12 February 2019
SDG Knowledge Weekly: Policy Coherence in the EU and Beyond
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Reports released by the EC propose an operational method to identify trade-offs and co-benefits across the SDGs, take stock of progress on policy coherence for development, and consider scenarios on the EU’s path to achieving the SDGs.

SEI partnered with UNEP to show how Colombia can holistically implement the SDGs, using a tool to visualize the connections across the SDGs and their targets.

A paper jointly authored by staff from the German Development Institute and SEI explores how the climate and development agendas pose challenges for implementation, while also providing opportunities for policy coherence.

This week’s brief summarizes several reports and analyses on policy coherence and interlinkages across the SDG framework in Europe, Asia and Latin America. We also review thought leadership on other forms of means of implementation in Europe, focusing on the EU’s financial architecture and external investment.

The main subject of SDG target 17.14, policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD), can be characterized through three dimensions: 1) domestically, with national and sub-national policies reinforcing rather than undermining each other; 2) abroad, whereby domestic policies have positive rather than negative spillover effects across borders; and 3) over time, enabling long-term sustainable development for future generations. These dimensions are each touched upon, explicitly or implicitly, in the below reports.

A technical report from the EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) proposes an “operational method to identify trade-offs and co-benefits” across the SDGs in a systemic way. As outlined in the report titled, ‘Interlinkages and policy coherence for the Sustainable Development Goals implementation,’ the method consists of two tools: 1) an identification tool based on the current literature that builds a dashboard of “agreed interlinkages;” and 2) a second dashboard developed using existing EU legislation to pinpoint priority policy areas where the bloc can exploit synergies that accelerate SDG implementation. Combining the two dashboards, the report’s abstract notes, can help develop implementation strategies at both the Goal and target levels while enhancing and contributing to PCSD.

Looking at interlinkages across the SDG framework itself at country level, Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) also developed a tool to visualize the connections. Since its initial development in 2017, SEI has applied the tool and a seven-point scoring scale to map SDGs’ interactions in Colombia. The project, for which SEI has partnered with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), shows how the country can holistically implement the SDGs in a manner that maximizes co-benefits across thematic areas and the broader Antioquia region. The tool was piloted at a recent workshop held in Medellín, Colombia. SEI and UNEP are also working on a national level analysis, to be completed in collaboration with the Colombian Ministry of Environment, National Planning Department and the SDGs Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

A second EC publication, titled ‘2019 EU Report on Policy Coherence for Development’ (PCD), takes stock of EU institutions’ and member States’ progress on PCD from 2015-2018 through the lens of the 5 “Ps” of the 2030 Agenda: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. The report notes that PCD is no longer a stand-alone policy on development cooperation, but rather is central to the EU’s efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda. It highlights partnerships and initiatives on PCD at the EU and national level, and provides examples of PCD in practice in food security, health, migration and mobility and trade. The report’s conclusion explains that in some EU member States, “PCD has been partially or totally subsumed” by PCSD, and the former is an important contribution to the latter.

A more detailed write-up of the EC report, its findings, and the differences between PCD and PCSD is available on the SDG Knowledge Hub, and the EC website for PCSD is here. Also included on the report’s download page are EU member States’ replies to a questionnaire on policy coherence, which reveal a range of preparedness, though many note political commitments and mechanisms to promote and institutionalize coherent policies.

Addressing areas of need in order to achieve policy coherence, an EC reflection paper considers three scenarios on the path to achieving the SDGs: 1) An overarching EU SDG strategy guiding the actions of the EU and its member States; 2) continued mainstreaming of the SDGs in all relevant EU policies by the EC, but not enforcing member States’ action; and 3) an enhanced focus on external action while consolidating current sustainability ambition at EU level. At the paper’s launch, EU First Vice-President Frans Timmermans touched on the time dimension of PCSD, noting that sustainable development is a means to “upgrade the well-being of our children and grandchildren.” Annexes to the paper include the Juncker Commission’s contribution to the SDGs and the EU’s performance on the Goals, as well as the contribution of the SDG Multi-stakeholder Platform to the reflection paper. An SDG Knowledge Hub summary is also available, complemented by a guest article. The paper is titled, ‘A Sustainable Europe by 2030.’

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has identified policy gaps in the EU that hinder SDG implementation, in a report commissioned by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The SDSN report also notes that the EU’s key way of monitoring its SDG progress is the yearly report by Eurostat, which the authors say does not allow for “the review of the performance of the EU as a whole against time-bound targets.” The paper, titled, ‘Exposing EU policy gaps to address the Sustainable Development Goals,’ identifies another shortcoming of the Eurostat report as not estimating EU member States’ respective “distance to targets.” Thus, SDSN recommends: 1) production of a shadow report to monitor performance and complement official Eurostat reporting; 2) inviting civil society organizations (CSOs) to collect and compare innovative approaches to SDG monitoring and implementation; 3) using the EESC platform to communicate with a wider audience; and 4) advocating for better integration of the SDGs into existing EU policymaking and regulatory instruments.

The Center for Global Development published a policy paper titled, ‘The EU’s Financial Architecture for External Investment: Progress, Challenges, and Options.’ The authors describe the evolution of the European financial architecture, including blending strategies, guarantees, the External Investment Plan (EIP) launched in 2017, and a proposed investment framework. Noting that the EIP aims to increase the scale, impact and coherence of EU-supported external investment, the paper documents lessons learned during its first year of implementation. The authors call for “greater policy steer to investors;” increasing competition among institutions for investment support; setting clear guidance and fee structures; and standardizing contractual terms, among other recommendations.

At the country level in Asia, a paper jointly authored by staff from the German Development Institute (DIE) and SEI explores how the climate and development agendas pose challenges for implementation, while also providing opportunities for policy coherence. In the paper titled, ‘Pathways for Policy Coherence in Implementation of NDCs and SDGs in Viet Nam and the Role of Civil Society,’ the authors identify overlaps in implementation approaches, and offer tailored recommendations for policymakers to mitigate duplicative efforts, and for civil society actors wishing to support such efforts.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also manages a PCSD Partnership – of which IISD is a member – and produces regular thought leadership on the topic. We would like to thank Ebba Dohlman, Senior Advisor and Head of the OECD Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development Unit, for her leadership of the Partnership and wish her all the best on her recent retirement.

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.

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