An Optimistic Analysis of the Means of Implementation for Sustainable Development Goals: Thinking about Goals as Means

Volume (Issue): 8/9

A key but contentious aspect of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the means of implementation (MOI). Many developing countries emphasize the importance of international
assistance while developed countries focus more on domestic financing and the private sector.
The text of the SDGs includes a broad range of MOI. However, a discussion has arisen about
whether countries should prioritize some goals over others due partly to concerns that MOI may be
insufficient. In contrast, this article argues for a more optimistic outlook concerning MOI and the
feasibility of achieving the SDGs. First, most SDGs and targets are themselves means—or intermediate goals—contributing to the achievement of other goals. The structure of the SDGs blurs the fact that different goals have different functions, such as providing resources or enabling environments. Greater focus on the interlinkages and synergies among goals could enhance the effectiveness of implementation and reduce costs. Second, integrated planning and implementation, needed for leveraging synergies among goals, will require enhanced capacity, particularly for governance and coordination. We argue that the strengthening of such capacity is a central MOI that requires more attention since it is a precondition for the effective mobilization and deployment of other MOI. Third, although upfront investments may seem high in absolute terms, financial feasibility is realistic when considering existing global financial stocks and flows and the expected benefits.