Chapter 1. Building blocks for coherent implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals

The first year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda has shown that countries are advancing in aligning national strategies, adapting institutional frameworks and shifting policies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This chapter looks at the initial steps for SDG implementation taken by the nine OECD countries that presented Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) at the 2016 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF): Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Mexico, Norway, Korea, Switzerland and Turkey. The chapter applies eight key elements of the Framework for Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development as a lens to identify good institutional practices, as well as challenges for enhancing policy coherence for sustainable development as called for by SDG Target 17.14. The analysis benefits from several examples from the VNRs that serve to illustrate national variations in the approaches and mechanisms used for implementation.



The 22 Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) presented at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July 2016 have shown that countries across the world are aligning their national strategies, adapting institutional frameworks and shifting policies for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These efforts also revealed a wide variety of starting points and implementation paths.

This chapter looks at the initial steps for SDG implementation taken by the nine OECD countries that presented VNRs at the 2016 HLPF: Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Mexico, Norway, Korea, Switzerland, and Turkey. Drawing on the VNRs, it summarises the diverse approaches that these nine countries are taking from the perspective of policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD).

The chapter identifies good institutional practices, as well as challenges, for enhancing policy coherence for sustainable development as called for by SDG target 17.14. It is structured according to eight elements from the PCSD Framework, which are considered key building blocks for ensuring a coherent and effective implementation of the SDGs: 1) political commitment and leadership; 2) integrated approaches to implementation; 3) intergenerational timeframe; 4) analysis and assessments of potential policy effects; 5) policy and institutional coordination; 6) local and regional involvements; 7) stakeholder participation; and 8) monitoring and reporting.

A key lesson from the first year of implementation is that there is no single blueprint for enhancing policy coherence in SDG implementation. To achieve sustainable development, as highlighted by the 2030 Agenda, there are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities. It is up to each country to determine its institutional mechanisms for formulating, coordinating, monitoring and ensuring coherence in SDG implementation. Through the mutual exchanges of experiences and discussions on what works and what does not, countries can improve the content of national strategies, strengthen institutional mechanisms, address transboundary impacts and ultimately enhance policy coherence in the implementation of the SDGs.

The eight building blocks of policy coherence for sustainable development

The reports presented by the nine OECD countries that volunteered to participate in the national reviews at the 2016 HLPF reveal that these countries are institutionally well equipped to implement the SDGs (Table 1.1). Some of them have a long tradition of working on sustainable development. All nine countries have well-established institutional mechanisms to take forward sustainable development, which in most cases emerged as part of the Agenda 21 signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. These institutional mechanisms are being aligned with the vision, principles, goals and associated targets of the 2030 Agenda.

Table 1.1. Main institutional developments for SDG implementation in nine OECD countries

Strategic framework

Coordination mechanisms and institutions

Specific cross-sectoral action plans

International co-operation


The Estonian Sustainable Development Strategy ‘Sustainable Estonia 21’ (reviewed in 2016)

The Sustainable Development Act (1995)

Inter-ministerial working group led by the Government Office Strategy Unit

The new Strategy for Estonian Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid 2016-2020


‘The Finland we want 2050. Society’s commitment to Sustainable Development’ (updated in 2016)

Coordination Secretariat in the Prime Minister’s Office (created in 2016)

Inter-ministerial coordination network

Development Policy Committee

National Commission on Sustainable Development

Interdisciplinary Sustainable Development Expert Panel

A National Implementation Plan for the 2030 Agenda approved by the Government in February 2017

International Development Policy (updated in 2016) is steered by the 2030 Agenda


National Strategy of ecological transition towards sustainable development 2015-2020

National reform program (French transposition of Europe 2020, EU’s ten-year jobs and growth strategy)

Inter-ministerial delegate for sustainable development, under the authority of the Prime minister

Network of senior officers for sustainable development

The Ministry of Environment, Energy and the Sea in close co-operation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development

Inter-ministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development

Advisory Committee of high-level experts and scientists

National Council for Ecological Transition

National Council for Development and International Solidarity

Economic, Social and Environmental Council

A National Action Plan “l’Agenda France 2030” will be developed

France’s Development Strategy and Multiannual Development and International Solidarity Policy Act (2014), have already anticipated the main conclusions of the 2030 Agenda, Addis Ababa Action Agenda and Paris Agreement on climate change


National Sustainable Development Strategy (revised in 2016)

State Secretaries’ Committee for Sustainable Development

Parliamentary Advisory Council on Sustainable Development

German Council for Sustainable Development (2001)


Development Policy and Development Co-operation will take the 2030 Agenda as a guideline


Third Basic Plan for Sustainable Development 2016-2035

The 140 Government Policy and Governance Tasks

The Three Year Plan for Economic Innovation (2014)

Framework Act on Sustainable Development (2007)

Commission for Sustainable Development

Committee for International Development Cooperation

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Environment

Special Committee on Sustainable Development with 18 members of the National Assembly (2014)

National Assembly UN SDGs Forum (2014)


Master Plan for President’s Initiatives for Development Cooperation (to support SDGs at the international level)

Second Mid-term ODA policy 2016-2020

Strategy for Implementing Humanitarian Assistance

Multilateral Cooperation Strategy


National Development Plan 2013-2018

Specialised programmes

Ongoing structural reforms

High Level Council for the achievement of the SDGs chaired by the Office of the President (to be created)

Specialized Technical Committee on the Sustainable Development Goals (created in 2016)

Specialised cabinets in the Office of the President

18 inter-Secretariat Commissions

National Strategy to implement the 2030 Agenda (pending)

The Program of International Cooperation for Development by law should guarantee coherence with international agreements, such as the 2030 Agenda.

The Mexican Development Co-operation Agency (AMEXCID) adjusted its information systems to identify each development co-operation project with the SDG it intends to contribute to.


