Branding for business? Hungary and the sustainable development goals

  • Balázs Szent-Iványi
  • Zsuzsanna Végh
  • Simon Lightfoot
Original Article


Negotiations leading to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) have dominated the diplomacy of global development in the past years. The paper looks at the actions and motivations of a relatively new development actor, Hungary, which co-chaired the United Nations General Assembly’s Open Working Group on SDGs, and thus had a highly visible position during the talks. Hungary had a key priority of having a SDG on water-related issues, driven mainly by its perceived comparative advantage in the sector. Using the insights of the literature on small state influence in multilateral negotiations, the paper argues that Hungarian diplomats used alliance building as well as reputational and framing strategies to counter the structural disadvantages of the country’s small state status, and were successful in shaping the final outcome. However, the Hungarian government did not act out of a strong commitment to sustainable global development, but rather used the forum to brand itself as an expert on water issues, with the hope of future business benefits.


Foreign aid Hungary Post-2015 Small state influence Sustainable development goals United Nations 



Early versions of this paper were presented at the ‘Global Governance and the Politics of Aid’ symposium, University of Bradford, 2015, and at the UACES Conference in Bilbao, 2015. We are grateful to the participants for their feedback. We would also like to thank Mark Furness, Niels Keijzer, and three anonymous referees for their helpful and instructive comments on earlier drafts. All errors remain our own.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Balázs Szent-Iványi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zsuzsanna Végh
    • 3
  • Simon Lightfoot
    • 4
  1. 1.Aston Centre for EuropeAston UniversityBirminghamUK
  2. 2.Institute of World EconomyCorvinus University of BudapestBudapestHungary
  3. 3.Chair of Comparative PoliticsEuropean University ViadrinaFrankfurt (Oder)Germany
  4. 4.POLISUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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