Setting Priorities Through “Systems Thinking” at the SDG Summit - IISD
By Nina Weitz, Therese Bennich, and Henrik Carlsen (Stockholm Environment Institute)
Before the UN SDG Summit to be held in New York, US, this September, UN Member States must decide on their priorities for accelerating progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We argue that Member States can prioritize some Goals above others, to boost progress on the 2030 Agenda. To be able to do this, while keeping to the commitment to achieve all SDGs, they need to incorporate “systems thinking” into SDGs and national decision- and policymaking processes.
The SDGs are indivisible, meaning progress on all 17 Goals is necessary for building a sustainable future. Because many of the Goals are also interlinked, one or a handful of Goals may have the capacity to “push progress” and make development more sustainable across many or even all the Goals. At the same time, some Goals merit additional attention as they are more isolated and will not receive that push from other Goals, while some may even be constrained by progress in another Goal. The interplay between the Goals matters as Member States aim to achieve them all, while acknowledging that in each context, progress on some Goals is more important for accelerating the SDGs than on others.
Despite the Goals’ indivisible and integrated nature, we haven’t seen systems thinking being broadly applied to the SDGs to date. We argue that even though prioritization might sound like cherry-picking, it can be done in such a way as to create far-reaching actions across the whole 2030 Agenda. Member States have the responsibility to progress on the SDGs, and they have much to gain from considering the systemic role each Goal plays within the 2030 Agenda. With an increasingly challenging geopolitical context, and a rapidly changing world, decision makers need to rethink their approach to priority setting in the next half year.
Prioritizing for greater impact
The 2030 Agenda remains an ambitious and uniting framework for global sustainable development, one that would likely not be adopted today. Member States must take this opportunity and deliver on their responsibility to make as much progress as possible on all SDGs up to 2030. The temptation will be to do the easiest things to showcase progress– which may be counter-productive.
Prioritizing progress on SDGs that are more easily achieved or because they serve short-term political or economic interests will not take us far in achieving the vision of the 2030 Agenda, and could conceivably threaten progress on other Goals. Systems thinking can help set priorities for actions on the SDGs by showing interactions, both synergies and trade-offs between the Goals. Seeing the whole and understanding relationships, rather than breaking systems down into separate parts, is basic systems thinking.
The relationship between the Goals varies in each context. Results from our work with the tool SDG Synergies in Sweden represent one context-specific example of how taking a systemic view can capitalize on how the indivisible Goals interact. Our tool offered decision makers a number of perspectives on the Goals’ systemic impact. We found that SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) came out as having the most positive impact on progress across all 17 SDGs for Sweden. The next most impactful Goals were, in descending order, partnerships for the goals (SDG 17), quality education (SDG 4), peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16), and climate action (SDG 13).
The Climate Chance Summit Africa 2023 will bring together on the 23rd, 24th and 2th of October 2023 at the Palais des Congrès in Yaounde 1,500 African actors from the "climate community": high-level personalities, experts, actors in the field, representatives of local governments, businesses and organised civil society.
Celebrations for World Environment Day 2023 kicked off in host-country Cote d’Ivoire, as millions of people prepare for similar activities across the world. Venues across the capital city, Abidjan – from its historic lagoon to its first modern art museum - shone the spotlight on this year’s theme #Beat Plastic Pollution.
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As part of our ongoing commitment to promoting transparent and accountable governance of climate and environmental funds, we are pleased to invite you to two upcoming online sessions. These sessions will offer valuable insights, strategies, and best practices for combating corruption, and reinforce our collective efforts to create a more sustainable future. We hope you will join us for these important discussions.
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From April 19 to 20, 2023 a workshop for the development of a national investment plan for Nigeria on transhumance and related topics was held in Abuja, NIGERIA. This workshop, funded by the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) Facilitation of the Federal Republic of Germany, aimed to...
The SWM Programme is the first international initiative to tackle the wild meat challenge by addressing both wildlife conservation and food security. It is an initiative from the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), funded by the European Union with co-funding from the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) and the French Development Agency (AFD).
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The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Country Representative, Suze Percy-Filippini is impressed with the progress made by the department of Forestry in the implementation of the Forest Farm Facility –FFF Program in the Choma District of Southern Province.
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The African Regional Exchange, a three-day workshop co-organized with CIFOR-ICRAF, the Kenya Forestry Research Institute and the Kenya Forest Service, brought together farmers, bankers, governments, and development partners from across Africa to discuss ways to ensure smallholder farmers have access to the finance they need to improve and scale up sustainable forest and farm management practices.
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Oyéoussi Charles Balogoun is the Africa Representative of the NGO Panel under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The Civil Society Panel (CSO Panel) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) represents nearly 500 organisations accredited to the Convention. Charles Balogoun is also the Global President and Chairman of the Board of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Afrique Espérance. He answers ENVIRONNEMENTALES’s questions on the state of desertification in Africa.
A common vision of sustainable finance is being developed in Central Africa. The project is at the heart of an international forum scheduled for 8 and 9 May 2023 in Douala, Cameroon, under the theme « Trajectories towards sustainable finance ». An initiative of the Bank of Central African States (BEAC), in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Sustainable Banking and Finance Network (SBFN).
Delegates to the Sixth Meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development emphasized the need for forward-looking, high-impact initiatives involving all relevant actors, to enable the structural transformations Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) needs to “resume and sustain the path to 2030.”
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