In a Policy Forum, Frank Biermann and colleagues outline demanding – yet realistic – policy reforms to strengthen the governance and implementation of the United Nations’ (UN) ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2015, the UN General Assembly agreed on 17 SDGs with 169 targets intended to be achieved by 2030. However, recent research has shown that the political impact of these goals has been limited and has not yet succeeded in reorienting political systems, institutions, or societies as hoped. “In short, the design of the governance for the SDGs must be substantially strengthened to allow these goals to ‘transform our world,’ as the original 2015 UN declaration promised,” write the authors. According to Biermann et al., two upcoming UN summits – the SDG Summit in September 2023 (a meeting to review the halfway point in SDG implementation) and the Summit of the Future in 2024 – provide opportunities to adjust the course of SDG implementation. Biermann et al. outline 4 governance reforms: (1) to differentiate implementation of targets in such a way that commits high-income countries to stronger and more concrete action; (2) to dynamize the goals and targets by regular pledge-and-review rounds; (3) to legalize certain goals and targets through a network of plurilateral agreements of like-minded countries; and (4) to institutionalize global and national governance in areas where the SDGs lack political and institutional support. “Our proposals of differentiation, dynamization, legalization, and institutionalization holds the potential to drive policy processes that continue beyond 2030 and generate a global policy framework that would not only be more ambitious but also more effective,” write the authors.
Four governance reforms to strengthen the SDGs
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