Moving to development that is sustainable will require new thinking on the management of sustainable development. Owing to the high connecteness among the many goals and themes, and that many significant actors have a stake in this agenda, the most required management capability will be that of capacities for connecting/collaboration.

Connecting capacities will be required because sustainable development involves connecting strands between disciplinary boundaries, social, economic, environmental; and then, connection across spaces, political, cultural and individual. Connecting across actors too will be important, national governments, scientific and research communities, urban authorities, local governments, private sector and civil society, and various combinations of these. Drilling deeper, within government, connecting capacities will be of paramount importance as sectors need to talk to one another, ministries need to operate with other ministries, line departments need to work with elected officials and so on.

What are these connecting capacities? How can we ensure synergies are harnessed through positive connecting? What will it take to enhance our understanding of connecting capacities? What innovations and techniques are called for? Where are the sources for such emerging know-how?

A rough definition is that connecting (or collaborative) capacity development represents efforts to bring in management approaches, facilitation pathways, and group dynamics to bear in a manner that effective management across the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are both sectoral and cross-sectoral, by engaging the relevant stakeholders and individuals, is possible through dialogue and incentive mechanisms.

Capacities for brokerage, cultivating change champions through (female) leadership development, for partnership and network development also locate squarely in this realm of capacities.

Why do we need policy integration, collaboration?

  • Competing priorities: biofuels versus food security; food production versus ecosystems;
  • Missing links: service delivery and accessibility (income to water, sanitation and energy; access to medical services and road access; health to nutrition, water and sanitation).

The below illustration shows the linkages between the SDGs namely to achieve goal 6 on water and sanitation, goal 7 on energy and goal 2 on food security which can help to identify tensions, trade-offs and potential synergies. When progress is monitored this needs thus to be done for the system as a whole and not only at the sectoral level. Policy integration (an endogenous process) has to take place with strong political, participatory and learning dimensions, and which engages the public and private sector, with citizens, and strengthens link between research and practice.


With a rapidly rising demand for energy and water (90% of global energy currently produced is water-intensive), while the largest user of water is the agricultural sector and with biofuels being the largest source of growing agricultural water demand, the agriculture sector and global food chain account for 33% of current global energy demand (UNDESA, 2015), one can envisage how important it is to improve institutional structures and arrangements that facilitate inter-sectoral coordination for policy coherence and integrated planning and resource allocation based on data and evidence.

Countries need to work out how best their institutional arrangements coordinate between national and local; between environmental, social and economic ministries, implementing ministries, social protection facilities and such like, including scientific institutions and non-state stakeholders.

This is a huge agenda in any country. Add to this that the concept of sustainable development is not and cannot be narrowly defined, it is a vision that will be constructed over the decades to come. That is also the case for the capacities required making the vision a reality, adaptability to new opportunities paired with resilience to shocks and crises will be the order of the day.

Source: High Level Panel of Expertsof the Committee on World Food Security, 2015.