A Complex World Requires Complex Solutions: Four Tools to Make Sense of and to Implement the 2030 Agenda
When world leaders agreed in 2015 to adopt the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they set themselves an ambitious target. Now, only ten years away from 2030 and in the midst of a global pandemic that is likely to cause severe social, economic and political instability, reaching these goals appears ever more difficult. However, numerous initiatives, platforms and tools have been launched recently to adapt to this new situation and to tackle development challenges through new solutions, new ways of thinking and new partnerships. Please find some examples below:
Much has been written on the need to recognise the interlinkages and connections between different SDGs. Interventions need to be based on a contextual understanding of how sectors, scales and development targets interact to identify the most effective path forward. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) understands SDG integration as an approach that targets systems – not just thematic sectors – to address all aspects of complex development challenges. Working on four dedicated workstreams, its SDG Integration platform offers various innovative tools, resources and success stories on how to accelerate progress towards the SDGs. Similarly, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) has designed SDG Synergies as a practical tool based on systems thinking to facilitate an understanding of how groups of policy areas and targets interact. SDG Synergies has helped national and regional governments to record, visualise and analyse patterns and relationships between multiple targets and to identify the intervention strategies that are most effective.
While these initiatives foster the design of integrated policies and prevent silo-thinking, new technical tools and digital solutions like the 2030 Connect or SDG Pathfinder platform have shown to carry enormous potential for unlocking previously unknown development results. 2030 Connect is an initiative by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the UN Office of Information and Communication Technology (OICT) which maps existing science, technology and innovation for the SDGs in and beyond the UN system. Similarly, SDG Pathfinder launched as a collaboration between the OECD, The Commonwealth, the UN, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) extracts trustworthy content from all six organisations through artificial intelligence. Users can collect and personalise knowledge resources and use an interactive cluster map to visualise how the various SDGs interrelate.
All four platforms are based on a tremendous amount of high-quality research, often organised as a collaboration between practitioners, programmers and scientists. They can be used both to analyse and to respond to development challenges and to design comprehensive strategies towards the achievements of the SDGs.