Creating Strong Global Partnerships for Sustainability

Creating Strong Global Partnerships for Sustainability

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Sustainable Development Goal 17:

On September 25th, 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda which outlines 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG agenda addresses the interconnected and multifaceted issues around the globe, stipulates how we should shape our future social and economic development, and outlines what kind of transformations are required to achieve this. Due to the nature of these goals, separate or joint unilateral action towards them will not suffice. As a result, we need global partnerships to achieve the transformations envisioned  (Sondermann & Ulbert, 2021). 

The seventeenth sustainable development goal  (SDG 17) emphasizes partnerships as a vital mechanism for change. It highlights the need to “strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development” (UN, 2022). This transversal goal underscores the importance of how sustainable development is not just about the goals, targets and indicators presented to us, but the procedural mechanisms appropriate to their application and supervisory procedures that could facilitate their monitoring and assessment (Murphy & Stott, 2021). The goal itself promotes a global partnership for sustainable development led by governments to strengthen international cooperation and development assistance. This global partnership is intended to work alongside multi-stakeholder partnerships at global, regional, national or subnational levels (Filho, et al., 2018). 

SDG 17 Targets:

SDG 17 consists of various financial, technological, and political targets.
The financial targets include:

  • Mobilizing resources to improve domestic revenue collection.
  • Mobilizing financial resources for developing countries.
  • Assisting developing countries in attaining debt sustainability.
  • Investing in the least developed countries.
  • Promoting a universal trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • Increasing the exports of developing countries.
  • Removing trade barriers for least developed countries.
  • Enhancing global macroeconomic stability.

Technological targets includes:

  • Increasing knowledge sharing and cooperation for access to science, technology and innovation.
  • Promoting sustainable technologies to developing countries.
  • Strengthening sustainable technologies to developing countries.

Political targets are focused on:

  • Enhancing North-South, South-South, and Triangular regional and international cooperation.
  • Strenghtening policy coordination in partnerships.
  • Enhancing availability of reliable data and capacity for data monitoring.

You can find more information regarding the targets of SDG 17 here:

Defining Partnerships:

What exactly are partnerships? In December 2018, The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed Resolution 73/254 which defined partnerships as: “voluntary and collaborative relationships between various parties, both public and non-public, in which all participants agree to work together to achieve a common purpose or undertake a specific task and, as mutually agreed, to share risks and responsibilities, resources and benefits” (UNGA, 2018). Conclusively, partnerships are agreements between a multitude of different actors, including individuals, governments, civil society, transnational corporations, and international organizations, all working together with set expectations for a clearly defined goal. The main goal of partnerships for the SDGs is to “secure the future we want for present and future generations” (UN, 2012). 


There exists both challenges and opportunities associated with creating and sustaining strong global partnerships for sustainable development. Some notable external challenges to maintaining solid partnerships include the potential for conflicting interests between partners, and the potential for overlapping/unclear authority, which can severely undermine leadership. Further, partnership failure is primarily contingent upon a lack of clearly defined objectives and responsibilities (Dudourova, 2009). There are also inherent challenges to the notion of partnership in global governance as global relations are characterized by highly unequal roles, power and voice (Sondermann & Ulbert, 2021). People’s situations and vulnerabilities vary starkly, and their voices are unequally heard, depending on their resources and access to decision-making sites (Sondermann & Ulbert, 2021). What is the standard for ‘strong global partnerships’ for the SDGs?

Because partnership performance depends mainly on how a partnership manages inequality among its members, SDG 17, through its targets, clarifies the need to strengthen inclusive participation and policy coherence. How we achieve this is still undefined, but the fact that it is included in the goal is substantial. In the past, there was previously little emphasis on considering the knowledge of all, engaging all, or promoting effective capacity building to enable better participation (Gupta and Vegelin, 2016). 

Negotiating the roles and responsibilities of all partners, developing trust before proceeding with the partnership, eradicating potential power differentials among partners, and paying attention to the contextual effects of diverse geopolitical factors are all crucial peremptory steps to take in constructing meaningful and strong global partnerships. We must re-examine partnership beliefs, redefine partnership objectives, and engage in risk management with continual monitoring and reporting of partnership performance targets, outcomes and goals (Theil, 2019). The success of a partnership can generate new collaborative knowledge as well as unleash collective power that goes far beyond any unilateral effort, thereby delivering new services and policies. 

Learn More:

Understanding and scrutinizing global governance processes and standards are increasingly crucial as transnational activities and partnerships expand.

EnvironFoucs is hosting an online webinar event on Thursday, May 19, 2022, where expert panelists will join us to discuss this topic further, followed by a live Q&A session. If you are interested in learning more about SDG 17, then purchase your ticket for the event here:

We look forward to seeing you. 

This article was written by Hope Elizabeth Tracey (Research Assistant) for EnvironFocus on May 09, 2022.


  • Dudourova, M. 2009. ‘Alliances as strategic tools: A cross-industry study of partnership planning, formation and success,’ Management Decision, 47(5), 831-844. 
  • Filho, W.L., et al. 2018. ‘The Role of Transformation in Learning and Education for Sustainability,’ Journal of Cleaner Production, 199, 286-295). 
  • Gupta, J, and Vegelin, C. 2016. ‘Sustainable development goals and inclusive development, International Economic Agreements,’ Politics, Law and Economics 16(3): 433-448. 
  • Murphy, David F. And Stott, Leda. 2021. ‘Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’, MDPI – Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. 
  • Sondermann, & Ulbert, C. 2021. ‘Transformation through “meaningful” partnership? SDG 17 as metagovernance norm and its global health implementation,’ Politics and Governance, 9(1), 152–163.
  • Thiel, Monica. 2019.SDG17 : partnerships for the goals : strengthening implementation through global cooperation,’ Emerald Publishing Limited.
  • United Nations Organization. 2012. The Future We Want: Outcome Document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, United Nations: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 
  • United Nations Organization. 2018. Towards Global Partnerships: A Principle-Based Approach to Enhanced Cooperation between the United Nations and All Relevant Partners; Resolution A/Res/73/254; adopted by the General Assembly on 20 December 2018; United Nations General Assembly: New York, NY, USA, 2019.

About Post Author

Hope Elizabeth Tracey

MA Political Science (Global Environmental Policy), University of Waterloo.
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