This Policy Brief sheds light on what the SDGs can contribute following 25 years1 of national sustainable development policy implementation. It suggests practical modalities that European countries, and France in particular, could apply to fully harness the potential of the SDGs.


  • SDGs provide an excellent case study on the challenges of securing country ownership of international commitments. Two scenarios are possible. The first gives them a purely statistical existence, where states meet their commitments and report their progress to the UN, measured according to more than 200 monitoring indicators. The second scenario gives them a political status and paves the way for the strategic use of SDGs.
  • There is an urgent need, associated with the “political development” scenario, for France and other European countries to define a strategy that includes: high-level coordination, an appraisal of the state of play, the definition of a framework document and the alignment of existing strategies. These elements must integrate civil society actors as soon as possible so that we move beyond a purely administrative exercise and allow other political actors to seize the agenda.
  • The setting of long-term policies is a second priority: this issue brief suggests an approach involving the estimation of the long-term trends in each sector and identifying the policies needed to achieve the objectives.
  • A third priority is the redefinition of responsibilities and forms of accountability of the public and private actors involved in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Sustainable development is not just about climate and international cooperation. The level of ambition and the multidimensional nature of SDGs require a rethinking of stakeholder roles.
  • Finally, the strategic use of SDGs will only be possible if they are integrated into the legislative process and receive high-level political support.
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