Everything is connected – and our institutions are finally realizing that

The institutions we create tend to be organised around well-defined sectors. This has powerful advantages, including the ability to deal within increasingly complex technical issues. However, sectoral thinking has often resulted in actions in one area hindering progress in others.

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the idea of integration broke into the mainstream. It was a clear commitment by world’s leaders to solve problems holistically – to face the interconnected reality with integrated solutions at all levels, everywhere.

During the first two years of the 2030 Agenda implementation, countries have adopted different strategies to wire their institutions for working together towards the common Sustainable Development Goals. A new report by UN DESA collected examples of innovations and integration practices from countries around the world.

Entitled Working together: Integration, Institutions and the Sustainable Development Goals, the World Public Sector Report 2018 highlights the opportunities and challenges for policy integration to achieve the SDGs. Analysing specific examples, the study shows how institutions can use interlinkages between different SDGs to foster integration.

“In a sense, achieving the SDGs is not an exercise in achieving a collection of individual targets, but rather an exercise in collaboration and joint efforts within government, to a level that has never been seen before,” state the report’s authors.

The report aims to sketch areas where public institutions need to work closely together, the types of tools they can use and the broader implications for public institutions and public service. The study illustrates the importance of integrated approaches with a detailed analysis of three themes: international migration, health, and sustainable development in post-conflict contexts.

The report finds that around half out of a sample of 60 countries created a new structure or mechanism specifically for leading or coordinating SDG implementation. From Australia to Nepal, most of these new institutions are inter-ministerial and are placed under the authority of the head of State or Government.  In many countries, local governments actively engage in the work to achieve SDGs.

The report looks closely at migration as one of the areas where some public administrations and institutions have been successful at delivering integrated solutions to multi-faceted, cross‑sectoral problems faced by refugees and migrants.

For example, Denmark has introduced a one-stop-shop immigration portal with access to information and services for people on the move. In Portugal, a national-level institution has been actively promoting the integration of migrants and refugees into Portuguese society. And Hamburg, Germany developed a City Science Lab where citizen volunteers help find homes for refugees.

These examples clearly illustrate the benefits and challenges of integration. Migrants and refugees arriving in a country are not just a case for the immigration department. From healthcare, to housing, to education – their problems and needs reflect the entire complexity of a human life and need to be addressed with a similarly comprehensive solution. Thanks to the 2030 Agenda, such solutions may slowly become the norm and thanks to UN DESA’s report, this process may pick up speed.

Photo: Koji Sato / Japanese International Cooperation Agency

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