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This chapter examines to what extent and under what conditions the Sustainable Development Goals have fostered a better inclusion and support of poor and vulnerable communities within countries, and of the least developed countries internationally. We start with a conceptualization of inclusiveness as a matter of recognition, representation, and distribution. We then review the role of the Sustainable Development Goals in steering any normative, institutional or discursive changes in favour of inclusiveness within and between countries, drawing on both a Scopus search of all articles published between 2015 and 2020 in the social sciences subject area related to inclusiveness and grey literature. Although research evidence is strikingly limited, our review indicates that rhetoric and action do not match when it comes to the impacts of the Sustainable Development Goals on inclusiveness within and between countries. While vulnerable people and countries are often discursively prioritized in the implementation of the goals, such discursive prioritization has so far not resulted in creating or reshuffling norms and institutions towards inclusiveness.
In 2015, the international community adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals with 169 targets as part of a global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The ambition expressed in these goals is unprecedented; the Agenda aims at nothing less than ‘Transforming Our World’. But can this prominent example of global goal-setting, as a new central approach in global governance, help resolve the pressing challenges of economic development, poverty eradication, social justice and global environmental protection? This chapter sets out the central questions our scientific assessment aims to address, as well as the conceptual framework for evaluating the political impact of the Sustainable Development Goals. We start with providing an account of the novelty of the Sustainable Development Goals. We then conceptualize the steering effects of global goals as encompassing any behavioural changes of political, economic and societal actors, including normative, institutional and discursive changes. Finally, we detail the assessment process and scope of our meta-analysis, and outline the assessment areas that form the organizing principle for the following chapters of the book.
This chapter assesses the political impact of the Sustainable Development Goals on global governance. We start by discussing the range of expectations for global governance arrangements, considering the stated objectives of the goals. We then assess the early performance of governance arrangements in terms of shifts in policy and practice against these expectations. Our research shows the impact of the Sustainable Development Goals is largely discursive, with limited transformative outcomes on governance practices. The High-level Political Forum, created to assess global progress towards the implementation of the goals, has failed to provide political leadership and promote coherence across the United Nations system. Our research also shows that the Sustainable Development Goals initiated peer-learning among governments and other actors, yet with limited evidence that this has led to structural transformation towards sustainability. As certain ambitions of the Global Goals have been part of ongoing debates in global governance, our review finally highlights that observable changes often reflect long-term reform trajectories that are not causally linked to the launch of the goals.
The final chapter brings the insights of the book together under the overarching question of whether the Sustainable Development Goals have had any political impact after their adoption in 2015. The chapter draws the conclusion that the Sustainable Development Goals have so far had only limited effects in global, national and local governance. We mainly see discursive effects of the goals with some normative and institutional effects as well. The global goals have however not (yet) become a transformative force in and of themselves. Their effects are neither linear nor unidirectional. While the 2030 Agenda and the 17 goals with their 169 targets constitute a strong set of normative guidelines, their national implementation, translation to the local level, and dissemination across societal sectors remain a political process.
Written by an international team of over sixty experts and drawing on over three thousand scientific studies, this is the first comprehensive global assessment of the political impact of the Sustainable Development Goals, which were launched by the United Nations in 2015. It explores in detail the political steering effects of the Sustainable Development Goals on the UN system and the policies of countries in the Global North and Global South; on institutional integration and policy coherence; and on the ecological integrity and inclusiveness of sustainability policies worldwide. This book is a key resource for scholars, policymakers and activists concerned with the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and those working in political science, international relations and environmental studies. It is one of a series of publications associated with the Earth System Governance Project. For more publications, see www.cambridge.org/earth-system-governance. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
Climate change will fundamentally affect the lives of millions of people who may be forced to leave their villages and cities to seek refuge in other areas over the course of this century. Even though most climate migrants will move within their own country,1 many might also migrate across international borders. So far, several initiatives have been put in place to strengthen soft law mechanisms to protect those displaced due to natural disasters and climate change, such as the ‘Nansen Initiative on cross-border displacement in the context of disasters and the effects of climate change’
This chapter analyzes the fragmentation of architectures of earth system governance. We start with a conceptualization of governance fragmentation and its relation to concepts such as polycentricity and institutional complexity. We then review the origins of governance fragmentation and its problematization, methodological approaches to studying fragmentation and the impacts and consequences of fragmentation. We conclude by identifying future research directions in this domain. Our research shows that fragmentation is ubiquitous, that it varies among policy areas and governance areas and that it is a variable that can be assessed in comparative research across policy areas and over time. The review is based on a comprehensive study of the literature on governance fragmentation over the last decade. We draw on a Scopus search on all articles published in the subject area of social sciences from 2009 to 2018, supplemented by additional studies, such as books, book chapters and a few policy briefs and working papers.
Over the past decades, international institutions, such as treaties and regimes, have proliferated in global governance, and we have seen a tremendous amount of studies on their emergence, maintenance and effectiveness. Increasingly it has become evident, however, that such institutions do not operate in a void but within complex webs of larger governance settings. These large web-like structures, or ‘governance architectures’, are important to understand because they shape, enable and at times hinder the functioning of single international institutions and are crucial variables in determining the overall effectiveness of global governance. In recent years, this concept of governance architecture has effectively shifted the debate to situations in which an area is regulated by multiple institutions and norms in complex settings. This introductory chapter offers conceptual clarity about global governance architectures and their structural features as well as an overview of key insights gained through the last decade of research. We also identify key methodological approaches, challenges, and advances in this field of study.