Towards transformative change: polycentric governance as a way to achieve the SDGs more inclusively

Governing SDG Interactions,Knowledge brokering,Project15 Mar 2023Sasha Al Busaidy

In February, Prof. Dr Art Dewulf and Dr Daniel Wiegant of Wageningen University (WUR) organised a three-day project meeting to kick off the four-year research project on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) governance and decision-making in East Africa – “Beyond cherry”-picking”: aligning development actors and efforts for inclusive and effective governance of trade-offs and synergies between SDGs in East Africa – as part of the NWO-funded research programme on SDG Interactions and Policy Interventions in Developing Countries.

Attendees included project researchers, representatives from co-applying institutions, international cooperation partners (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – OECD), and African institutions (African Union Peer Review Mechanism – AU-PRM), as well as other stakeholders (e.g., the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The highlights of the meeting can be summarized as follows:

  • The impact of the SDGs on fostering transformative change has been limited, according to Prof. Frank Biermann of Utrecht University who delivered the keynote speech.
  • The political impacts of the SDGs in the African context are increasingly visible, with countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya aligning their national development policies with the SDGs and translating them into local languages, as stated by Ms Hamouda from AU-PRM.
  • There is a need to focus on peaceful and inclusive societies (SDG 16) and reform institutions in order to promote inclusive development.
  • The concept of ‘inclusive development’ needs to be further unpacked and concretized at the project level in order to make a meaningful contribution to the debate.
  • Postdoc and PhD candidates from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda – connected by a cross-cutting comparative research framework on polycentric governance – will investigate SDG interactions from a governance perspective. The focus will be on SDG 2 (zero hunger) in Kenya, SDG 15 (life on land) in Ethiopia, and SDG 6 (clean water) in Uganda. The research will take an innovative approach by studying each case from a global to local and local to global perspective.
  • To translate SDG governance research into policy action, the importance of evidence-based policy approaches was emphasized. Multi-stakeholder dialogue is necessary to align efforts across sectors and governance levels and to create enabling policy environments.
  • The knowledge brokering and synthesis consortium, which includes the University of Amsterdam and The Broker, will work to build bridges between different fields of knowledge, stimulate closer cooperation and facilitate mutual knowledge exchange among stakeholders.

You can download the conference report here.

For more information on the research project, you can visit this page on our website.