Call for papers

Call for papers

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 will address six broader research streams

(1) Implementation. To what extent have the Sustainable Development Goals been effective so far in achieving their stated objectives? Where are main areas of success or failure? And where can we attribute positive changes and progress to the agreement on the SDGs in 2015?

(2) Integration. The Sustainable Development Goals are to align the efforts of public and private actors around their ambitious agenda, and to further the integration of governance instruments at global and national levels in support of the Goals. To what extent is such integration of governance around the 17 Goals in fact observable? Where are actors aligning their efforts, and to what extent is this attributable to the Goals that were adopted in 2015?

(3) Inclusiveness. The Sustainable Development Goals follow an agenda of leaving ‘no one behind’ and shall advance the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable people. Increased inclusiveness of governance arrangements and processes is one of the key aspirations associated with the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, to what extent can we observe a better inclusion and support of poor and vulnerable communities within countries, and internationally of the Least Developed Countries? Did the promise of 2015 materialise in actual policies since then?

(4) Integrity. The claim behind the Sustainable Development Goals is that they help align social justice with the protection of the life-supporting earth systems. Yet to what extent did the Sustainable Development Goals really advance planetary ecological integrity, especially in areas and policy fields that have so far only marginally been associated with ecological concerns? Where can we observe changes towards more planetary integrity in governance efforts that can be attributed to the SDGs?

(5) Interlinkages. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were designed to advance overall coherence in sustainability governance – yet often they seem to operate in silos. There might be trade-offs between some Goals, and actors might prefer one Goal over the other. Research into the interlinkages between these Goals is thus highly important to inform policy and provide evidence-based recommendations on how to resolve trade-offs, leverage synergies, and accelerate progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

(6) Indicators and Methods. Finally, the SDG Research Symposium will focus on the best suited methods to identify and trace impacts of the Sustainable Development Goals. We hope for extensive accounts from the humanities and qualitative social sciences approaches, including discursive and interpretative work on the role that the Sustainable Development Goals could play so far. We also invite scholars who focus on quantitative work on the Sustainable Development Goals, including social network analysis and integrated assessment models. We especially seek to bring quantitative and qualitative work in conversation, while creating enough space for both meta approaches to further improve and fine-tune their methodological tool boxes.

A focus on research on the impacts and politics of global goal-setting as a mode of global and national governance

The 2020 SDG Research Symposium invites contributions from all disciplines and intellectual traditions. We plan to focus on research on the impacts and politics of global goal-setting as a mode of global and national governance – and here on the Sustainable Development Goals in particular. We are less interested, at this symposium, in more general studies on larger questions of global sustainability with no specific reference to the Sustainable Development Goals as governance mechanism. Instead, we especially focus on current research that explores the impacts of global goal-setting as a distinct mechanism of global and national policy-making – and here on the Sustainable Development Goals in particular.

Wide dissemination of research results within and beyond academia

The symposium will produce research outputs that will be widely disseminated within and beyond academia, including journal special issues on ‘governance through goals’ and a high-profile Science Statement to be presented during a joint side event at the 2020 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York, followed by a high-level publication.


Key dates

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

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