1st Edition

Improving the Sustainable Development Goals
Strategies and the Governance Challenge

ISBN 9780367142100
Published April 28, 2019 by Routledge
132 Pages

USD $60.00

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Book Description

Improving the Sustainable Development Goals evaluates the Global Goals (Agenda 2030) by looking at their design and how they relate to theories of economic development. Adopted unanimously by the member states of the United Nations (UN) in 2015, the goals are remarkable for the global commitment on a set of targets to reach by 2030, but also for the lack of a strategy of implementation. The choice of appropriate action is handed over to individual governments, some of which are limited by their lack of resources.

This book explores how implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) can be developed, especially in developing countries. The content, strengths and weaknesses of the SDGs are critically examined, alongside their relationship to ongoing academic research. The authors also investigate the actions of governments over the past three years by looking at the national strategies they have presented at annual meetings of the UN High-Level Political Forum.

Improving the Sustainable Development Goals takes a critical but constructive approach, pointing out risks as well as possible remedies. The SDGs are seen as an opportunity for a global conversation on what works in solving some fundamental problems relating to poverty and environmental degradation. With the inclusion of a chapter by Tobias Ogweno, former member of the Kenya’s UN mission, this book will appeal to all those who are interested in policy analysis with a focus on development issues.

Table of Contents




Chapter 1: Global goals in search of strategies

A global agreement…

Eradication of poverty in reach

Environmental urgency

Ambitious and flexible goals

…to achieve sustainable development…

A political compromise

Contested issues

…through seventeen goals…

Economic issues

Social issues

Environmental issues

Cross-cutting issues

…without an explicit strategy…

Weak on strategies for implementation

How flexible are the goals?

Weak on compliance

…and in an unclear relation to other global policies…

…but still an example of the art of the possible


Chapter 2: A research gap on strategies and implementation

Focus on the implementation of the SDGs


Connecting policy to research

Africa and developing countries

Questions for the investigation

Are the goals intended to be taken seriously?

Problems with the existing literature

Sustainable development

Theoretical perspectives

Empirical perspectives

Poverty reduction


Chapter 3: Refocus from the goals to learning over time

Policy by goals

The role of goals

New Public Management

Another interpretation: A learning policy

Rationalism vs realism

A learning subject

The importance of a program theory, a strategy

Hidden assumptions

A theory of change for sustainable development

Methods and material


Chapter 4: An inherent strategy in the goals

The economic dimension

Goal 1: No poverty

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth

Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Goal 10: Reduced inequalities


The social dimension

Goal 2: Zero hunger

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

Goal 4: Quality education

Goal 5: Gender equality

Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation

Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities


The environmental dimension

Goal 12: Responsible production and consumption

Goal 13: Climate action

Goal 14: Life below water

Goal 15: Life on land


Cross-cutting issues

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals


How can we understand the goals as a strategy?

The general strategy

The environmental goals

The social goals

The economic goal

The governance goals


Chapter 5. Alternative strategies for Sustainable Development

How can we think about drivers and barriers for sustainable development?

Four questions

Three stylized perspectives

Political debates

Drivers for economic development

Modernization theory vs Dependency theory

Developmental states and global value chains

Drivers for social development

Normative issues

Three perspectives

Drivers for environmental development/protection

Two relationships

Three perspectives

Drivers for the development of governance/state capacity

Failed states

Summary and implications for developing countries


Chapter 6: The governance challenge

Good governance as the key to successful implementation of the SDGs

Good governance


Critical perspectives

Developmental neopatrimonialism


The evidence

Differing methods

Two rival theories

Are the strategies feasible?

Problems with Good Governance

A value-conflict



Chapter 7: National strategies of implementation (by Tobias Ogweno)

What is new with the SDGs?

The context of the SDGs

The Voluntary National Reviews

National strategies: different approaches, same destiny

Stakeholder engagement

Integrated governance

Legitimate, innovative and flexible governance

National development plans

Managing the tensions

Citizen engagement with the goals


Chapter 8: Conclusions of the study



The future


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Lars Niklasson is a researcher at the Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies (SIEPS), and a professor of political science at Linköping University, Sweden. His research interest is European Union (EU)–Africa relations and the global leadership role of the EU. He has taught international political economy and comparative politics, with a focus on global challenges and governance. Niklasson has been a visiting teacher at the University of Nairobi, Kenya.


"This book explores the formulation and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals; this type of analysis is critical to make progress on sustainable development. The authors apply a forward-looking perspective to discuss drivers and barriers for achieving the goals, adding to the multifaceted debate surrounding societal efforts to enhance sustainability."
Henrik Selin, Frederick S Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University