The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes interlinkages and interactions among its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the importance of implementing them as an “indivisible whole”. As development analysts, policy-makers and practitioners are well aware, doing so will require managing both reinforcing relationships and trade-offs between targets and goals in different sectors.
This realization has often amplified calls for radical shake-ups of institutions, new intersectoral bodies, “breaking down silos”. But as my colleague Åsa Persson has argued, the answer to intersectoral challenges is not always new cross-sectoral institutional arrangements. What matters, first and foremost, is that interactions between policy areas that fall within the remit of different institutions are taken into account in framing problems and designing action – something that too often does not happen.
If we are to think more carefully about policy coordination, what exactly is it that should be coordinated? Integrating everything with everything is hardly the answer. As a basis, we first need to understand how the different policy areas interact. Second, this knowledge needs to be accessible and understandable by decision-makers tasked with devising strategies to implement the SDGs, such as officials in national ministries for planning and investment.
So, first, how do we go about identifying and assessing these interactions? …