Executive summary

Target 17.14 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 17.14 calls on all countries to “enhance policy coherence for sustainable development” (PCSD) as a key means of implementation. This is no easy feat: it requires meaningful collaboration and coordinated action across policy sectors (horizontal coherence), as well as between different levels of government (vertical coherence). It also requires balancing short-term priorities with long-term sustainability objectives and taking into account the impact of domestic policies on global well-being outcomes. The 2019 edition of Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development looks at countries’ efforts to meet this challenge and identifies opportunities for accelerating progress, including supporting inclusive growth.

Identifying critical interactions to catalyse progress in SDG implementation

Applying a PCSD lens to the 2019 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) theme “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” can help governments to identify critical interactions between the five goals and targets under review:

  • SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.

  • SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

  • SDG 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries.

  • SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

  • SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all level.

  • SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Applying this lens will enable them to capitalise on policy synergies and to avoid or minimise costly trade-offs – ultimately enhancing the overall effectiveness and impact of policies and actions.

This report shows that in order to successfully address SDG interactions, an integrated approach to policy making is required, as well as strong and inclusive governance mechanisms. An important lesson learned since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in 2015 is that there is no-one-size-fits-all approach for ensuring coherent SDG implementation: countries need tailored solutions that take into account the national context, administrative set-up and political tradition.

Strengthening institutional and governance mechanisms to enhance policy coherence

Common to all countries, however, is the set of enablers – or ‘building blocks’ – needed to facilitate governments’ efforts to enhance PCSD. They represent structures, processes and working methods at different stages of the policy making cycle and fall under three main themes:

  • A strategic vision for achieving the SDGs underpinned by a clear political commitment and institutional leadership to enhance policy coherence for sustainable development.

  • Effective and inclusive institutional and governance mechanisms to address policy interaction across sectors and align actions between levels of government.

  • A set of responsive and adaptive tools to anticipate, assess and address domestic, transboundary and long-term impacts of policies.

Our research shows that the essential building blocks of a robust PCSD system for SDG implementation are in place in many countries, but that alignment with the principles and nature of the 2030 Agenda can be strengthened. It is against this background that we have embarked on an Organisation-wide exercise to update the 2010 Recommendation of the OECD Council on Policy Coherence for Development.

Monitoring and reporting to collect evidence on the benefits of policy coherence

Policy coherence for sustainable development is difficult to measure. The methodology for monitoring global indicator 17.14.1: ‘Number of countries with mechanisms in place to enhance policy coherence for sustainable development’ is still under development, with UN Environment as the Custodian Agency. In parallel, countries are struggling to set their own national targets and indicators for policy coherence, which takes into account country circumstances and priorities.

To support their efforts, the OECD has developed a framework for tracking progress on PCSD at the national level, which suggests that countries need to consider three interrelated elements of the policy making cycle: (i) institutional mechanisms; (ii) policy interactions (synergies and trade-offs); and (iii) policy effects “here and now”, “elsewhere” and “later”. This report highlights a number of indicators from different disciplines that countries can use to successfully capture these elements as they relate to the SDGs under HLPF review.

Engaging in partnerships to strengthen impact

Implementing the 2030 Agenda requires strong partnerships between a multitude of stakeholders, ranging from governments and the private sector to civil society and academia in all countries. In recognition of this, the Multi-stakeholder Partnership for Enhancing Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (the ‘PCSD Partnership’), facilitated by the OECD, encourages better and more coherent policies that can help deliver the SDGs. An overview of partners’ experiences in putting PCSD into practice concludes this report and shows different ways and tools to enhance, assess and monitor PCSD efforts at national, regional and local level, in particular by improving human and institutional capacity to develop more coherent and sustainable policies.

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