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Global Goals


Achieving sustainable development worldwide remains the biggest political challenge of our time. In 2015, the international community adopted 17 ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ with no less than 169 ‘targets’ as part of a global ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.

The ambition expressed in these goals is unprecedented. But can such goal-setting, as a new central approach in global governance, help resolve the pressing challenges of economic development, poverty eradication, social justice and global environmental protection? Nobody knows at this stage. While the United Nations and its member states place high hopes on this novel strategy, there is little scientific knowledge on whether such global goals can live up to exceedingly high expectations.

Sustainability research has tended to focus on concrete institutions, actors and practices – not on aspirational goals that bring little in terms of normative specificity, stable regime formation or compliance mechanisms. How can ‘global governance through goals’ nonetheless be effective – and under which conditions?

GLOBALGOALS has been designed to address this research question and break new ground in sustainability and global governance theories.

Read more at the GlobalGoals website.


GLOBALGOALS will offer the first and most comprehensive data compilation, network mapping and comparative institutional analysis of the evolution, effectiveness and future prospects of ‘global governance through goals’ as a central novel steering mechanism in world politics.

Our five–year study programme deploys a unique set of cutting-edge methodologies, including social network analysis and online surveys, to assess and explain the steering effects of the Sustainable Development Goals through a detailed investigation of their institutional arrangements and actor networks, at international and national levels.

GLOBALGOALS will make a crucial knowledge contribution to both the theory of global sustainability governance and the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

European Research Council Advanced Grant

The GLOBALGOALS project is funded by the European Research Council through an Advanced Grant awarded to Professor Frank Biermann. The core team is based at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, with a wide network of project affiliates around the world.

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