The Sustainable Development Goals—Assessing interlinkages, trade-offs and synergies for policy design

Editor: Wilfried Rickels, Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Germany; Jan Börner, University of Bonn, Germany; Adolf Kloke-Lesch, Sustainable Development Solution Network Germany; and Guido Schmidt-Traub, Sustainable Development Solution Network


Humankind is on an unsustainable path. The present patterns of global development threaten societal cohesion, undermine prosperity, and consume natural resources and services faster than they regenerate and thus exert unsustainable pressure on climate, ecosystems, and biodiversity. The universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by world leaders at the United Nations in September 2015, may present a turning point towards the design of more sustainable national and international policies in which all countries both rich or poor, can take part. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a complex system comprising 169 targets and currently about 230 indicators. The Agenda emphasizes that the interlinkages and integrated nature of the SDGs are of crucial importance in ensuring that the purpose of the new Agenda is realized. As countries are gearing up to design and implement policies towards attaining the SDGs, these interlinkages are becoming highly relevant. Moreover, possible trade-offs have to be dealt with and synergies will be challenging to achieve. Sufficient and coordinated action requires national and international policy frameworks with adequate assessment, monitoring, and evaluation procedures. Comprehensive research to transparently reveal interlinkages, potential trade-offs and synergies between the various goals and targets is crucial to guide policy and facilitate civil society as well as business engagement. Accordingly, analytical models and practical tools are needed to i) identify interlinkages, ii) assess trade-offs, iii) identify priority action, and iv) promote synergies by adopting multi-purpose solutions.

We invite disciplinary (in particular from the field of economics and political science) and interdisciplinary research articles and commentaries to address these needs by focusing on:

  • conceptual and theoretical analyses of SDG interlinkages, potential trade-offs and synergies,
  • qualitative and quantitative assessment of potential trade-offs among SDGs and related policies,
  • applications of data dimensionality reduction methods and/or structure revealing methods to measure SDG goals,
  • evaluations and case-studies of sub-national, national, regional, and international action towards achieving SDG, and
  • assessment of the compatibility and synergies with  existing domestic and international policies, agreements, and initiatives (e.g. WTO, EU-regulations, G20) with the SGDs.

Furthermore, we would like in particular invite contributions with focus on SDG 17 (Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development) which address the role of finance, technology, capacity building, trade or achieving sustainable development. In other words, this invitation represents a call for transformative international cooperation. In this regard, we also invite contributors to move beyond traditional North-South- and South-South-cooperation patterns and include transformative ways of North-North-cooperation.






  • April 30, 2018 |
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  • JEL: A19, C19, B49, C38, C69, O10, O19
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Discussion Papers

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  • JEL: A13, F63, I30, O19, Z12
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  • JEL: A11, O11, P21, P41
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