Research Report

Sustainable Development Goals Interlinkages and Network Analysis: A practical tool for SDG integration and policy coherence


While being broadly framed as 17 separate and diverse elements, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and associated targets inherently interlink with one another making up indivisible parts of sustainability from a systemic perspective. Actions or measures taken for achieving one goal may be mutually reinforcing or contradictory with achieving other goals. SDGs and associated targets through the connections among and between each other form a network of interlinkages. Understanding the interlinkages among the goals and between the targets is crucial for integrated governance and policy coherence for the implementation of SDGs. However, existing knowledge about these connections remain limited.

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) initiated a project entitled “Sustainable Development Goals, Targets and Indicators”, supported by IGES Strategic Research Fund. The main purpose of this research report focuses on presenting an integrated analytical approach on the identification, quantification and network analysis of the interlinkages between SDG targets. The proposed approach was then then applied to the analysis and visualisation of SDG interlinkages for nine selected Asian countries, namely Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Republic of Korea and Viet Nam.

The interlinkages between SDG targets are identified using a synthesised approach based on extensive review of the existing scientific literature and relevant policy documents provided by major international policy processes working on SDGs and indicators. This enables to construct a network of SDG interlinkages presenting the causal links between the targets. Indicators with trackable data are selected and mapped with SDG targets. Time-series data for the indicators for nine selected Asian countries are collected based on which the interlinkages between SDG targets are quantified.

Using Social Network Analysis (SNA) techniques, the structure of the network of SDG interlinkages are analysed based on which top strategic targets which play various central roles in the network are identified for individual countries. The identification of top strategic targets can help priority-setting during the planning stage. Country-specific dashboards indicating potential synergies and trade-offs between SDG targets are provided as a practical tool supporting integrated SDG planning, institutional arrangement and implementation.

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