Implementing the 2030 Agenda: Integrating Growth, Environment, Equality and Governance

With its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 associated targets, the Agenda 2030 has set an ambitious vision for human development. In the agenda’s networked system of targets, policy fields and sectors do not stand isolated. Rather, potential synergies and tradeoffs exist between the SDGs. This research project focuses on the question of how political institutions and processes must be shaped in order to ensure the integrated and coherent implementation of the agenda that is needed to maximize synergies and mitigate tradeoffs.

Project Lead:
Anita Breuer

Project Team:
Tilman Altenburg
Pooja Balasubramanian
Ines Dombrowsky
Julia Leininger
Malerba, Daniele
Srinivasa Srigiri

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Time frame:
2017 - 2022 / completed

Project description

With the 2030 Agenda, the international community has established an ambitious, interlinked goal system that serves as a guide for a sustainable global transformation. The successful implementation of the agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires that the complex interactions between the SDGs and their associated sub-targets be taken into account.  A distinction must be made between positive and negative interactions within and between the social, ecological, economic and political dimensions of sustainable development. Positive interactions (synergies) arise when progress on one goal facilitates the achievement of other goals. Infrastructure development and expansion, for example, can stimulate economic growth. To maximize synergies, political institutions and processes need to be shaped in a way that allows for an integrative rather than an isolated implementation of the respective related goals. Negative interactions (tradeoffs) arise when the achievement of one goal constrains or even impedes or reverses the achievement of other goals. Improved access to energy for all, for example, can negatively affect efforts for climate change mitigation. To minimize tradeoffs, political institutions and processes need to be shaped in a way that priorities are set and compromises can be found.

Several requirements need to be met for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda:

  • The identification and categorization of interdependencies between the overarching SDGs and their associated targets is necessary in order to maximize synergies and mitigate tradeoffs
  • Political coherence and integration are central in planning and implementation. In the interlinked target system of the Agenda 2030 policy fields and sectors cannot be addressed in an isolated manner. Instead, an integrated implementation approach is needed.
  • Political institutions and processes must be shaped in a way that produces integrated action strategies and implementation processes.

Against this background, the project addresses the following research questions:

  • Which potential synergies and tradeoffs exist between central goals of the agenda, which synergies should be strengthened, which compromises should be sought, and which political institutional arrangements are needed to reach and realize these compromises?
  • How can the objective to reduce inequality be operationalized in the process of agenda implementation; which synergies with other SDGs can be exploited; which tradeoffs arise and which political institutions and processes foster or discourage the reduction of social inequality?
  • How can the SDGs be implemented in an integrated manner that respects and promotes democracy and human rights? Which elements of democracy support the implementation of the SDGs?

The aim of the research project is to investigate central interlinkages between the SDGs and provide advice to BMZ and other development actors on devising approaches and action strategies to support developing countries in their effort towards an integrated implementation of the Agenda 2030. The project thus intends to contribute to the identification of needs for adaptation and reform of development policies and strategies for a successful implementation of the Agenda 2030.

The project focuses on approaches to maximize synergies and mitigate tradeoffs in four thematic areas:

Thematic area 1: The water-food-energy nexus under conditions of climate change

Thematic area 2: The decoupling of economic growth and resource consumption

Thematic area 3: Adequate allocation strategies to tackle poverty and social inequality

Thematic area 4: Good governance and peace as necessary conditions for sustainable development



Project Coordination

Carolin Becher