France is not a champion, nor particularly lagging behind in terms of sustainable developement. Just like most developed countries, France cannot take its position for granted. Indeed, if past trends continue or are not being reverted, France will achieve several SDGs targets but will miss others for which it made official international pledges. The SDGs, together with their related targets and quantified objectives, can however provide France with an image of where it stands now, can help measure gaps and limits of its action, and anticipate future challenges. Time is up to grasp the SDGs opportunity to meet these challenges.



In 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2030 for development. While France has succeeded in meeting some challenges in its development process, others still remain to be resolved, and the SDGs could help identify them. Our non-exhaustive analysis of 29 goals reveals that France runs the risk of not achieving half of them between now and 2030, especially on issues such as poverty, educational and gender inequalities, and biodiversity. Achieving the SDGs is therefore an issue for France, and the challenges in doing so are not only environment-related.


The SDGs contain new commitments for France—sometimes “aspirational”, even utopian, some would say—on reducing income inequalities, for instance; and, more generally speaking, on key issues at a national level that still lack quantified targets. This provides a host of opportunities for civil society to strengthen advocacy and for the government to use these new goals to orient its policies. While France has already set targets that are well above the UN-set goals regarding the environment, both civil society and the government can build on the SDGs’ universality to establish cross-border alliances, and on their indivisibility to propose integrated solutions to environmental issues.


It is essential for all actors in France to acknowledge the commitments made by signing up to the SDGs, starting with the government. The next step that the government needs to take for their implementation would be to draw up a shared diagnosis of France’s strengths and weaknesses. Other steps are also necessary: assessing the public policies in place, aligning its own goals to the 2030 timeline, ensuring that the French institutional process can live up to the goals, taking advantage of the universality of SDGs to increase cooperation with other countries. What remains to be resolved is the prioritization of goals and measures to be undertaken, as well as a clear and limited dashboard for the SDGs in France. Our view is that this prioritization can and should be drawn up taking into consideration the indivisibility of SDGs.

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