process towards the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the Global Compact Network Tanzania (GCNT) – a multi stakeholder platform for the private sector, CSOs, UN agencies, development partners and government – undertook a series of engagements and consultations with businesses and CSOs. The consultations aimed at engaging the Tanzania private sector in the SDGs, as well as reporting on the implementation of the SDGs.
  • In Mainland Tanzania, at the onset of adopting SDGs, presentations were also made at a National Planners’ Conference, which is a forum attended by Directors of Policy and Planning (DPPs) from Government Ministries, Independent Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Planning Officers from Regional Secretariats (RSs) and Local Government Authorities (LGAs), representatives from the Central Bank, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), representatives of selected research and academic institutions, and other invited guests from Government departments and agencies, as well as the private sector and development partners.
  • The Government also conducted awareness and sensitization workshops on SDGs for RSs and LGAs in order to empower and capacitate them to mainstream and incorporate national plans and SDGs into their plans and budgets. These seminars also targeted Community Development Officers (CDOs), District Planning Officers (DPOs) and Assistant Administrative Secretaries (AASs) responsible for LGAs’ coordination.
  • On the basis of guidelines provided by the UN HLPF handbook, version 2019, a country-specific Voluntary National Review was prepared.

Lessons Learned & Policy Recommendations

          Lesson 1: Limited Involvement of LGAs in the Implementation Framework of SDGs

Based on the 2030 Agenda, effective implementation of SDGs has to be bottom up, not top down, in particular through Local Government Authorities (LGAs). However, LGAs’ involvement in SDGs implementation in Tanzania is minimal. There is no structured programme for localizing SDGs and actions are limited to mainly awareness creation, advocacy and alignment of LGAs work to SDGs. Fundamentally, the 2030 Agenda is an agenda for local governments progress on all of the SDGs, and it requires robust contribution from LGAs. Thus, participation by LGAs in coordination mechanism and follow ups and review processes needs to be scaled up. Moreover, attainment of SDGs at the local level is constrained by several challenges including inadequate human and financial resources to effectively participate in the 2030 Agenda implementation.

Key Policy Recommendations:
  • Allocate responsibility for local SDGs implementation activities to relevant specific LGA departments, including their monitoring and reporting.
  • Collaborate with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to develop baseline segregated local data and indicators for local monitoring.
  • Undertake SDGs awareness raising and capacity building programmes in LGAs both for new and existing staff. This can involve CSOs, academics, MPs, etc.
  • Adopt the existing toolkits for localization of the SDGs.
  • I’mMonitor and learn from international good practice policies on SDGs implementation and/or localization including through decentralization cooperation programmes and participation in global and regional knowledge sharing sites and events.
  • Enhance collaboration on SDGs policy with the central government and TAMISEMI and MPs in order to secure political support for SDGs related advocacy work and obtain domestic resources for SDGs implementation and activities.
  • Collaborate with development partners in order to have adequate access to expertise and financial resources for SDGs implementation at the local level.
  • Incorporate localization of the SDGs plan in the next FYDP III.

          Lesson 2: The Level of Awareness on SDGs is Low Among the Public

The level of awareness on SDGs is low among the public and mostly limited to CSOs and government officials. Raising public awareness of SDGs is a critical prerequisite for their implementation. Understanding the public attitude is a first step towards engaging the public in promoting SDGs. However, little is known about attitude formation among the public towards SDGs at the national level. To explore this, we carried out a survey in four Tanzania regions to assess public perception of, and attitude to SDGs.

Results show that 80 percent of urban people are not aware of the SDGs and 88 percent of rural people have never heard of SDGs. Moreover, public support of SDGs is determined by gender, education, and SDGs knowledge. This implies that male respondents and better educated individuals showed a higher likelihood of supporting SDGs. In addition to that, the public perceives SDGs as associated with environmental issues rather than as an economic, social, and environmental framework. Interestingly, people are more aware of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) than SDGs, implying a better sensitization was done with respect to MDGs than SDGs.

Key Policy Recommendations:
  • Develop a specific awareness raising strategy for targeted groups, rather than a general public approach for promoting public support of SDGs.
  • Employ SDGs advocacy for the entire public and more by boosting understanding among women and less educated individuals.

          Lesson 3: Inadequate Involvement of CSOs/NGOs in SDGs Implementation Framework

The Government engages CSOs and NGOs in order to build awareness and to sensitize them on the roles they are expected to play in implementing the SDGs. Despite that, stakeholders such as CSOs/NGOs are not directly involved in the SDGs agenda. They are mainly involved in sensitization and advocacy programs. The few monitoring and evaluation programmes have brought different results which creates additional challenges in implementing their recommendations.

Localization of SDGs involve how local stakeholders and actors can critically contribute towards the overall achievements of SDGs and how SDGs can provide a framework for development of local policies. This means that a direct involvement of stakeholders like CSOs/NGOs within the implementation, evaluation and monitoring of SDGs is important for a successful adoption of SDGs.

Key recommendation
  • Promote a more active corporate [or private sector] engagement in specific SDGs by targeting information campaigns and provision of pragmatic best practice materials, relevant for the specific SDG, including easy-to-use indicators for monitoring and concise reporting formats.
  • CSOs should promote communication, partnership, collaboration and sharing of experiences between entities working in the same local areas to avoid duplication of efforts.
  • 3. Creation of SDGs watch, a mechanism to monitor the development of SDGs and drafting of a shadow report to counter balance government’s report, to launch a structured political debate around the differences in strategic and political opinion between government and other stakeholders’ reports.

          Lesson 4: SDGs Implementation Is Currently Mostly Envisaged in a Short-term Perspective

In Tanzania, SDGs are being implemented through the FYDP II framework. The implementation of the national development strategies is therefore aimed at achieving both the national development goals and SDGs with milestones set to be achieved at a given point in time.

However, it is important to consider a long-term perspective which should exceed the usual timeframe of five years of the national strategies. Further analysis shows that existing strategies are not well aligned with the 2030 agenda and that they are thus only subsidiary strategies.

Key recommendation
  • Developing a long-term national framework that is specific to the 2030 Agenda to complement the national sustainable development strategy under the FYDP.


On the basis of the discussions above, there remains a gap between the ambition of the 2030 agenda and the current commitments. Efforts of key stakeholders will have a limited impact, particularly in national polices, if political will is low. SDGs should not be confined to additional sectoral discussion, but rather be placed at the heart of a broad vision of what the society should aim to become. Leaving no one behind requires differentiated approaches that respect local realities and that are grounded in solutions that local communities are best paced to identify. A high political commitment will encourage the government to allocate budgetary resources and facilitate the involvement of non-state actors. The brief stresses the importance of identifying how local and regional governments, and other local actors including the public, can critically contribute towards the overall achievements of SDGs.

          Lead researcher

Dr. Kaihula Bishagazi

Dr. Kaihula Prudensia Bishagazi

Dr. Kaihula Prudensia Bishagazi a lecturer at Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) and a consultant in policy reforms. She has been involved in several consultancies on policy advocacy and Public Private Dialogues (PPDS) relating to Local Economic Development (LED).

Download the Policy Brief in PDF format here:
English (PDF/2 MB) | Swahili (PDF/2 MB)