MEIG Highlights 21 mai 2021

Highlight 19/2021 – Sustainability of SDGs : What is next?

Yelena Minasyan, 21 May 2021

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the UN Member States in 2015 has legitimate ground to be considered an improved and transformative heritage of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and yet serves as an effective tool for strengthening the multilateral cooperation between developed and developing countries. Given the universality of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they apply to all countries and can only be achieved through their unified efforts which are equally delineated with the political will and the resources of the States committed to the global action.

SGDs are human centred, high priority goals for prosperity, people, planet, economic, social, and environmental objectives which are well interlinked, hence contributing to each other. A priori these common objectives are designed in a way to ensure the positive change that meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. However, the question is how to ensure the sustainability of priorities derived from the intergovernmental cooperation in ever changing environment with continuously emerging challenges linked with the climate change, armed conflicts, food security, energy efficiency etc.?

The achievement of the common global goals as well as their sustainability requires coordinated and harmonized efforts by the governments, public-private sector, and local communities to timely and effectively manage their competing interests and unavoidable trade-offs,  when contribution to one goal temporarily compromises the other one. Yet, the interlinkage of SDGs brings in not only buy-ins and co-benefits but also certain trade-offs, such as threatened biodiversity as a result of expansion of agricultural production for food security, or large-scale fossil fuel companies including its employees are being challenged in Global Climate Action. So far, the great powers do not often harmonize their actions towards the global goals due to their own political agendas. The vivid example is the withdrawal of US from Paris Agreement in 2017, then upon the change of the presidency its reengagement in 2021.

To achieve the sustainability of results derived from global actions it is critical to enhance transparency and accountability framework on an international level through establishment of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms measuring the progress towards the SDGs and the impact, that can link the national and international interests. Since we live in a globalized economy facing global-scale challenges, the results achieved by one are also to be “globalized” with spill-over effect. To that end, for example, China may ensure the durability of its achievement in eradication of extreme poverty through the impact evaluation on an international level. In the course of next 9 years, when the time comes for the international community to replace the SDGs with other global goals, maybe the idea of and criteria for “sustainability” are worth to be reworked further. Probably, the global actions have to become more responsive and adaptive to the everchanging environment with stronger accountability framework and with adjustable but, yet ambitious targets, where coordinated multilateral cooperation will be aligned with political interests.

Yelena MINASYAN, Sustainability of SDGs: What is next?, Highlight 19/2021, available at

The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the author and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.


Stay connected and do not miss our latest news and events: subscribe to our MEIG newsletter