The 2030 Agenda compared with six related international agreements: valuable resources for SDG implementation

  • Raymond SanerEmail author
  • Lichia Yiu
  • Christian Kingombe
Review Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Concepts, Methodology, and Knowledge Management for Sustainability Science


A recurrent problem in international organizations is the disappearance of institutional history and knowledge. The same can be said about international agreements unless the same key drafters/negotiators are involved in subsequent agreements which is rarely the case. This study provides an example how institutional memory embedded in international agreements can be preserved for the benefit of the next generation of policy negotiators. Hence, as a contribution to the broader reflection on how to align National Sustainable Development Plans with the implementation plan of 2030 Agenda, the purpose of the study is to present a comparative analysis of the 2030 Agenda with 6 outcome documents that were negotiated and agreed by the UN member countries in the domain of sustainability. This analysis aims to identify issues not covered or “unfinished business” in the 2030 Agenda and addressed in a more comprehensive manner or from different perspectives. The list of agreements and outcome documents included are Agenda 21, Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, Outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, The Paris Agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. Our findings show that these agreements tend to build on each other, not always in the most straightforward manner, but they constitute a complementary set of agreements documenting the existing knowledge and practices on sustainability development. For instance, the 2030 Agenda does not repeal Agenda 21 (1992) or any other of the six agreements analysed, which shows that these preceding international agreements are still relevant for domestication by the signatories. Rather, it is a summative document covering all three pillars of sustainable development (social, environmental and economic). Recommendations are made on what aspects of the previous agreements could be most relevant for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. These points need to be part of the outreach in supporting countries for national implementation of the SDGs. Future research examining the interrelated aspects of international agreements could benefit from applying the same approach of comparative text analysis. This, in turn, will allow for the leveraging of prior consensus and knowledge and add deeper insights to meta-level governance toward a sustainable future. It could also be argued that once the SDGs/2030 Agenda needs to be revisited/revised and be replaced, the approach used for this comparative study could become the model to avoid reinventing the wheel and acknowledge that we are all standing on the shoulders of far-sighted public figures whose innovative thinking should be acknowledged rather than forgotten.


2030 Agenda SDGs International Agreements on Sustainable Development Comparative text analysis Policy Coherence on Sustainable Development International Relations of Sustainable Development 



Written by Raymond Saner, Ph.D., Titular Professor, Basel University and Director Diplomacy Dialogue, CSEND; Lichia Yiu, Ed.D., President, CSEND, Geneva; and Christian Kingombe, Ph.D., co-founder of 4IP Group LLC with support from Davide Gardina, research assistant at CSEND, Geneva. Special thanks to Mrs Irena Zubcevic, Chief, Intergovernmental policy and review branch, Office of Intergovernmental Support and Coordination for Sustainable Development, UNDESA, for her insightful comments on previous drafts of this paper. This project has benefited from funding of previous unpublished work done for UNDESA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Basel UniversityBaselSwitzerland
  2. 2.Centre for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development (CSEND)GenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.4IP Group LLCGenevaSwitzerland

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