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Two New Policy Briefs on Governance in the SDGs

As the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are coming to their end, the process of establishing their post-2015 successor is gaining more and more momentum. For the next 15 year period, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be the main tool for achieving world-wide sustainability through addressing and incorporating the three pillars of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) and their interlinkages.

To support the development of the SDGs, UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), the Post2015 Project and the Earth System Governance Project are developing a series of policy briefs. These policy briefs aim to provide the Open Working Group (OWG) for Sustainable Development with insights on how to best formulate and implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Earlier this year three policy briefs were released which stemmed from the International Workshop on Governance of and for Sustainable Development Goals. The workshop brought together international scholars and practitioners with expertise on global environmental governance to discuss key questions relating to the governance of, and for, the post-2015 development agenda. More information about these first three policy briefs can be found here.

Now, two new policy briefs have been released. While the first three policy briefs in the series focused significantly on the process of construction of goals in the SDGs, the two new briefs focus on the next stage of the process: implementation.

Policy Brief #4, Coherent Governance, the UN and the SDGs, was produced by an international group of experts on environmental governance led by Prof. Steven Bernstein (University of Toronto) and Prof. Joyeeta Gupta (University of Amsterdam). This policy brief explores the opportunities for creating a coherent governance system where international and domestic efforts are linked.

Prof. Bernstein explained that “while the formulation of the SDGs has been occupying governments and NGOs, this brief tries to draw attention to the next step in that process – the design of institutional arrangements that can support their implementation and review at the global and national levels”.

Policy Brief #5, Sustainable Development Goals and Inclusive Development, evaluates the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) developed by the UN General Assembly’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG) against criteria for inclusive development.  Like the other policy briefs in the series, it was produced by an international group of experts on environmental governance.

With the help of development principles, tools, and evaluation criteria three distributional governance problems are identified, which can be addressed by developing context-relevant, appropriate targets and indicators. However, this will require exceptional steering and leadership to ensure their successful implementation. The conclusion drawn is that “without attention to the principles of inclusive development, the SDGs will join the sphere of paternalistic goals, which may enhance the conditions of the vulnerable while not adequately addressing the challenging relational politics of sharing our Earth in the Anthropocene”.

This collaboration between UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), the Post2015 Project and the Earth System Governance Project is unique in its focus on governance of and for the SDGs, and gives important insight on both how complex and important the question is, and how to continue. Hopefully these policy briefs, and more briefs to follow in the series, will contribute to a stronger, more differentiated and informed focus on governance in the post-2015 development agenda.

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