2030 Agenda

Ministry of Finance and coordinating ministries

The Storting (Norwegian parliament)

Inter-ministerial contact group led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Plan for national follow-up of the SDGs


Switzerland’s Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2019

Swiss Foreign Policy Strategy 2016-2019

Federal Council

Inter-departmental Sustainable Development Committee

Inter-ministerial task force for the 2030 Agenda and Addis Ababa Action Agenda

Federal Office for Spatial Development and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

A report formulating recommendations for Switzerland’s implementation of the 2030 Agenda will be presented to the Federal Council by early 2018.

Dispatch on Switzerland’s International Co-operation 2017-2020.


10th National Development Plan 2014-2018 and

Primary Transformation Programs

11th National Development Plan

High Planning Council

Ministry of Development (contact point)

Sustainable Development Coordination Commission led by the Ministry of Development

Turkish Co-operation and Co-ordination

Agency (TIKA)


Annual Program 2016

Annual Program 2017 (SDGs were incorporated)

Legal Framework on Development Cooperation (2011)

A key question is, however, to what extent these institutional mechanisms are actually operational from a policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) perspective. PCSD is one of the means of implementation – embodied in target 17.14 – that has a fundamental role to play in capitalising on synergies and addressing trade-offs among SDGs and targets, between different sectoral policies, and between diverse actions at the local, regional, national and international levels. It is also essential to take into account the effects of policies on the sustainable development and well-being of people living in other countries, as well as those of future generations.

The PCSD Framework (OECD, 2016), which has been updated and adapted to the vision and principles of the 2030 Agenda, aims to assist countries in updating current institutional mechanisms, processes and practices towards policy coherence with a view to ensuring they are “fit for purpose” for SDG implementation. The following eight elements (Figure 1.1), which are included in the guidance of the PCSD Framework, were selected as key building blocks for enhancing coherence in SDG implementation on the basis of the principles of the 2030 Agenda, of lessons learned and of good practices collected by the OECD over the years:

  1. Political commitment and leadership – to guide whole-of-government action and translate commitment on SDGs into concrete and coherent measures at the local, national and international levels.

  2. Integrated approaches to implementation – to consider systematically inter-linkages between economic, social and environmental policy areas as well as ensure consistency with international engagement before making decisions.

  3. Intergenerational timeframe – to make informed choices about sustainable development considering the long-term impact of policy decisions on the well-being of future generations.

  4. Analyses and assessments of potential policy effects – to provide evidence on the potential negative or positive impacts on the well-being of people at the domestic level and in other countries, and inform decision-making.

  5. Policy and institutional coordination – to resolve conflicts of interest or inconsistencies between priorities and policies.

  6. Local and regional involvement – to deliver the economic, social and environmental transformation needed for achieving the SDGs and ensure that no one is left behind.

  7. Stakeholder participation – to make sure that SDGs are owned by people, diverse actions are aligned, and resources and knowledge for sustainable development mobilised.

  8. Monitoring and reporting – to better understand where there has been progress, or lack of it and why, and where further action is needed.

Figure 1.1. The eight building blocks of policy coherence for sustainable development

Source: OECD PCD unit.

Political commitment and leadership at the highest level

Political commitment is an essential foundation to enhance policy coherence for SDG implementation. It needs to be clearly stated at the highest level and backed by a strategic framework, action plans, policies, legislation, instructions and incentives to better enable the whole government to pursue a national SDG agenda coherently. It entails specific measures to integrate the SDGs within the mandate of each national institution. Strong political leadership is needed to shape the national debate on how to take the SDGs forward, build ownership across institutions and actors, and ensure that policies in different areas do not conflict with or undermine each other.

Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Mexico, Norway, Korea, Switzerland, and Turkey (the nine OECD countries covered in this chapter) have clearly shown strong political commitment to the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. These countries are currently in the process of developing strategic frameworks and defining priorities according to their national contexts and needs. This is a way to emphasise commitment and the significance for all policy areas. Similarly, the fact that these countries have volunteered to participate in the 2016 national reviews at the first high-level forum held since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, provides an indication of their commitment.

Some of these countries are focusing on updating and aligning existing national sustainable development strategies or plans as a starting point for implementation – Estonia, Finland, Germany, Korea, and Switzerland (Box 1.1). In most cases these strategies or plans were originally formulated after the 1992 Rio Conference and they have been periodically revised over the years.

Box 1.1. Aligning strategic frameworks with the 2030 Agenda and SDGs

Estonia - The Estonian Sustainable Development Commission has launched a review of the Estonian national sustainable development strategy “Sustainable Estonia 21” in the light of the 2030 Agenda. The analysis will be completed in autumn 2016, providing recommendations regarding the renewal of the national sustainable development strategy and its implementation mechanisms.

Finland - The latest strategy for sustainable development (The Finland we want 2050. Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development) originally adopted in 2013 was updated in April 2016 to be in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Germany - The National Sustainable Development Strategy formulated in 2002 will provide the framework for implementing the SDGs. Work on revising it in the light of the 2030 Agenda’s ambition and goal structure was completed in autumn of 2016. The draft is currently being discussed in consultations with non-governmental stakeholders and further governmental actors (parliaments, federal states, local authorities).

Korea - The Third National Basic Plan for Sustainable Development 2016-2035, which represents Korea’s long-term commitment to sustainable development, was established in January 2016.

Switzerland - The Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) was renewed in January 2016. The new SDS 2016-2019 describes the contribution Switzerland will make to implementing the 2030 Agenda and to achieving the SDGs, while setting out the Federal Council’s policy priorities for sustainable development in the medium-to-long term. The aim in the future is to align the strategy as comprehensively as possible with the 2030 Agenda.

Source: OECD PCD unit.

