Towards systemic and contextual priority setting for implementing 2030 Agenda
How the sustainable development goals (SDGs) interact with each other has emerged as a key question in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, as it has potentially strong implications for prioritization of actions and their effectiveness. So far, analysis of interactions has been very basic, typically starting from one SDG, counting the number of interactions, and discussing synergies and trade-offs from the perspective of that issue area. This paper pushes the frontier of how interactions amongst SDG targets can be understood and taken into account in policy and planning. It presents an approach to assessing systemic and contextual interactions of SDG targets, using a typology for scoring interactions in a cross-impact matrix and using network analysis techniques to explore the data. By considering how a target interacts with another target and how that target in turn interacts with other targets, results provide a more robust basis for priority setting of SDG efforts.
The analysis identifies which targets have the most and least positive influence on the network and thus guides, where efforts may be directed (and not); where strong positive and negative links sit, raising warning flags to areas requiring extra attention; and how targets that reinforce each others’ progress cluster, suggesting where important cross-sectoral collaboration between actors is merited. How interactions play out is context specific and the approach is tested on the case of Sweden to illustrate how priority setting, with the objective to enhance progress across all 17 SDGs, might change if systemic impacts are taken into consideration.