9-11 June 2020
 A virtual symposium hosted by Utrecht University
Cutting-edge research on the Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the international community adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals with 169 targets as part of a global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The ambition expressed in these goals is unprecedented; the Agenda aims at nothing less than ‘Transforming Our World’. But can this prominent example of global goal-setting, as a new central approach in global governance, help resolve the pressing challenges of economic development, poverty eradication, social justice, and global environmental protection? Nobody knows at this stage. While the United Nations and member states place great hopes on this novel strategy, there is little scientific knowledge on whether such global goals can live up to exceedingly high expectations. How can ‘global governance through goals’ be effective – and under which conditions?

The 2020 SDG Research Symposium provides a forum for the exchange of cutting-edge research and policy studies on this question. The Symposium brings together a broad group of leading social scientists from universities and prominent think tanks for a first stocktaking of what we know about the actual impact of ‘governance through goals’. The SDG Research Symposium will not address sustainability governance as such but focus on assessing the effects of global goal-setting, with special emphasis on the Sustainable Development Goals as the premier and most comprehensive global goal-setting effort to-date.

The symposium is hosted by the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University and co-hosted by several international research institutions and think tanks: the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, the German Development Institute (DIE), Southern Voice, and the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme. The Symposium is endorsed by the Earth System Governance Project, the leading global research network in this field. Core financial and logistical support is provided by the project GLOBALGOALSGlobal Governance through Goals: Assessing and Explaining the Steering Effects of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, supported by an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council and Utrecht University’s strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability.


Debapriya Bhattacharya

Centre for Policy Dialogue, Bangladesh

Frank Biermann

Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Pamela Chasek

Manhattan College, USA

Måns Nilsson

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Sweden

Sheila Oparaocha

ENERGIA International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy, The Netherlands

Imme Scholz

The German Development Institute (DIE), Germany

Michelle Scobie

The University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago

John Thompson

University of Sussex, UK

John Thwaites

Monash University, Australia

Sébastien Treyer

Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), France

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Key dates

Deadline registration:
 7 June 2020
Deadline full papers: 1 June 2020

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