Mexico and Turkey have integrated sustainable development elements into existing national development plans, and both countries are considering using their national plan as an overarching framework to guide government-wide policies and actions. In Mexico, in an earlier stage of implementation, an analysis of the National Development Plan, national and specialised programmes, and ongoing structural reforms was conducted to identify ways to align them with the SDGs. The National Development Plan is considered a central instrument for aligning and ensuring coherence of the sexennial public policy and the SDGs. In Turkey, the SDGs were integrated into the 2016 Annual Program, including the Addis Ababa Process. In the Program, it is emphasised that Turkey’s development policies mirror the global shift to sustainable development, with priority given to all three of its dimensions. As a first step towards integrating the SDGs into national policies, a stocktaking analysis study will be conducted to determine Turkey’s current status in terms of the SDGs. In addition, Turkey is currently in the process of preparing the long-term strategic vision for the 11th National Development Plan and intends to take the SDGs as one of the main inputs.

Finland, France, Norway and Switzerland are developing specific action plans for the 2030 Agenda implementation, in addition to their strategic frameworks (Box 1.2). Mexico is also considering the creation of a National Strategy to implement the 2030 Agenda, aligned with existing national strategies. Developing a specific time-bound action plan, with clearly identified objectives that encompass all government policies is fundamental to translate political commitment into action.

Box 1.2. Developing specific action plans for SDG implementation

Finland - A National Implementation Plan for the 2030 Agenda will be drawn up by the end of 2016. Many elements of the National Implementation Plan have already been set. For example, the Government has updated its development policy so that it takes the 2030 Agenda as a starting point.

France - A national action plan for sustainable development goals will be developed with input from all stakeholders at each stage (definition, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, and regular reviews). The national action plan will be based on shared vision, government measures and public policy guidelines for sustainable development, assistance to stakeholders in their fields of activity, especially economic actors, citizens’ ownership of the SDGs, rollout at all levels (national, regional and local), international actions, especially with the European Union, the International Organisation of the Francophonie and the United Nations.

Norway - The government has developed a plan for national follow-up of the SDGs in Norway, which is linked to the budget process.

Switzerland - the Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2019 consists of a concrete action plan structured into nine thematic areas: consumption and production (SDG12); Urban development, mobility and infrastructure (SDGs 9 and 11); Energy and climate (SDGs 7 and 13); Natural resources (SDGs 2, 6, 14 and 15); Economic and financial systems (SDGs 8, 10, 16, and 17); Education, research and innovation (SDG4); Social security (SDGs 1 and 16); Social cohesion and gender equality (SDG5, 10 and 16); and Health (SDG3).

Source: OECD PCD unit.

Some countries have made explicit commitments to PCSD, either as part of their overall national strategy or of development co-operation plans (Box 1.3). A clearly stated commitment on PCSD, widely communicated within and outside the government, is a precondition for operationalising policy coherence. Providing specific guidance on how to proceed on PCSD across the administration is equally important.

Box 1.3. Explicit commitments to policy coherence

Estonia - Estonia plans to map the coherence of diverse policy areas with the development co-operation goals by 2017. The purpose is to increase awareness among decision makers and better connect other policy areas with the goals of development co-operation during the period of 2016-20. The initial framework for Estonian policy coherence will be established by 2020 in co-operation with strategic partners.

Finland - On 1 January 2016, the coordinating secretariat of the Commission on Sustainable Development was transferred from the Ministry of the Environment to the Prime Minister’s Office with the aim to highlight the strengthening of policy coherence and the equitable and integrative implementation of the various dimensions of sustainable development in Finland during the Agenda 2030 era.

France - The government has made policy coherence a priority of its development and international solidarity policy under the Act of 7 July 2014. The action of French development policy operators is guided by a number of principles, including gender, social and environmental dimensions, and fair trade.

Germany - The government has highlighted the fact that Germany’s updated National Sustainable Development Strategy contributes to the further enhancement of policy coherence for sustainable development within the Federal Government and requires efforts to implement the SDGs in all policy areas.

Norway - In its policy coherence efforts, Norway will seek to build peace and stability in situations of fragility; to address the root causes of poverty, migration and conflict; to protect the environment; and to promote human rights and good governance (SDG16).

Switzerland - The Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) 2016-2019 adopted by the Federal Council in January 2016 underlines the need for sustainable development to be a coherent feature of all policy areas. The Sustainability guidelines, as part of the SDS, include criteria to improve coherence and coordination between policy areas.

Turkey - The Ministry of Development, which is in charge of the National Development Plans of Turkey, will follow a policy coherence approach at the center of the implementation process of SDGs. Given the coordination role of the Ministry of Development and the overarching importance of national development plans in the policy-making process in Turkey, the task of implementing SDGs will be fulfilled by all ministries. The distribution of responsibilities for implementation will support the integration of SDGs into all relevant strategy and policy documents at central and local levels. The Ministry of Development, as the coordinating body responsible for developing national plans, programs and investment budgets, will closely monitor the whole process and ensure vertical and horizontal policy coordination.

Source: OECD PCD unit.

A key challenge for governments going forward is to raise public awareness and create ownership of the SDGs. The public should understand the nature of the new sustainable development agenda, the economic, social and environmental challenges that we are all confronted with, the need to address them in an integrated and coherent manner, and the impact of our current behaviour (production and consumption patterns). The implications of economic, social and environmental sustainability need to be brought into the general policy debate and into sectoral policy agendas. The vision, principles and operational objectives for implementing the SDGs need to be well understood by the public, politicians, public organisations and across levels of government.

Integrated approaches to implementation

The integrated nature of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for policies – both domestic and international – that systematically consider inter-linkages between the economic, social and environmental spheres. Implementing the SDGs requires governments to be able to work across policy domains, and adopt more integrated and coherent approaches to sustainable development. Such policy coherence is critical to ensure that progress achieved on one goal (e.g. SDG on water) contributes to progress on other goals (e.g. SDG on food security or SDG on health or SDG on sustainable cities). It is also essential to avoid the risk that progress achieved on one goal occurs at the expense of another goal.

