Colombian officials are one step closer to understanding how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) interact at a regional level, through the use of a new tool developed by SEI.

The tool – which was tested out at a recent workshop in Medellín – is part of a broader effort to help implement the environmental aspects of the SDGs in Colombia. SEI Latin America has partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme to support decision-makers faced with questions on what progress on one SDG target means for progress on other targets.

The answers, of course, are complicated. But the tool helps decision-makers and stakeholders visualize the interactions, facilitating the application of SEI’s SDG interactions framework. Colombia is already known as a leader in implementing the 2030 Agenda in Latin America; the tool and framework will help the country identify actions that make progress toward multiple goals.

At a workshop in Medellín, participants discuss how SDGs interact in Colombia’s Antioquia region. Photo: SEI.

The framework uses a 7-point scale to score SDG interactions; the most positive interactions are scored as +3, while the most negative are -3. This enables nuanced assessments that show trade-offs and synergies. The scoring is then complemented by a network analysis that can determine which interactions garner the most positive and negative results. This allows researchers to understand the key topics that link to each other and to identify the institutions and actors that could work together to maximize co-benefits in their efforts.

The tool speeds up this process. It allows users to enter the scores digitally into an online matrix (see the below figure), leading to a quick visualization of the results and leaving more time for stakeholder discussions. At the workshop in Medellín, participants interacted with this tool to analyse SDG interactions at the regional scale, focusing on the policies and realities in the Antioquia region.

Through an online interface, users answer questions — such as the one above — on how progress for each SDG target affects progress on another SDG target. The tool then creates a matrix showing all the positive and negative interactions. The figure above shows the matrix produced in the workshop in Medellín, Colombia. Source: SEI.

The workshop was co-hosted by national and local partners, including: the SDG Center for Latin America and the Caribbean, housed at Universidad de los Andes; the Environment Secretariat of the Antioquia’s Governor’s Office; the local Environmental authority, Corantioquia; and Proantioquia, a private sector foundation supporting SDG review.

Workshop participants – including government officials, business leaders, academic researchers, and civil society representatives – provided feedback and discussed how the tool’s results can be used in regional policy planning processes.

Participants identified strong synergies between SDG targets on sustainable food production systems and water, as well as between targets on cities and sustainable consumption and production. They also discussed potential trade-offs between targets; for example, increasing hydroelectric power could negatively affect water availability and ecosystem protection.

SEI and UN Environment are also working on a national level analysis, to be completed this year in collaboration with the Colombian Ministry of Environment, the National Planning Department and the SDGs Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Medellín, Colombia. Photo: marielleleenen / Getty Images.