Cherry-picking the Sustainable Development Goals: Goal prioritization by national governments and implications for global governance

Oana Forestier, Rakhyun E. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The member states of the United Nations collectively agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as equally important global objectives. Yet the same states seem to prioritize certain SDGs in national implementation. Such cherry-picking defies the ?integrated and indivisible? nature of the SDGs, and could negatively impact overall progress on sustainable development globally. Which SDGs receive more attention than the others in national policies, and what implications can we draw for global governance? We address these questions in two parts. Through a content analysis of the Voluntary National Reviews of 19 countries of varying income levels, we find that SDGs 1 and 8 on poverty eradication and economic growth are by far most widely prioritized. We then look specifically into Bhutan and Vietnam to explore possible explanations for goal prioritization as well as the potential steering effects of international organizations on their national policies. The findings have important policy implications for global governance. We argue that the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, in particular, has an important role to play to better coordinate international organizations to help mitigate unhealthy goal prioritization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1269-1278
Number of pages10
JournalSustainable Development
Volume28
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

Keywords

  • cherry-picking
  • governance through goals
  • international organizations
  • prioritization
  • Sustainable Development Goals

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