Policies have a central role in delivering the economic transformations and enabling environments needed for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The economic, social and environmental challenges that the SDGs aim to address are increasingly complex and cut across policy fields. Yet, policy-making is mostly carried out on a sectoral basis and silos. A major challenge for governments is to be able to work across sectors, actors and governance levels and to consider more systematically:
- The roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders, as well as the diverse sources of finance - public and private, domestic and international - for achieving sustainable development outcomes.
- Sectoral inter-linkages (synergies and trade-offs) and their implications across economic, social and environmental areas.
- Consistency of decisions across different governance levels.
- Effects on the well-being of people to leave no one behind here and now (domestic dimension); elsewhere (trans-boundary dimension); and later (for future generations).
Policy coherence for sustainable development is fundamental to ensure that progress achieved in one goal (e.g. water) contributes to progress in other goals (e.g. food security or health). It is needed to manage trade-offs between conflicting policy objectives. For example, an increase in agricultural productivity (SDG target 2.3) to help end hunger (SDG target 2.1) could undermine efforts to halt the loss of biodiversity (SDG target 15.5).