Reconceiving the SDGs as a political force for change

The following is taken from EVALSDGs’ briefing paper, Reconceiving the SDGs as a political force for change


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) attract much international attention. They are presented as a powerful instrument for leveraging transformative change in the way governments make development decisions and how economies function. Yet in adopting the SDGs, countries did not commit to pursuing them. For that to happen, policy leaders will need to see how the goals align with – or usefully challenge – national objectives, and also be convinced that the SDGs can help them make good decisions. This requires reconceiving the SDGs as a political force for change in specific contexts, rather than as a broadly accepted framework of aspirational goals and associated technocratic challenges. Drawing on insights from diverse national experiences in achieving sustainable development, this briefing uses a political economy lens to examine how that can happen.

Policy pointers

The political factors that affect progress on sustainable development are important but often overlooked; a political economy lens can reveal them.

Sustainable development thinking is widely influencing national planning, but resilient inter-ministerial platforms and high-level oversight mechanisms are still needed to embed it in institutions of governance.

Decision makers need compelling evidence to be convinced that sustainable development is more efficient and effective at achieving development objectives than alternative approaches.

More important than their individual goals, the SDGs offer a tool for rational debate on development choices at a time of political division and uncertainty in much of the world.

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