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Walking the Walk on SDG Implementation

Everyone is talking about implementing the 2030 Agenda, especially considering the inter-linkages between the three dimensions of sustainability and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But how do we do this in practice? And how do we work to understand and manage the complexity of those relationships without losing sight of the big picture: creating the changes necessary to foster prosperity for both people and planet?

To answer these questions, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) supports Member States to plan, review, and implement sustainable development policies through a “system approach” – empowering stakeholders with the perspectives and tools needed to understand and manage dynamic policy interactions.

Through two projects in over 10 countries in Africa, Western Asia, and Latin America, UN DESA is developing methodologies, guidelines, and training materials to build national capacities to engage all relevant stakeholders, analyse system dynamics and scenarios, design coherent policies, and support their implementation. This is done through advocacy, institutional arrangements, financing, and monitoring and evaluation frameworks adapted to the needs of the system approach.


As part of these projects and in close coordination with United Nations Country Teams and their respective governments, the Department has recently conducted training workshops in Belize, Colombia, and Costa Rica.

In Belize and Colombia for instance, two national workshops were conducted to train stakeholders on monitoring and reporting on the SDGs by utilizing tools that adapt well-established Results Based Management (RBM) principles and practices to the context of the 2030 Agenda. This requires a broader application of this tool not only for project management but also for planning, implementation, monitoring, learning, and reporting on national strategies and plans. The approach shifts the RBM logical framework from a vertical, linear one to a circular matrix, visualising policy inter-linkages and areas of mutual accountability. It further dis-aggregates data to account for the 2030 Agenda principle of leaving no one behind.  This is key to conceiving the Agenda as an inter-connected system, while monitoring, evaluating, and improving the management of SDG implementation in an inclusive and indivisible manner. Similar national workshops will be organised during the next 3 months in further project pilot countries including, Ethiopia, Honduras, and Jordan.

As illustrated on the right, UN DESA organised a national workshop in Costa Rica using methodologies and tools to facilitate a systemic policy review towards integrated SDG analysis and implementation. This 5-step methodology is implemented over three planned workshops and several capacity development interventions starting with stakeholder engagement, system dynamics analysis, and scenario mapping, ultimately working towards strategy modelling, selection, and implementation support. The first Costa Rica event convened over 50 participants from a wide range of stakeholder categories, including various levels of government, civil society, the private sector, and academia.

Similar and ongoing work is taking place in Ethiopia and will expand to several more countries throughout 2018. Together, the two projects include Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Ethiopia, Honduras, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Togo, and Uganda.

As the methodologies and tools of this system approach to the 2030 Agenda are being refined, generic versions will be available for use elsewhere, by different groups of stakeholders. This will contribute to scaling-up support for an integrated implementation of the SDGs for a much-needed broader and faster transitioning towards sustainability.