Returning to core principles to advance the 2030 Agenda


In this Nature Comment article, Mistra Geopolitics Co-Director Henrik Carlsen, Nina Weitz, Therese Bennich, Måns Nilsson and Åsa Persson, write about the principles that will advance progress for the 2030 Agenda.

The principles that underpin the 2030 Agenda – that it should be indivisible, integrated and universal – can safeguard against inaction or unsustainable practices. However, these principles have not yet been meaningfully applied. As the world gears up to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals at the 2023 SDG Summit, this article proposes measures to strengthen alignment with these principles.

United Nations Headquarters in

United Nations Headquarters in Geneva. Photo: Pixabay. 

Key messages

  • This commentary article argues that more of the same will not bring success by 2030, and that the SDG Summit in 2023 is a vital opportunity to correct the course. Implementation must now better align with the underpinning principles, which need to be properly embedded in policy, institutional and regulatory frameworks.
  • To achieve this, the authors point to three key areas where there is a need for action: greater use of systems thinking; treating society, economy and the environment together; and connecting SDG action across different locations. The article also sets out 11 proposals for action in these areas.


The SDG Summit is an opportunity to align implementation more strongly with the three principles, argue the authors, and seizing it would not only accelerate progress towards the vision of the 2030 Agenda but also revive confidence that multilateral cooperation can solve urgent, multiple and intertwined global challenges.

Read the Nature Sustainability Commentary on SEI’s website.


Weitz, N., Carlsen, H., Bennich, T., Nilsson, M., Persson, Å. (2023). Returning to core principles to advance the 2030 Agenda. Nature Sustainability.