The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states that the Sustainable Development Gaols (SDGs) are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social, and environmental). The interlinkages and integrated nature of the SDGs are of crucial importance in ensuring that the purpose of the new Agenda is realised. Accordingly, the integrated and interlinked nature of the SDGs needs to inform and guide their mainstreaming into national planning frameworks, in the form of national development plans or sustainable development strategies. The transformational vision of the 2030 Agenda depends on such an integrated approach, which involves identifying possible synergies and trade-offs between SDGs and their associated targets, as well as developing context specific integrated approaches to ensure effective implementation.
The 2019 SDG Summit called on countries to “mainstream the 2030 Agenda into our national planning instruments, policies, strategies and financial frameworks”. The voluntary national reviews (VNRs) and other sources provide examples of approaches taken by countries to integrate the 2030 agenda into national plans and strategies. Countries are also integrating regional and continental agendas into their plans, for instance the 2063 Agenda of the African Union. The SDGs are also being incorporated into plans and review processes at the sub-national as evidenced by the voluntary local reviews.
The integration of the SDGs – and sustainable development more broadly – builds on the experience with National Sustainable Development Strategies (NSDS), which were included in 1992 in Agenda 21 (§ 8.7). Here countries were called upon to integrate economic, social and environmental objectives into one strategically focused blueprint for action at the national level. The NSDS “should be developed through the widest possible participation”. And it “should be based on a thorough assessment of the current situation and initiatives”.
As seen at the Voluntary National Reviews at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, issues such as country ownership and strong political commitment, the integration of economic, social and environmental objectives across sectors, territories and generations; broad participation and effective partnerships, the development of capacity and enabling environment, as well as the mobilization of means of implementations remain at the centre of policy debates at all levels.
More on NSDS
In the Programme for the Future Implementation of Agenda 21 adopted at the 19th Special Session of the General Assembly (23-28 June 1997), member States reaffirmed the importance of NSDS and set a target of 2002 for the formulation and elaboration of NSDS that reflect the contributions and responsibilities of all interested parties.
However, by 2002, based on national reports received from governments, only about 85 countries had developed some form of national strategies and the nature and effectiveness of these strategies varied considerably from country to country. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) adopted at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), through paragraph 162 b, recommitted member States to “take immediate steps to make progress in the formulation and elaboration of national strategies for sustainable development and to begin their implementation by 2005.”
During the preparatory process for the 2002 WSSD, the International Forum on NSDS was held in Accra, Ghana in 2001, which led to the launch of the Guidance in Preparing a National Sustainable Development Strategy. It defined National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) as “a coordinated, participatory and iterative process of thoughts and actions to achieve economic, environmental and social objectives in a balanced and integrative manner”. Most importantly, NSDS is a call for an institutional change. It aims at a transition from the traditional static putting-a-plan-on-paper exercise towards the establishment of an adaptive system that can continuously improve. It should be a process which “encompasses situation analysis, formulation of policies and action plans, implementation, monitoring and regular review. It is a cyclical and interactive process of planning, participation and action in which the emphasis is on managing progress towards sustainability goals rather than producing a ‘plan’ as an end product.”
Every country needs to determine, for itself, how best to approach the preparation and implementation of its national sustainable development strategy depending upon the prevailing political, historical cultural, ecological circumstances. A "blueprint" approach for national sustainable development strategies is neither possible nor desirable. The particular label applied to a national sustainable development strategy is not important, as long as the underlying principles characterizing a national sustainable development strategy are adhered to and that economic, social and environmental objectives are balanced and integrated.
Today, there is an increased interest in national development planning, and for many countries their national plan or strategy - even if not labelled as an NSDS - is the chief means for incorporating the 2030 Agenda and its 17 SDGs into the national policy framework.
The political declaration of the high-level political forum on sustainable development convened under the auspices of the General Assembly states, in the context of enhancing national implementation, “… we aim to proactively mainstream the 2030 Agenda into our national planning instruments, policies, strategies and financial frameworks”. The declaration also provides that countries will seek “…to equip domestic institutions to better address interlinkages, synergies and trade-offs between the Goals and targets through a whole-of-government approach that can bring about transformative change in governance and public policy.”
September 2015 2030 Agenda for Sustainable DevelopmentThe 2030 Agenda states in paragraph 63 that “…nationally owned sustainable development strategies, supported by integrated national financing frameworks, will be at the heart of our efforts.” It goes on to provide “…that each country has primary responsibility for its own economic and social development and that the role of national policies and development strategies cannot be overemphasized.”
June 2012 The Future We WantThe Future We Want in paragraph 43 identifies, as a requirement for sustainable development, “the meaningful involvement and active participation of regional, national and subnational legislatures and judiciaries, and all major groups: women, children and youth, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, the scientific and technological community, and farmers, as well as other stakeholders”. In paragraph 98, regional, national, subnational and local authorities are encouraged “as appropriate to develop and utilize sustainable development strategies as key instruments for guiding decision-making and implementation of sustainable development at all levels”.
January 2007 Integrating Climate Change into NSDSThis Expert Group Meeting on Integrating Climate Change into National Sustainable Development Strategies was organized by the Division for Sustainable Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The Group Meeting convened in order to examine effective ways of addressing climate change through national sustainable development strategies and strengthen the role of sustainable development as the most effective framework within which to tackle climate change.
September 2005 MDG target 7AThe integration of principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes corresponds to Millennium Development Goal Target 7 A.
September 2002 Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (Para 162)With the adoption of the JPOI, Member States urged to take immediate steps towards making progress in formulating and elaborating national strategies for sustainable development and to begin their implementation by 2005.
January 1997 GA 19th Special Session - NSDSThe 1997 Special Session of the General Assembly noted the importance of NSDS and set a target of 2002 for their formulation and elaboration.
January 1992 Agenda 21 (Chap 8.7)Paragraph 7 of Chapter 8 of Agenda 21 calls on countries to adopt national strategies for sustainable development (NSDS) that should build upon and harmonize the various sectoral economic, social and environmental policies and plans that are operating in the country.