Two people surrounded by fallen houses and garbage
Photo: UN Development Programme.

Will the citizens of the Philippines accept lower economic growth and fewer jobs for the sake of more sustainable development? Should Nepal invest its scant resources into infrastructure and leave climate change responses for later?

Policy-makers trying to mainstream the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into national development strategies and budgeting processes cannot afford to treat these as either-or choices. As a representative of the Nepal government put it at the Asia-Pacific Knowledge Exchange meeting in Manila, in October:

We don’t have the leisure to sit and wait for targets to be achieved one at a time.

The answer is integrated policy solutions that push progress on clusters of SDG targets, or at the very least minimize trade-offs between them. But to plan them, policy-makers need an understanding of how targets will interact; and to put them into action, they need buy-in from different policy sectors. New work being done at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) aims to support both these processes.

Old habits vs the new Agenda

The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs call for a balanced, integrated approach to sustainable development in its three dimensions: economic, social and environmental. For governments with scant resources and limited cross-sectoral policy coherence this is not an easy task. At the same conference, participants from around Asia-Pacific exchanged experiences on the challenges they face in implementing the 2030 Agenda. A representative of the host government argued that more balanced and sustainable development will imply moderating present economic growth. In this respect, the short planning horizon of most governments is a major obstacle, along with the fact that different branches of government have their own planning cycles and goals.

Source: UNDP Asia and the Pacific: Our Perspectives