The second lecture in TERI SAS Lecture Series on Sustainability gives a detailed direction the OECD is taking towards policy coherence and governance for SDGs.

Policy coherence has been a challenge for governments across the world, especially when it comes to sustainable development. The involvement of many stakeholders across the board, as well as the different needs of different countries, makes this task challenging. In light of this, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has come up with ways to enable the systematic promotion of mutually reinforcing policy actions across government departments and agencies creating synergies towards achieving the agreed objective of sustainable development. The TERI School of Advanced Studies organised a lecture on 7 May 2021 to facilitate a better understanding of the OECD’s approach to policy coherence and governance for sustainable development.

Policy Coherence & Governance for Sustainable Development
Policy Coherence & Governance for Sustainable Development Goals

Carina Lindberg, a Policy Analyst in the OECD’s Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development Unit (PCSD Unit), and also an economist by training, delivered the talk. She started the session by giving a brief introduction of governance challenges, such as disconnection from the mainstream policy agenda, frequent gaps in the leadership skills and competencies, uncommitted SDGs into core governance mechanisms, and lack of accountability in SDG implementation. 

Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development is an approach by the OECD to integrate economic, social, environmental and governance dimensions of sustainable development across all stages of policymaking,  facilitating integrated approaches to proposed solutions for the  SDGs. It also aims to foster synergies,  reduce trade-offs, and address transboundary and inter-generational impacts while promoting partnerships and collaboration. To achieve these aims, the OECD recommends some mechanisms to overcome these challenges that hinder policy coherence for sustainable governance.

These mechanisms are divided into three categories:

  • Strategic vision for achieving the 2030 agenda and the SDGs in an integrated and coherent manner.
  • Effective and inclusive institutional and governance mechanisms to address policy interactions.
  • A set of responsive and adaptive tools to anticipate, assess, and address impacts of policies.

The 8 mechanisms recommended by OECD, having been developed over 20 years of analysing policy coherence for sustainable development, are as follows:

  1. Political Commitment and Leadership to foster whole-of-government action for PCSD
  2. Strategic Long-Term Vision to support policy coherence and orient the government and stakeholders towards SDGs
  3. Policy Integration to capitalise on synergies and benefits across economic, social, and environmental policies
  4. Whole-of-Government Coordination to mitigate divergences between sectoral priorities and policies
  5. Subnational Engagement to promote coordinated actions and enhance coherence across levels of governments
  6. Stakeholder Engagement to sustain broader support for PCSD and its implementation
  7. Policy and Financial Impacts to inform decision-making, increase positive impacts and avoid potential negative impacts
  8. Monitoring, Evaluating and Reporting to collect qualitative and quantitative evidence on the impact of policies and financing, and report progress on PCSD

Ms Lindberg also discussed the civil service skills that are required for effective SDG implementation. She argued that bureaucrats should have the skills to:

  • Develop policies through the use of foresight, pieces of evidence, etc. 
  • Commission and contract for developing the markets to improve the policy outcomes 
  • Collaborate networks by aligning the objectives, resources, and actions
  • Work with the citizens by engaging citizens to improve the policy outcomes

The OECD also works with governments of certain European countries like Luxembourg, Poland, etc. to establish policy coherence as a governance agenda.  She then shared the OECD online toolkit, which is a compilation of resources and tools pertaining to policy coherence. It provides guidance, self-assessment, good practice examples, and other tools for governments to effectively implement policy coherence in sustainable development. 

According to Lindberg, the contemporary scenario—that is, the pandemic—has also affected policy implementation of the SDGs, which were supposed to be achieved by 2030. The world is occupied with short-term economic recovery measures, while the long-term goals of sustainability have fallen by the wayside. Ms Lindberg insisted that in order to ensure the aligned recovery as well as policy implementation, it is imperative for the governments to follow the 8 mechanisms listed by the OECD’s Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development Unit.

The goal of the TERI SAS Lecture Series on Sustainability to highlight major challenges related to various fields like gender, governance and agriculture in terms of sustainability.

Dr Swarup Dutta, Assistant Professor and Programme Coordinator, MA SDP, TERI

Read about the first TERI SAS lecture on agrarian crisis, sustainable development and contemporary farm policies in India.

Report by Aanchal Sahu, Team ulaunch.

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