Past experiences with implementation of National Sustainable Development Strategies (NSDS) emerging as part of the Agenda 21 signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, have shown that the integration of the three dimensions (economic, social, and environmental) of sustainable development is one of the most difficult balances to achieve. In practice, most NSDS had a greater focus on environmental issues, with attempts made to integrate economic and social aspects. Sustainable development was mainly perceived as an environmental issue not an integrated concept, and NSDS were often led by the environment ministry with a focus on the domestic setting.

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, governments are starting to embrace all dimensions of sustainable development in a more integrated and balanced manner (Box 1.4). In Korea, for example, the Third Basic Plan for Sustainable Development 2016-2035 has expanded its scope to encompass economic and social development goals, including: health and well-being (SDG3), education (SDG4), gender equality (SDG5), good jobs and economic growth (SDG8), inequality (SDG10), and sustainable cities and communities (SDG11). Additionally, the government is working to harmonise policies and mainstream the SDGs so that they can address interlinked and indivisible goals and targets with full attention given to trade-offs, inter-linkages and complementarities between social, economic and environmental goals.

Box 1.4. Integrating the dimensions of sustainable development in a balanced manner

Finland - Finland’s national policy has integrated the three dimensions of sustainable development by developing the related concepts, tools and indicators, sustainable development strategies and multilateral forums to ensure policy coherence, and by expanding the networks of those committed. To ensure an equitable and integrated implementation of the various dimensions of sustainable development during the 2030 Agenda, the coordinating secretariat of the Commission on Sustainable Development was transferred in January 2016 from the Ministry of Environment to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Germany - The National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) provides practical guidance on how the principle of sustainability should be translated into the work of the German Government. In the revision of the NSDS, the German Government has placed particular emphasis on addressing the three dimensions of sustainable development – social, environmental and economic – in a balanced manner.

Norway - The government has decided to use the budget process as a mechanism for policy integration and coherence. Each of the 17 SDGs has been identified for follow up by the respective ministries that are mainly responsible for the goal in question. Each of these ministries is required to coordinate with other ministries involved in the follow-up of the various targets relevant to each goal, and to submit an account in its budget proposal on the status of follow-up for its respective goal(s).

Switzerland – Guidelines on sustainability policy, as part of the Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2019, explain how the Federal Council intends to mainstream sustainable development in all the Confederation’s sectoral policies (take responsibility for the future; balanced consideration of the three dimensions of sustainable development; incorporate sustainable development into all areas of policy; improve coherence and coordination between policy areas; forge sustainable development partnerships).

Source: OECD PCD unit.

In France, the Multiannual Development and International Solidarity Policy Act, passed in July 2014, focuses on the different dimensions of sustainable development (economic growth, poverty eradication and protecting the planet). It stresses the need for an integrated approach and involves non-governmental actors in the definition of action priorities. In Turkey, a task force within the Ministry of Development composed of experts in relevant areas has been assigned to integrate the SDGs into public documents at all levels, including the National Development Plan, regional plans, annual programs, and sectoral strategies.

Intergenerational timeframe

A basic principle of sustainable development is to balance the needs of current and future generations. This calls for a long-term perspective in policy-making to consider systematically the effects of today’s decisions on the well-being of future generations, as reflected in the preamble of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This means that the well-being of future generations depends on the stock of assets the current generation leaves behind. These include: economic capital (physical, knowledge, financial); natural capital (energy and mineral resources, land and ecosystems, water, air quality and climate); human capital (labour, education, and health); and social capital (trust and institutions). The intergenerational perspective required for implementing the SDGs entails strategic choices for the longer term and capacities to maintain commitment over time.

In many cases, the time frame of governments’ plans or strategies is too short to take into account intergenerational and long-term considerations. A key challenge is to ensure that sustained efforts on SDG implementation go beyond electoral cycles, government programmes or cabinet compositions, and seek a balance with short-term challenges that often take priority.

To this end, some countries are applying timeframes of 20 or 30 years to their national strategies (Box 1.5), as well as specific measures to incorporate intergenerational considerations. In Finland, for example, the term of the National Commission on Sustainable Development has been changed explicitly to overlap rather than follow the four-year electoral cycle. The term of the current Commission will extend until the end of 2019. The purpose is to ensure that the Commission’s tasks are not excessively tied to Government programmes and that it can consider key long-term sustainable development issues.

Box 1.5. Incorporating intergenerational considerations

Finland - The Finland we want by 2050. Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development provides a long-term framework that promotes policy coherence in the strategic and work programmes of various administrative sectors and societal actors. The aim is to ensure that future Government Programmes, reviews and budget preparations include the principles and objectives of the Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development.

Korea - The Third Basic Plan for Sustainable Development represents Korea’s long-term commitment to sustainable development and platform to implement the SDGs. It provides a vision for the harmonious development of the environment, society and economy covering four overarching areas that should remain valid for the next 20 years.

Switzerland – Switzerland’s guidelines on sustainability policy, as part of the Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2019, emphasise the need to take responsibility for the future. The guidelines state that responsibility for the future means promoting the principles of prevention, “producer pays” and liability as the essential framework for sustainable, long-term economic, environmental and social action at all levels.

Source: OECD PCD unit.

Analyses and assessments of potential transboundary effects

Improving understanding on how policies pursuing sustainable development and the well-being of citizens in one country may affect the well-being of citizens of other countries is fundamental to enhance coherence in SDG implementation. This refers to the international dimension of sustainable development. A country may affect other countries via various channels: financial flows/income transfers (ODA, remittances, loans); imports/exports of goods and services (economic activities “here” will impact on natural resources “elsewhere”); migration (“brain-drain”); and knowledge transfers.

Strengthening analytical capacity for policy coherence is essential in order to better understand how patterns of consumption and production in one particular country affect the ability of other countries to achieve the SDGs. For example, the extent to which a country is depleting stocks of natural resources (water, land, etc.) in other countries, or the extent to which the terms of trade undermine other countries’ ability to develop sustainably. Analysis on transboundary impacts is not only fundamental for assessing how policies are performing in terms of sustainability, but also for helping policy-makers refine or re-prioritise policy objectives. Some countries are working on ways to assess the impacts of policies on sustainable development elsewhere in a more systematic fashion, as part of their implementation processes (Box 1.6).

