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An imperfect vision of indivisibility in the Sustainable Development Goals


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are presented as highly connected: an ‘interrelated’ and ‘indivisible’ agenda with a need for policy coherence for implementation. We analyse the relationships among the goals using formal systems analysis and find that the connections between goals are uneven, with a failure to integrate gender equality, peace and governance concerns. This incoherence may undermine policy initiatives aimed at developing approaches to implement the SDGs.

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Fig. 1: Variation in the network characteristics of the SDGs.
Fig. 2: Ranking of the interconnectedness of SDGs using network metrics.

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Data availability

The data and code that support the findings of this study are available in the Supplementary Information.


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G.B.S. acknowledges the support of E. J. Stewart and R. I. Stewart, as well as the Modelling Evidence and Policy research group.

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The idea was conceived by G.B.S. and P.J.K.M. G.L. led on the political dimensions of the work. M.J.G. led and undertook the analyses. All authors contributed equally to this work.

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Correspondence to Gavin B. Stewart.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Figure 1, Supplementary R code, Supplementary References 1–9

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McGowan, P.J.K., Stewart, G.B., Long, G. et al. An imperfect vision of indivisibility in the Sustainable Development Goals. Nat Sustain 2, 43–45 (2019).

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