Policy coherence and the 2030 Agenda: Building on the PCD experience

After two decades of stressing the importance of policy coherence, European and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) governments have become accustomed to the need to promote coherence among their policies. In their international cooperation work, the principle of policy coherence for development (PCD) in particular has become accepted, even though it often leads to fierce debate. A whole set of mechanisms and practices have been built up in support of this debate, so as to encourage the search for synergies and inform the trade-offs and arbitration that are often inevitably required.

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    With the advent of the 2030 Agenda, the principle of policy coherence has now been extended to cover the whole scope of sustainable development. PCSD, or ‘policy coherence for sustainable development’, has thus become a reality reflected in the ‘Systemic Issues’ section of Sustainable Development Goal 17 (SDG17) on ‘Strengthening the Means of Implementation and Revitalising the Global Partnership’. Yet for those familiar with the practice of PCD, the challenge of this logical but much broader concept is immense. Recent research has demonstrated the multiple linkages that exist across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the effort in terms of integrated policy-making that the 2030 Agenda will require. How this might be tackled, and what useful lessons can be gleaned from past practice in promoting policy coherence to support this effort, are the subjects of this paper.

    Key messages

    • The 2030 Agenda introduces the new principle of PCSD which sounds similar to PCD but in practice is considerably more complex. Moving from PCD to PCSD thus raises both substantive and procedural issues.
    • Developing an approach to PCSD is at the heart of tackling the major integrated policy challenge posed by the 2030 Agenda and needs to draw on a range of experiences, such as nexus thinking, mainstreaming, whole-of-government ideas as well as PCD approaches.
    • Research suggests that there is considerable practical experience in promoting PCD that can be of direct value for creating tools to promote PCSD. In particular, the idea of a ‘PCD system’ with various complementary tools working in conjunction with each other should be valuable.
    • One success story in promoting PCD has been the creation of ‘policy champions’ to push the development agenda with other policy areas. Working with several sector champions as a group might be a useful way forward for implementing PCSD.
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