Box 1.6. Considering transboundary impacts

Finland – The Development Policy Committee supports decision-making in various policy sectors that impact on developing countries. The government recognises that national implementation should include elements which involve both an internal and external dimension, such as rendering consumption and production methods more sustainable, trade policy or engaging in actions that combat climate change – areas where domestic policy has an impact abroad.

Germany - The government aims to contribute to the achievement of SDGs, both in its national policies and internationally. It is therefore considering its involvement in terms of the impact on three levels, with regard to: (i) implementation and impact in Germany; (ii) impacts on other countries and on global public goods, i.e. on global well-being (worldwide impacts – e.g. from trade or climate policy), and (iii) supporting other countries (international co-operation policy).

Switzerland - The guidelines on sustainability policy that are used in the Swiss ‘Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2019’ state that the various sectoral policies must form a coherent whole on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts. Important policy decisions must be based on proposals whose economic, social and environmental impacts are evaluated transparently at an early stage in order to optimise state action.

Source: OECD PCD unit.

Working towards the adoption of broader forms of impact assessment is essential for ensuring an effective interface between domestic and international policies for sustainable development. Some countries are planning to take specific measures to bridge the gap between domestic and international dimensions of sustainable development as part of their implementation processes. In Finland, with the launch of the national implementation process, the National Commission on Sustainable Development and Development Policy Committee have stepped up co-operation, since it is considered essential that Finland implement the SDGs at both national and international level, under a single national implementation plan. Development policy and development co-operation are considered key instruments in the external dimension of national implementation.

Similarly, Germany has placed particular emphasis on clearly outlining the global impact of national policies through closer consideration of the international dimension. In Korea the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environment have coordinated inter-ministerial meetings and conducted initial reviews to identify national priorities for domestic and international implementation of the SDGs. In Switzerland the Federal Council’s aim is to align its Sustainable Development Strategy, foreign policy, including international co-operation, and all relevant sector policies with the 2030 Agenda as comprehensively as possible.

Policy and institutional coordination

The implementation of the SDGs goes beyond the responsibility of one line ministry. It requires the active involvement of all policy communities and a wide range of stakeholders that allow for a whole-of-government/whole-of-society approach. Involving and coordinating a wide range of government departments and other stakeholders allows plans or strategies to take a holistic perspective of the issues at stake, give voice to diverse interests, address trade-offs across policy areas, raise public awareness and create ownership.

Appropriate policy coordination mechanisms are essential to enhance horizontal coherence (synergies and inter-linkages) and vertical coherence (from local to national to international) in SDG implementation. Given the potential for conflict among diverse interests both in the public and the private sector on economic, social and environmental issues, attention needs to be directed towards the following elements: (i) the position of the body responsible for the co-ordination functions throughout the administration, e.g. Centre of Government, ministries of finance, foreign affairs, environment; (ii) the mandates given to the coordinating body to deal specifically with policy divergences or tensions and resolve conflicts of interest, and (iii) the involvement of outside actors as a way to identify common challenges and build ownership of the new agenda.

A good practice adopted in some countries is to assign responsibility for overall coordination to the Prime Minister’s office or an equivalent level. The Government Office, which acts as the Centre of Government (CoG) providing daily support to the Head of Government, is an essential institution for securing policy development, policy implementation and co-operation across ministries in support of strategic domestic and international objectives. The CoG is in principle a policy-neutral body in contrast to line ministries or departments, it has a convening power which can influence policy adjustments, as well as coordination expertise and experience in dealing with cross-cutting issues and complex agendas (OECD, 2013).

Estonia, Finland, France, Germany and Mexico have placed responsibility for overall coordination of SDG implementation directly under the Head of Government’s office. Estonia plans to use the functioning national coordination mechanism for sustainable development which is led by the Government Office Strategy Unit at the central government level. Finland has established the Coordination Secretariat in the Prime Minister’s Office for national implementation. In Mexico, implementation is led by the Office of the President; the government has announced the creation of a new coordination entity: the High-Level Commission for SDG implementation led by the President’s office.1 In France inter-ministerial coordination is based on the Prime Minister’s authority, and in Germany the Federal Chancellery is leading the implementation process with the State Secretaries’ Committee for Sustainable Development as a high-level coordination mechanism (Box 1.7).

Box 1.7. Coordination mechanisms at the highest level

Finland - The Prime Minister’s Office assumed responsibility for coordinating national implementation in early 2016. A coordination secretariat was established in the Prime Minister’s Office, with responsibility for planning, preparing, coordinating and ensuring the national implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The secretariat comprises representatives of the Secretariat General of the Finnish National Commission on Sustainable Development, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office.

France - The inter-ministerial delegate for sustainable development, under the authority of the Prime Minister, coordinates inter-ministerial actions through a network of senior officers for sustainable development appointed by each ministry.

Germany - The implementation of the SDGs is being driven by a high-level State Secretaries’ Committee for Sustainable Development, headed by the Chancellery with representation from all Federal ministries.

Mexico - The implementation of the 2030 Agenda is led by the Office of the President to ensure commitment at all levels of government. A new High-Level Commission for SDG implementation will be established involving State Secretariats, local authorities and representatives from civil society, academia and the private sector.

Source: OECD PCD unit.

The institutional structure in a decentralised country such as Switzerland might require a different approach to enhance policy coherence in SDG implementation. An inter-ministerial task force composed of 16 federal offices was established in 2012 to coordinate Switzerland’s position for the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and 2030 Agenda. Since then the inter-ministerial task force has handled coordination within the federal administration. In a transition phase (2016-17), this task force is working to clarify institutional arrangements, processes and responsibilities for SDG implementation within the federal administration.

