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New study assesses effectiveness of SDG partnerships

19 August 2021
Do multi-stakeholder partnerships really make a meaningful contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations? An international team led by VU researchers Oscar Widerberg and Philipp Pattberg is seeking to answer this question in the project Transformative Partnerships for Sustainable Development.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 objectives set for the period 2015-2030 by the member states of the UN, with the aim of ending extreme poverty, inequality, injustice and climate change.

Falling short
The countries of the UN have determined that the SDGs should be achieved in partnerships between the government sector, the business community and civil society organizations. Yet it is far from clear whether such partnerships actually make a meaningful contribution in terms of bringing SDGs to fruition. In recent decades, numerous partnerships have been established, both inside and outside the UN, but many have fallen short of their objectives. 

Partnership database
In the four-year project Transformative Partnerships for Sustainable Development, an international team, including researchers from the Swedish Institute for Future Studies, Stockholm University and Lund University, will set up and analyse a new SDG partnership database. They will combine a range of research methods, from statistical analysis and expert surveys to observing international negotiations and holding interviews with policymakers, corporate representatives and activists. 

Achieving goals by 2030
Oscar Widerberg of VU Amsterdam underlines what is at stake: “Now that the human influence on the climate has been established and global warming is occurring faster than we initially thought, the results of this study are more important than ever. We want our research to make a major contribution to the way partnerships are shaped, so that we really can achieve these sustainability goals by 2030.”