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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.
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.
Governance through goals, a relatively new global governance mechanism, has recently gained prominence, particularly since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. Through this mechanism, internationally agreed policy goals orchestrate the activities of governmental and non-governmental actors. This chapter argues that governance through goals has important effects on governance architectures and their degree and type of fragmentation. To analyze these effects, we review literature around four characteristics of governance through goals: their non-legally binding nature, weak global institutional arrangements, inclusive goal-setting processes and national leeway. We argue that alternative forms of bindingness, such as reporting and accountability mechanisms, can steer actors toward a shared vision. This may result in synergistic fragmentation if broad support is obtained through inclusive processes. However, tensions and cherry-picking may arise when goals are prioritized and implemented. Further research on the effects of governance through goals is crucial given that it is likely to maintain – and gain – importance in earth system governance.
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