In Korea, Norway and Turkey responsibility is assigned to key ministries with cross-cutting influence. In Korea, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) have played a leading role in preparations for SDG implementation. These government bodies are respectively in charge of laws, decrees and special committees relating to the implementation of SDGs at home and abroad, such as the Sustainable Development Act, the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and the Committee for International Development Cooperation (CIDC). MOFA and MOE have undertaken research, coordinated inter-ministry meetings and produced comprehensive reports for initial reviews of SDGs implementation in collaboration with academia.

In Norway, responsibility for each of the 17 SDGs is given to a coordinating ministry which has to consult with other ministries involved in the follow-up of various targets under the specified goals. Each ministry is to report on the status of follow-up for its respective goal(s) in its budget proposal. The Ministry of Finance will then sum up the main points in the national budget white paper, which is presented to the Storting (Norwegian parliament) annually, along with the state budget. In many countries, the budget is the government’s key policy and priority setting document, where policy objectives are reconciled and implemented in concrete terms. As such it has also proven to have a very important role in ensuring policy coherence.

Turkey has a Sustainable Development Coordination Commission (SDCC) led by the Ministry of Development, which is responsible for the preparation of the country’s national development plans. The Commission will have a central role in the follow-up and review process of the SDGs. The government is planning to strengthen and expand the SDCC in line with its overall coordinating role, taking into account the comprehensive nature of the 2030 Agenda, notably by increasing the number of its members. The Commission will provide periodical reporting to the High Planning Council, Cabinet and Turkish Grand National Assembly.

Local and regional involvement

The implementation of the SDGs requires enhancing policy coherence across different governance levels. This is critical in an increasingly interconnected world where sustainable development challenges have inextricable global-domestic linkages that need to be managed. Some challenges need to be addressed at the global level (e.g. climate change and other systemic risks); at the national or regional level (e.g. legislative changes or changes in economic, fiscal and trade policy); and at the local level (e.g. specific details on land use; human settlement patterns, or transportation planning).

Local and regional governments are essential for delivering a wide range of public services as well as the economic, social and environmental transformations needed for achieving the SDGs. As the level of government closest to the people, local governments are in a unique political position to identify and respond to sustainable development gaps and needs. It is widely recognised that a successful implementation of the SDGs will depend on local action in coordination with all other levels of governance.

Some countries plan to build on existing mechanisms that emerged as part of the Agenda 21 process for coordinating national and local implementation. In Estonia, local municipalities apply the main principles of sustainable development through the action plans and local legislation adopted during the processes related to Agenda 21. For example, Tartu, Kuressaare, Viljandi and Pärnu have adopted the Agenda 21 action plans. In Korea, the Local Sustainability Alliance of Korea, established in 2000 as a nation-wide network of Local Commissions on Sustainable Development, has been a vital institutional platform to ensure the participation of local commissions in policy dialogues for the SDGs at national level. Some other countries are taking steps to foster innovative ways of building ownership and engaging local authorities for SDG implementation (Box 1.8).

Box 1.8. Engaging local authorities

Finland - the government is considering new ways of enabling the participation of regions, cities and municipal administration in the preparation of the national implementation plan. As a first step, regional tours are being planned in co-operation with cities, municipalities, regions, NGOs and signatories of the regional operational commitments to sustainable development. The purpose is to develop co-operation and regional implementation models in the spirit of the 2030 Agenda.

France – the government is considering regional consultative workshops to allow local stakeholders to contribute to the national action plan. As part of this effort, shared local diagnoses could be conducted to identify the assets and challenges facing the French mainland and overseas regions with respect to the 17 SDGs. The regional economic, social and environmental councils could be gainfully associated in these diagnoses.

Germany - the federal government is engaged in regular dialogue with the 16 federal states on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Federal states have participated in the new edition of the National Sustainable Development Strategy, and eleven of them already have their own sustainability strategies or are currently working on such a strategy. The contributions of local authorities and rural districts are also supported by the German Government, for example the initiation of municipal partnerships.

Mexico - the Office of the President is developing a strategy to engage local governments and assist them in integrating the SDGs in their public policies. The government has identified existing mechanisms to promote the implementation of the SDGs at the state and municipal levels: (i) the National Governors’ Conference with participation of 31 states as well as Mexico City; and (ii) the National Conference of Municipalities of Mexico which brings together 2 456 municipalities.

Source: OECD PCD unit.

In Norway, the Government plans to make use of existing mechanisms for co-operation with local and regional authorities, such as the regular consultative meetings between the central government and local authorities. The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) is a national members’ association for municipalities, counties and public enterprises under municipal or county ownership. Similarly, Turkey plans to use existing structures and current high level councils to promote SDGs at the local level.

Coordination and policy coherence between different levels of government, which is critical for SDG implementation, might be more complex in decentralised countries. In Switzerland, where subnational authorities – i.e. the cantons and communes – will play a key role in implementation, the federal government considers it critical to integrate sustainable development principles into all levels of government in order to create and increase ownership.

Stakeholder participation

The implementation of the SDGs involves trade-offs between economic, social and environmental objectives, as well as value judgments which cannot be determined by governments alone. Policy coordination mechanisms inside government, while essential, are not sufficient to ensure policy coherence in SDG implementation. Major barriers to policy coherence are strongly rooted in the differing stakeholder perceptions of the issues involved.

Addressing the SDGs in a coherent manner and making sure that the 2030 Agenda is owned by people requires participatory approaches. It entails putting in place mechanisms for dialogue and participation whereby governments and key stakeholders identify common challenges, set priorities, align policies and actions, and mobilise resources for sustainable development. This is the spirit of SDG target 16.7 which calls for “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels”.

Diverse stakeholders – such as international and regional organisations, local authorities, business and industry, civil society, science and academia – have important roles to play ranging from resource mobilisation, the provision of solutions and innovations, change in production patterns and lifestyles, advocacy and accountability to voicing concerns and needs of under-represented communities and regions and helping to ensure accountability. Active stakeholder participation in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of national plans and strategies for SDGs is now an inherent feature of national processes (Box 1.9).

