Six Transformations to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By adopting the 2030 Agenda with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement, member states of the United Nations have created a framework for national action and global cooperation on sustainable development1. The SDGs focus on time-bound targets for Prosperity, People, Planet, Peace, and Partnership – known as the five Ps. The Paris Agreement commits countries to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century2. SDG 13 on climate change links to the Paris Agreement noting that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change “is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.”

Evidence suggests that international development goals, such as those around public health, can accelerate progress towards complex development goals3, but achieving the SDGs will require deep, structural changes across all sectors in society. This raises the critical question of how strategies to achieve the 17 SDGs can be organised.

Several authors have shown that SDG outcomes, including the objectives of the Paris Agreement, are interdependent1,4,5 with complex coupling between human, technical and natural systems. Yet, available studies do not emphasise how the implementation of the SDGs should be organised.

To help fill these gaps, we outline a systemic policy approach to help achieve each SDG (Annex 1). As with the much simpler Millennium Development Goals6, many policy interventions (such as public investments and regulations) are needed to achieve each SDG, and each intervention generally contributes to several goals. Governments need a strategy to design and implement key interventions. Building on The World in 20501 and earlier work, we propose six Transformations to organise SDG interventions through a semi-modular action agenda that can be designed by discrete, yet interacting, parts of government. Each Transformation engages a different subset of business and civil society, facilitating targeted problem-solving, clear communication, and the mobilization of stakeholders7. We outline how the Transformations can be operationalised with a focus on government action and conclude with an action agenda for science.

  • Publisher: The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)
  • Download

Was this post helpful?