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Achieving the 2030 Agenda – Are Partnerships the Path to Success?

30 June 2021
A new 4-year project will study whether multi-stakeholder partnerships between governments, companies and civil society can be used to connect different Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The project is called ‘Transformative Partnerships for Sustainable Development’ and is funded by the Swedish science foundation FORMAS. IVM researchers Oscar Widerberg and Philipp Pattberg at the Institute for Environmental Studies will lead a work-package together with two PhD students, and collaborate with researchers from the Swedish Institute for Future Studies, Stockholm University, and Lund University.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an unprecedented collective plan for people, planet, and prosperity. As part of it, all member states of the United Nations (UN) agreed that the 17 SDGs should be achieved through multi-stakeholder partnerships between governments, companies and civil society. But do multi-stakeholder partnerships under the 2030 Agenda contribute to sustainable development? Or do they merely reflect a rhetorical commitment of the international community?

During the past decades, there has been a ‘Cambrian explosion’ of partnerships within and outside the UN. Their degree of effectiveness has been varied, with many falling short of achieving the intended impact. This project advances that for multi-stakeholder partnerships to actually contribute to the achievement the 2030 Agenda, they need to be synergistic, effective, and legitimate.

A mixed method approach

In the spirit of scholarly collaboration, the project will assess this proposition, questions from a variety of angles that include a normative, qualitative, and quantitative dimension. The researchers will employ a mixed method design by combining statistical analysis, interviews, expert surveys, and participatory observation. Using a new data-set with multi-stakeholder partnerships cutting across social, environmental, and economic goals, the project will look at 30 different multi-stakeholder partnerships and 60 specific interventions.

The findings of this project will come at a critical time, and have substantive implications for how multi-stakeholder partnerships should be designed, governed, and integrated across SDGs to achieve the 2030 Agenda.