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Ideas on Governance ‘of’ and ‘for’ Sustainable Development Goals

Kanie, Norichika, Ruben Zondervan, and Casey Stevens (editors). 2014. Ideas on Governance ‘of’ and ‘for’ Sustainable Development Goals. UNU-IAS/POST2015 Conference Report., . Tokyo: United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability


This summary captures the main outcomes of the International Workshop on Governance ‘of’ and ‘for’ Sustainable Development Goals, held 1 February 2014, in New York, USA.

This workshop addressed the key issues related to governance and the SDGs. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss key questions relating to the governance of, and governance for, the post-2015 development agenda, with particular focus on the SDGs. It aimed at identifying points where expert consensus emerges and to find new ideas through interactive exercise between governance researchers and policy makers. Discussions addressed four guiding questions. Each question was first discussed in six breakout groups and later in plenary. The ideas included in this report are an outcome of the collective effort of the participants.

Key Messages

SDGs will need to go beyond MDGs in adopting a systemic approach, having broad inclusiveness and applicability for both developing and developed countries, stimulating innovative and long term thinking, and recognizing that we live in the anthropocene era. One idea to reflect this reality is to follow a “sub-goal” approach – establish SDGs at the global level addressing systemic challenges, supported by sub-goals composed of a set of options for different levels of governance from global to local levels through which systemic challenges could be addressed. They should be crafted in order to facilitate stakeholder participation in the problem-solving activities.

·         Governance is a problematic and sensitive term in UN politics. The concept of “governance” is understood very differently and there is no agreement on its meaning and function in the SDG context.

·         Social science research does not provide findings strongly supporting a stand-alone governance goal and political experience indicates high potential for disagreement and infeasibility. SDGs could be better implemented when governance is woven into each issue, which does not necessitate using the term “governance”.

·         There is a strong need for finding incentives for all actors to contribute to the SDG process and to weave that into the UN process in a broader context.

·         Governance is important for the process leading to and formulation of the SDGs and governance of the SDGs will be crucial for their implementation. The aspects and forms of governance relevant to governance for and of SDGs are however different and hence need differentiation in the policy discourse and process.


The International Workshop on Governance ‘of’ and ‘for’ Sustainable Development Goals was organized by the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), the Earth System Governance Project and the POST2015 project (hosted by Tokyo Institute of Technology and sponsored by Ministry of Environment, Japan).

Download the report here (pdf)

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