In 2017, the Mongolia government provided SEI with a valuable opportunity to test out the new SDG Synergies approach in a real policy setting. The approach involves a multi-stakeholder process to ”score” interactions between a selection of sustainable development targets against a seven-point scale, followed by network analysis, all with the aim of helping policy-makers understand how different policy options could affect their sustainable development ambitions as a whole, rather than individual goals and targets; where synergies could be exploited or trade-offs mitigated.

Less clear at the time was how it would be received by the stakeholders themselves.


Partnering with the UN Development Programme and the Mongolian government, SEI researchers visited Ulaanbataar in late 2017 to organize and deliver a capacity-building programme centred on a sample SDG Synergies process, which is described in a new SEI report.

The process focused on targets from Mongolia’s Sustainable Development Vision (SDV) 2030 related to water resource management, and how they interacted with targets in other sectors reflecting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) priorities.

“Being able to use the SDV targets meant the process could be even more attuned to the realities in Mongolia. The Vision was already designed to harmonize the SDGs with national policy,” says SEI Research Fellow Karina Barquet, one of the workshop organizers.

Development policy

Since then, the approach has cemented a place at the heart of Mongolia’s sustainable development policy processes.

For example, in 2018, Mongolia started a wide-ranging review of sectoral policies to ensure their coherence –with each other, with the Sustainable Development Vision and with Mongolia’s international commitments.

“The National Development Agency carried out a series of sectoral consultations, covering 13 sectors and 40 sub-sectors and involving a range of relevant stakeholders. Based on these discussions, key policy objectives were defined. The SDG Synergies method was used to analyse interlinkages between policy objectives, and a prioritization and ranking of objectives was made based on this,” explains Doljinsuren Jambal, head of the National Development Agency’s Development Policy and Planning Department.

According to Doljinsuren Jambal, elements of the SDG Synergies approach have even been adopted into official processes of policy review.

“All state organizations who design policies, and all approval processes, have to comply with the implementation regulation for the Development Policy and Planning Law,” she says. “The National Development Agency made an amendment to this regulation and got it approved by the Cabinet six months ago. The amendment included the SEI seven-point scale method.”

Voluntary national review

Finally, when it came to drafting process for Mongolia’s 2019 voluntary national review of SDG implementation, SDG Synergies also came in useful.

“We carried out more than 10 consultations in drafting the review,” says Doljinsuren Jambal. “At the first national-level consultation we involved a range of stakeholders. SDGs interlinkages in Mongolia were assessed using the SEI SDG Synergies approach, and we prioritized SDGs based on this. The intention was to define the scope of the report.”

The review report will be presented at the High-Level Political Forum in New York next week.

”It’s fantastic to see our work gain such traction. Mongolia has seen potential uses for the SDG Synergies approach beyond what we could have imagined two years ago,” says Karina Barquet. SEI has also been working on SDG Synergies processes with the governments of Sri Lanka and the national government in Colombia, as well as with the local government of Medellin to inform water planning

The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development takes place 9–18 July at UN Headquarters in New York.