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Exploring the power of nexus thinking in SDGs implementation

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The working groups of the Platform explore the nexus thinking in implementing the SDGs

Bonn | Germany | July 2017
One of the most prominent nexuses of sustainable development is between agriculture, water and energy. Water management and agriculture are an integral part of many if not all SDGs. But the Platform members have agreed that sustainable pathway to food security in the context of climate change and water scarcity lies in maximizing benefits from sustainable agricultural practices. Development agencies focus on countries in water-scarce regions in support to devise food security strategies that explicitly consider structural food supply deficits and trade arrangements that will provide protection from food and price volatility.

Recognising the importance of interlinkages and following the call for policy coherence, the majority of donor agencies, international finance institutions, multilateral organisations and UN-agencies have incorporated nexus policies and have utilised SDGs interconnections in their development assistance policy. Some explore the nexus thinking only implicitly, while setting the goals on poverty reduction and hunger eradication. Other specifically strategically link water and agriculture for economic development and empowerment. And there are also examples of donors who set highest priority on water management and food security and who recognise agriculture and trade as main instruments to achieve both.

SDGs logical sequencing

Next to the nexus thinking, many professionals believe that the SDGs will require systemic thinking that reduces the complexity by focusing on one step (sector, target, goal) at the time. New America, Greenhouse and OECD conducted a survey amongst 85 experts from think thanks, governments and private institutions, the WB, OECD, universities and foundations as well as CSOs to find out the best sequence of implementing the SDGs. The experts were provided with 117 targets to put in order and prioritise in an effort to fulfil all the SDGs. The experts ranked targets like promote rule of law and access to justice and eliminate the most extreme poverty ahead of all other listed targets. The next couple of targets that were prioritized were access to affordable health care, ensure women’s rights to economic opportunities and government accountability.

Overall the highest priorities focus on rights and governance and basic conditions of life, while environmental targets are only to be found lower on the priority list. The surveyed stakeholders have also prioritised targets focusing on individuals over institutions and rather urgent targets over long-term processes.

Linking the SDGs for nutrition and food security

The SDGs are interconnected by design and governments are already actively searching for strategies and policies to exploit these interconnections. The IFPRI report offers a 7-point scale that analyses the target-level interactions between SDG2, SDG3, SDG7 and SDG14. The assessment identified 316 target-level interactions, with the majority being positive – 238, 66 negative and 12 neutral.

The report looks into possible conflicts and the opportunities to take advantage of overlaps. In the last chapter, the authors offered several steps to help unlock the full potential of synergetic SDG achievements, including developing a crosscutting coordination and monitoring mechanisms and enhance the international collaboration on interlinkages.

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