Box 1.9. Fostering stakeholder participation

Finland - “The Finland we want by 2050 – Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development” is a new partnership model that aims at boosting ownership, concrete action, innovative solutions and impact throughout the society. By April 2016, over 240 actors from companies to ministries, schools, municipalities and civil society organisations, as well as individuals had already joined Society’s Commitment by launching their own operational commitments.

Germany - The ‘Charter for the Future’ is a further attempt to involve civil society actors in promoting global sustainable development. Since 2014, open discussions have been held with the involvement of over 100 organisations and initiatives, as well as the public. Recommendations were then compiled in the form of the Charter. The Charter was submitted to the Chancellor, generated impetus to make the new National Sustainable Development Strategy more international in its outlook, and is helping to implement the 2030 Agenda by initiating multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Korea - The Korean Civil Society Network for SDGs was established in June 2016, by a number of local and national CSOs working on a wide range of issues related to the SDGs. The UN Global Compact Korea, composed of more than 280 companies, has been promoting local business practices that are more compatible with the SDGs.

Mexico - The Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation has launched the ‘Sustainability Alliance’ as a platform for dialogue and action that includes 80 Mexican and multinational companies to exchange information on how to integrate the SDGs into business models and design international co-operation projects around the 2030 Agenda.

Norway - Representatives of indigenous people will be involved in the follow-up of the SDGs through established mechanisms. The indigenous peoples’ assembly, the Sámediggi (Sami Parliament), will be involved through dialogue with the line ministries and formal consultation mechanisms, which have been in place for many years.

Switzerland - A new and comprehensive consultation procedure – the “2030 Dialogue on Sustainable Development” – will seek to involve all relevant stakeholder groups in ongoing processes linked to the Confederation’s sustainable development policy cycle of planning, implementing, monitoring, evaluating and reporting.

Source: OECD PCD unit.

Several countries are reviewing existing participation formats. France has set up a multidisciplinary committee of international experts and launched a public consultation to involve civil society organisations, businesses, unions and specialised associations. It is also planning to mobilise territories through consultation workshops and develop a participatory Internet platform to engage all stakeholders and citizens, disseminate good practices, monitor progress and rally coalitions.

In Germany, non-governmental stakeholders have been involved in the preparation of the first National Voluntary Report to the HLPF 2016. It was discussed with representatives of NGOs, churches, local authorities, the scientific and academic community, the business community and the trade unions in the dialogue forum on the 2030 Agenda, where these non-state actors had the opportunity to engage in a critical exchange of views with government representatives and to suggest changes to the report. In Mexico, the negotiation process for the SDGs and national deliberations contributed to establish a constructive dialogue with civil society organisations. Multiple stakeholders contributed to the official position of Mexico.

Some countries involve stakeholders in national commissions and advisory councils. In Estonia, the national Sustainable Development Commission established in 1996, which brings together non-governmental actors, meets four to five times per year to hold thematic discussions on different sustainable development issues, discuss drafts of sustainable development related strategic action plans before they are adopted by the government and publish focus reports with policy recommendations. In Finland, two major multi-stakeholder committees have a key role in the national coordination, implementation and follow-up system: (i) The Development Policy Committee, a parliamentary body, is tasked to follow up on SDG implementation from the development policy perspective, and monitor the implementation of the Government Programme in compliance with development policy guidelines. (ii) The National Commission on Sustainable Development, a Prime Minister-led partnership forum, is tasked with integrating sustainable development into Finnish policies, measures and everyday practices.

Monitoring and reporting

Successful implementation of the SDGs at the national level requires mechanisms to monitor progress, report to governing bodies and the public, and to provide feedback information for improvement making use of appropriate assessment tools. Monitoring mechanisms are essential to ensure that strategies or national plans for SDG implementation, as well as sectoral policies, can be adjusted in light of progress, new information, and changing circumstances. Some countries are working to put in place national mechanisms for reviewing progress in SDG implementation (Box 1.10.)

Box 1.10. Putting in place mechanisms for monitoring and reporting

Korea - The National Statistical Office is developing a framework for monitoring nationally relevant SDGs, conducting research on methodologies to improve SDG indicators in terms of scope, and providing technical support for other government agencies to enhance their statistical capacity.

France - Under a parliamentary mission mandate, it has been considered that the ministries’ general inspectorates could analyse sector policies conducted in their areas to produce a more detailed public policy evaluation with respect to the SDGs. The findings of these evaluations could form the basis for recommendations and inform the public and civil debate.

Mexico - The government has created the ‘Specialized Technical Committee of the Sustainable Development Goals’ which is tasked with building an open, transparent and accountable system of statistical information for monitoring the SDGs. The CTEODS is led by the Office of the President, the National Institute of Statistics and the National Population Council of Mexico and involves 25 government agencies. Mexico has also created an open online data platform for sustainable development which provides up-to-date and geo-referenced data at the national, state and municipal level related to the SDGs.

Turkey - The Government intends to develop a review framework that conforms with the UN framework for follow-up and review of the SDGs. National SDG Review Reports are expected to be prepared on a periodical basis in line with the HLPF agenda. The Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) will take on a central role in the monitoring process of the Agenda, based on global SDG indicators. In addition, voluntary monitoring and reporting processes pioneered by the private sector will be encouraged.

Source: OECD PCD unit.

Some countries are adapting and strengthening existing monitoring frameworks. Finland is planning to monitor and review progress and achievements on a regular basis to ensure accountability to citizens and the global community. The role of the Finnish Development Policy Committee and the National Commission on Sustainable Development as well as of the National Parliament and all political parties is considered fundamental in this work and is currently under discussion. In Norway, following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the Government decided that domestic reporting on the SDGs should take place via the budget process.

