European Commission (Technical Report): Interlinkages and Policy Coherence for the Sustainable Development Goals Implementation

This publication (2019) is a technical report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the European Commission’s science and knowledge service. It aims to provide evidence-based scientific support to the European policymaking process. The scientific output expressed does not imply a policy position of the European Commission.

The broad scope and complexity of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) constitute a new challenge for policy. The identification of effective implementation strategies would need to be supported by coordinated policies that take into account the multiple relationships existing between the different dimensions of sustainability.

This report proposes a new operational method consisting of two tools to identify interlinkages by adopting two different perspectives. One is purely scientific oriented as it is based on the review of the scientific literature on inter-linkages in the SDGs framework and the other one is policy oriented and based on EU legislation

As often pointed out by several international organisations and scholars, the successful implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda requires a coordinated and coherent set of policies. At the same time, the simultaneous formulation of a comprehensive set of policy targets, as outlined in the SDGs, together with a proposition on suitable indicators for measuring them, allows for the systematic analysis of implied synergies and trade-offs which can help improve overall policy coherence.

Main conclusions:
Sustainability is inherently complex, going beyond traditional policy areas, and often there is not only one “right” or “objective” way to define sustainability paths. For this reason, no single analytical tool could be considered fully able to identify policy strategies to implement SDGs. On the contrary, a systemic approach needs to be adopted in dealing with this aspect in order to identify and manage possible trade-offs and to exploit existing synergies and complementarities that can exist among the different SDGs.

No specific study is available in the current literature on the analysis of the trans-boundary and inter-generational effects related to the SDGs implementation. The inter-generational aspects are mainly related to the studies on future well-being.

The widely accepted ceteris paribus condition, which analyses the behaviour of each system independently, cannot be considered helpful in the UN 2030 Agenda context. More holistic approaches are required as the contextual evaluation of several systems together is fundamental.

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