The 2030 Agenda promised a project for structural change and to make the abstract concept of sustainable development more operational. This Issue Brief questions this ambitious and necessary programme. Is it changing the practices of different actors? Are their implementation approaches relevant? What have the SDGs brought to policy debates and policymaking at the country and international community levels? And what are the potential tools to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda?

Key Messages

  • More and more references are being made to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but they rarely question practices, nor do they initiate a transformative project. By 2030, the countries in particular need to accelerate, as do companies. Some interesting experiments exist, especially to integrate SDGs into budgetary processes.
  • It is essential to restore the backbone of the 2030 Agenda, to develop a clear vision of what does or does not contribute to the SDGs, and to prevent the SDGs from falling victim to an overly vague game of interpretation that everyone can join without questioning the real impact of their actions on the Agenda as a whole.
  • As highlighted by the Global Sustainable Development Report, emphasis must be placed on the co-benefits, but also the complex tradeoffs between goals. These interactions are still insufficiently integrated into SDG implementation strategies.
  • To ensure the 2030 Agenda becomes a true global roadmap, it is time to move away from a form of “weak consensus” and to make this programme central to debates, particularly when they are complex. It should facilitate discussions on sectoral policies, especially trade policies, by questioning their impacts on and contribution to the six transformations proposed by the Global Sustainable Development Report. The 2030 Agenda should assist decision-making and inform the approaches and trade-offs needed to develop sustainable development pathways and to encourage actors to question whether they can do things differently and better.
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