New report helps policy makers avoid conflicts in the Sustainable Development Goals

Posted 23 June 2017

Four girls carrying water in IndiaA new report from the International Council for Science (ICSU) outlines a method to help organisations and government bodies navigate the web that is the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report, launched at the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations in New York, offers a blueprint to help countries achieve the 17 goals and 169 targets by prioritising the SDGs in terms of where they reinforce or conflict with one another. 

“We combined the rigor of scientific thinking with the in-depth expertise of scientists from diverse fields like agronomy, oceanography and epidemiology,” said ICSU Executive Director Heide Hackmann.

“The result was an independent analysis that can help policymakers and others engage with the goals and define their own priorities,” he said. 

The report found that there was significant variance along the scale, and not all goals were in complete harmony with each other. 

For example, economic growth is positively connected to improving health and wellbeing because economic growth allows governments to increase spending on healthcare. 

However, there was a potential negative impact between achieving food for all and conserving and restoring ecosystems, because methods to end hunger could involve agricultural practices that harm natural environments

The report gives governments the knowledge needed to implement the SDGs without creating more problems for themselves, said Professor David Griggs from the Monash Sustainable Development Institute and one of the report’s authors. 

“It is critical that they take into account the interlinkages between their actions in order to maximise synergies and minimise perverse outcomes,” he said. 

This will allow leaders to minimise trade-offs in policy, said Report Lead Coordinator Anne-Sophie Stevance.

“For the first time, policymakers will be able to look at the goals as a comprehensive set and understand how they reinforce each other, and where there are tensions,” she said.

“Leaders can use this information to prioritise investments and make coherent policies.” 

The Australian Water Association has also developed a discussion paper to provide an overview of the SDGs and guidance for the water industry. To download the paper, click here