Structured indicator frameworks are essential to assist in reviewing progress towards the SDGs. Most countries covered in this note have developed sets of indicators associated with their past sustainable development strategies. Some countries are refining their approaches and choice of indicators as they update their national strategies (Box 1.11). Norway, for example, is planning to adapt the indicators that are most relevant to the national context and define other indicators of its own as required to ensure follow-up.

Box 1.11. Refining indicators for monitoring SDG implementation

Finland - The state of and trends for sustainable development in Finland are being monitored and reviewed with the use of 39 national sustainable development indicators. These indicators were identified in 2014 to measure the progress of the eight strategic objectives of Society’s Commitment. They will be revised and updated to lend themselves to the follow-up of the 2030 Agenda and thus complement the global sustainable development indicators. A specific Indicator Network, comprising experts from statistics, research, evaluation, policy and stakeholder groups, will be set up for this purpose.

Korea - The National Statistical Office, in collaboration with academia, is currently reviewing existing official statistics and indicators to identify those that are most relevant to global indicators and to establish a national tier system of indicators. The existing main indicators include: the National Key Indicators, the Quality of Life Indicators, the e-Nara Indicators (sectoral key indicators in comparison with other countries), the Sustainable Development Indicators and the Green Growth Indicators. In parallel, Statistics Korea has established the framework for an online platform to promote the exchange of views on indicators among multiple stakeholders.

Switzerland has had a comprehensive sustainable development monitoring system (MONET) in place since 2003. Its 73 regularly updated indicators give an overall picture. The system’s reference framework has been amended to take into account the SDGs and the SDS. The current legislative period will bring further expansion to allow the MONET system to measure the implementation of the SDGs along a significant choice of indicators, amongst others those recommended by the UN Statistical Commission in March 2016. It will thus lay the foundation for both national and international reporting.

Turkey - Since 2000, Turkey has already developed a national sustainable development indicator set, composed of 132 indicators under ten categories. Turkey is going to further develop its current set by taking into account the results of the UN Statistics Division’s work on a global framework for common monitoring and the national priority lists of SDGs. TurkStat plans to initiate a study for analysing the data gaps and further studies on building the capacity to monitor and fill those gaps.

Source: OECD PCD unit.

Some countries are planning to develop new indicators. In Estonia, the Statistics Office has conducted an initial overview of 231 global sustainable development indicators and approximately 14% of the indicators are measurable right now. The renewal of sustainable development indicators started in 2016. The aim is to include indicators that help to measure achievements in the fields covered by the SDGs. It will allow the next indicator-based reports on sustainable development to provide information about performance regarding Estonian sustainable development goals and global SDGs. A new list of indicators will be established in co-operation with an inter-ministerial working group, the Estonian Statistics Office and the Estonian Sustainable Development Commission.

In France, the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) is already conducting a feasibility study with all the ministries’ statistical departments on their production at national level. The government statistics system should be able to produce just over half of the indicators (given or comparable definition) in the short to medium term. The indicators could be transposed nationally. In Germany, suitable indicators have yet to be defined; however, the intent is to develop these indicators. The Federal Statistical Office publishes an independent report on the status of the sustainability indicators once every two years. In Mexico, by June 2016, the National Institute of Statistics (INEGI) mapped out the 230 global indicators and matched 180 of them with the different government agencies responsible for each. During the second half of 2016, INEGI organised working groups to define national indicators.

A key challenge for most countries is to develop, as part of their monitoring systems, ways to track progress on policy coherence. This entails identifying and developing qualitative and quantitative indicators to: (i) capture functions and capacities to formulate coherent policies (i.e. institutional mechanism for coherence); (ii) illustrate and make clear, to policy makers and the public alike, the synergies and trade-offs between economic, social and environmental values; and (iii) to assess the transboundary as well as the long-term impacts of current policy decisions.


Confédération Suisse (2016), Switzerland’s initial steps towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, report to be presented at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, New York, July 2016.

Federal Government, Germany (2016), “Report of the German Federal Government to the High-Level Political Forum 2016”:

Gobierno de la Republica. Mexico (2016), “Implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals in Mexico. Proposals for achievement: from commitments to results”, Mexico, July 2016.

Government Administration Unit, Finland (2016), National Report on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, FINLAND, Prime Minister’s Office Publications 10/2016, Helsinki.

Government Office, Republic of Estonia (2016), Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Estonia.

Ministry of Development, Republic of Turkey (2016), “Report on Turkey’s initial steps towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to be presented at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development”, Ankara, July 2016.

Norway (2016), “Initial Steps towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Voluntary National Review presented at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF)”, New York, July.

OECD (2016), Better Policies for Sustainable Development 2016: A New Framework for Policy Coherence, OECD Publishing, Paris.

OECD (2013), Centre Stage: Driving Better Policies from the Centre of Government, OECD, Paris.

République Française (2016), Report on the Implementation by France of the Sustainable Development Goals on the occasion of France’s national voluntary review to the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development”, New York, July 2016.

The Government of the Republic of Korea (2016), “Year One of Implementing the SDGs in the Republic of Korea: From a Model of Development Success to a Vision for Sustainable Development”.

UNDESA (2016), Synthesis of Voluntary National Reviews 2016, UNDESA Division for Sustainable Development.

UN ECOSOC (2016) E/HLPF/2016/8, “Report of the high-level political forum on sustainable development convened under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council at its 2016 session”,

UNGA (2015) A/70/L.1, “Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.


← 1. An analysis of the diverse existing coordination mechanisms that could support the implementation of the SDGs has been conducted by the Mexican government with the support of UNDP. The Office of the President of Mexico has five Specialised Cabinets which were established to address each of the core areas of the National Development Plan (Mexico in Peace, Inclusive Mexico, Mexico with Quality Education, Prosperous Mexico, and Mexico with Global Responsibility). These cabinets are composed by Secretariats of State that address the national priorities of every item of the National Development Plan. In addition, an analysis of the potential alignment of the 18 inter-Secretariat Commissions with the 169 targets was conducted by the Office of the President with the support of the UNDP.