Sussex Sustainability Research Programme

SDG interactions

SSRP statement

Connecting the dots to catalyse change: Why managing interactions among SDGs is key to sustainable development.

A diverse group of experts and stakeholders from many world regions and sectors gathered to debate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a Wilton Park Roundtable (co-organised by the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme and British Council, 5-7 March 2018). We discussed a crucial aspect of implementation, namely the interactions among 17 SDGs and their 169 targets, and how these interactions are likely to have a profound influence on efforts to achieve the goals. With this statement we wish to highlight to the UN High-level Political Forum 2018 the valuable benefits to be gained by exploiting synergies among SDGs and thereby efficiently achieving all the SDGs.

Global goals mapping

In 2016/17 Professor Jörn Scharlemann from SSRP with Dr Valerie Kapos from UNEP-WCMC led on a report to understand the way humans interact with the environment.

The report, Global Goals Mapping: The Environment-human Landscape, is the first to be commissioned by the Towards a Sustainable Earth (TaSE) initiative, a Global goalspartnership between Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), The Rockefeller Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The report identified that the resilience of our ecosystems, the security of natural resources and the stability of Earths life-support systems are essential for human response and adaptation to the global changes we face, and for sustainable development.The report draws on research evidence and innovation relating to environment-human interactions published in the past 10 years to explore the specific relevance of these interactions for each individual SDG and for the relationships among Goals. It highlights 20 connections among SDGs where human-environment interactions are likely to be most critical to achieving the SDGs.

Read Global Goals Mapping: The Environment-Human Landscape

SSRP Policy Brief #1: Interactions among the Sustainable Development Goals …and why they are important.
SSRP policy brief

 The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a comprehensive, internationally agreed-upon set of objectives aiming to vastly improve economic, social and planetary well-being. How exactly to achieve these goals is now a point of discussion at many fora around the world. At one such forum, a Wilton Park Roundtable, an international group of stakeholders and experts found the efficiency of implementation to be a central issue. This efficiency in turn is related to the fact that the goals are all interconnected: In some cases steps towards achieving one goal may hinder the achievement of one or more other goals, leading to unintended “trade-offs”, or inefficiencies in implementation. But at least as often, actions towards a particular goal can have a positive influence on other goals, setting up beneficial “synergies” among the SDGs. Actions that take advantage of these synergies are key to implementing them efficiently because many different goals can be achieved at the same time and fewer resources are needed to achieve the whole set of goals. Saving resources would be a major payoff to countries confronted with the high costs of implementing the SDGs. The challenge now is to sort through the large number of possible interactions among SDGs to uncover and exploit the most important synergies while minimising the effects of trade-offs. Much can be done to achieve this at all levels, from local to global, including raising awareness about SDG interactions, reorienting investments, and reforming governance.