Cross-scale, cross-level and multi-actor governance of transformations toward the Sustainable Development Goals: a review of common challenges and solutions

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The importance of governance for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is uncontested. However, the design of effective governance arrangements to initiate and deliver the necessary transformations is complex, multi-scale, and multi-actor and many knowledge gaps remain. For would-be reformers, a fundamental challenge arises because all transformative efforts must proceed, at least initially, within existing governance arrangements which can be highly resistant to change. While there is a rich literature on governance of transformations, knowledge remains fragmented. In this paper, we first review this literature and highlight important governance scales as spatial, jurisdictional, sectoral and temporal. We highlight common governance challenges that may arise from tensions within and between these scales, and how governance framings and design choices of actors may accentuate or ameliorate these challenges. To further illustrate, we review a selection of recent case studies on transformations to the SDGs and highlight common governance challenges and solutions. We conclude by suggesting five concrete steps that would-be reformers could usefully take to increase the likelihood that their transformation efforts will meet with success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1250-1267
Number of pages18
JournalSustainable Development
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • governance
  • integration
  • reform
  • scales
  • sustainable development goals
  • transformations

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