Sustainable Development Goals and Integration: Achieving a better balance between the economic, social and environmental dimensions


Cutter, Amy

Stakeholder Forum

A Study Commissioned by the German Council for Sustainable Development 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) currently under negotiation at the United Nations are intended to guide priorities both for the development needed in the developing countries and for the sustainability transition needed throughout the world over the next 15 years. The mandate agreed at Rio+20 for the creation of the goals stipulated among other requirements that the goals should achieve an appropriate balance between the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The draft set of SDGs presented in the final report of the United Nation’s Open Working Group (OWG) include most of the highest priority objectives of the world’s economic, social and environmental agendas and in that sense achieves a degree of balance.
The individual goals are not, however, so well balanced within themselves. Some are clearly primarily economic goals, others social and some environmental. Within the targets under each goal there is some attempt to include elements reflecting the other dimensions, but this has so far only achieved a partial integration of the three dimensions within each area. 
This is a serious shortcoming since the objective must be to encourage a more integrated approach within each area and each subject community. For example the health community and the education community need goals that fully express the significance and importance of a fully integrated sustainability approach within their areas, including the economic and environmental dimensions as well as the social. Similarly, the climate change and energy communities need goals that fully capture the economic and social dimensions of these issues as well as the environmental imperatives.
This paper aims to contribute to the discussions on the integration and balance of the three dimensions of sustainable development within the SDGs framework by:
  • Providing government representatives and other stakeholders with a number of options for building upon the SDGs proposed by the OWG to see that they better balance the three dimensions of sustainable development
  • Ensuring innovative recommendations for SDGs and associated targets put forward by stakeholders, based upon experience and expertise, are considered during efforts to develop and build consensus on a global SDGs framework as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
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