At the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda, the world is facing multiple, compounding, and interacting crises that are profoundly reversing years of human development gains and progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To navigate through these shocks and determine optimal sustainable development pathways, a changed approach is critical – one that delivers integrated solutions for transformative change to ensure we build forward better.


The flagship COVID-19 impact research of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has mapped out three different "futures" to assess potential COVID-19 recovery trajectories and their impact on the SDGs. Of these, the "SDG Push" scenario presents an accelerated pace for achieving SDG targets, exceeding pre-pandemic projections, through targeted national policy intervention and investment options in governance, social protection, green economy, and digitalisation.


Policy decisions made today could take the world in very different directions; and the SDG regression we see already is profound, but not random. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable, and the overlapping crises of food, energy and finance require approaches to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. While the crises are imperilling progress towards the SDGs, they also make their achievement all the more urgent and necessary. It is essential that recent gains are protected as much as possible.


Reversing these patterns through a “SDG Push” scenario – accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda – brings us closer to achieving the vision of a sustainable and fair world. Even as efforts to reach the goals have continued to increase around the world, there is potential for still more ambitious pursuit. A transformative recovery from COVID-19 should be pursued, one that addresses the crisis, reduces risks from future potential crises and relaunches the implementation efforts to deliver the 2030 Agenda and SDGs during the Decade of Action.


Building upon UNDP’s ambitious yet feasible “SDG Push” scenario, UNDP, with the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), developed the SDG Push. This integrated approach is a process that guides national stakeholders to create evidence-based national policy options and pathways to drive the furthest development impact. The pathways developed via this process are contextualised, prioritised, and built from updated national development plans to identify bold policy choices, vital investments, and actionable pathways that boost progress across the 2030 Agenda.



SDG Acceleration: Targeted Interventions to Advance SDG Delivery

Now more than ever, achieving the transformative vision of the 2030 Agenda requires going beyond silos and taking an integrated approach to development interventions. Understanding the interlinkages and connections – not only between the SDGs but also between the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement – is therefore critical in order to facilitate and accelerate SDG delivery.


However, identifying SDG accelerators  – understood as development policy and/or programme area that accelerates progress across the SDGs and the national development goals – is a complex task requiring plenty of data and a variety of analytical skills. Aiming to facilitate this process and building on quantitative and qualitative methods and artificial intelligence, UNDP, in cooperation with GIZ on behalf of BMZ, has developed a user-friendly SDG Push Diagnostic. With the insights delivered by this AI-powered tool, development practitioners and policymakers can start an informed and participatory process towards SDG acceleration at the country level.


The SDG Push framework outlines a process with options and considerations specific to the context in which SDG accelerators are being identified. It provides an innovative approach to identifying and activating SDG accelerators, resulting in concrete policy recommendations at the country level. It will look at the 2030 Agenda in a holistic manner, focusing on all SDGs and all of the three dimensions of sustainability. The SDG Push framework is a web-based process integrated into the Data Futures Platform and the SDG Integration website, with a diagnostic that walks policymakers through the current state of SDG progress and facilitates the validation and discussion of SDG accelerators and bottlenecks and how to finance them.


The SDG Push framework combines the use of machine learning, participatory system modelling and stakeholder-centred engagement; it enables a structured methodology for interrogating potential acceleration options for all 17 SDGs from multiple perspectives, and focus on assessing different kinds of bottlenecks. It will guide the process of identifying accelerators and drivers, helping to develop potential interventions to address each driver, bottlenecks and risks that may affect the acceleration plan, as well as guardrails that can reduce the bottlenecks. It was developed through a stakeholder-centred design approach prioritising user testing, iterative testing, and prototyping. While SDG Push can guide policymakers along an investigatory process all the way to practical implementation, it can also be applied by module and adapted depending on where the country is in its development journey.


SDG Push comprises five key components, essential in identifying development gaps, challenges and drivers, developing potential interventions to address each challenge, and systematically assessing the costs, interlinkages and trade-offs related to the acceleration plan. These components, explained below, work as an integrated iterative process, where progress in each component reinforces the other elements of the SDG Push framework.

Partner Engagement

Focus on strong systems and spaces for collaboration across government entities, bi- and multi-lateral organisations and with diverse stakeholders throughout the process.

Scoping is a foundational process that reviews country context, policy, evidence, and institutional mechanisms to map out SDG gaps, bottlenecks, interdependencies, and opportunities. This is done together with country experts to support country specific needs that clearly articulate the story of SDG progress, challenges, and opportunities. The Scoping process is also supported by the SDG Push Diagnostic, which walks the user through identifying gaps to achieving the SDGs, as input to acceleration dialogues by showing interlinkages between the SDGs. Specifically, the Diagnostic focuses on (i) visualising data for easy identification of SDG gaps and presentation in a format that allows for a holistic dialogue at the national level of SDG goals that are lagging; (ii) identifying country-specific acceleration options and interlinkages with the help of text-analytics; and (iii) mapping the projected impact of the SDG Push scenarios provides an example of an ambitious set of actions that can accelerate SDG and national development goals. These gaps, priorities, interlinkages, and opportunities identified by the Simulator and research inform the Scoping Note, laying the framework for the work ahead.


The scoping note will clarify what each party expects in terms of key deliverables, outcomes, timelines, and data-gathering to support a tailored application of integrated analytics best suited to the specific needs and context. 


Check out the Explainer on Scoping.

The analysis from the scoping phase is explored through multi-stakeholder dialogues to understand strengths (what is working), gaps (what needs attention), trends (what are emerging risks and opportunities), and interlinkages (interconnection of issues, solutions, and SDG indicators). The dialogues are held in two phases, taking place in person and online. The initial in-person dialogue phase focuses on a structured interrogation and validation of the insights from the scoping phase. This includes methodologies for systemic mapping of complex high-priority issues to identify cross-sector interlinkages, causal relationships, and initial identification of accelerators. The second phase could be held digitally or in-person and examines relevant initiatives to identify intervention points and optimal acceleration pathways. This dialogue is structured to derive learning and actionable insights from previously implemented policies and strategies or other contexts. These insights will be used to determine potential combinations of accelerators the government and its partners will take forward in modelling phase.


Check out the Guidance Note on Acceleration Dialogues.

Building from the acceleration dialogue and decisions on potential accelerators to explore is a costing and analytical modeling exercise. The cost of the acceleration options is critical for planning and feasibility of the proposed interventions. A participatory modelling approach will be applied that develops customized analytical tools for evidence-based policymaking. The potential pathways emerging from this stage can be fed back into acceleration dialogues and proposed accelerators validated with country partners.


Check out the Framework on the Application of Macro-Micro Economic Models to SDG Acceleration & the Brief on Participatory Modelling.

Financing options and feasibility is critical for implementation of the accelerators identified through the diagnostic process. Together with country stakeholders and development partners, this component integrates SDG finance tools and experience in financing the SDGs to develop investment options to fund the accelerators. Analysis from tools including the Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF) and UNDP’s “Budgeting for SDGs” guidance support countries to weigh the options and implications of different policy choices.

Together with partners and national actors, the rigorous assessment of findings undertaken throughout this process leads to the development of an SDG Acceleration Roadmap with country stakeholders and development partners. The Roadmap documents the insights from SDG Push, identifying accelerators and detailing proposals for how to move forward based on the evidence, insights, and findings from the process.


Development of an “Implementation and Monitoring Plan” is key as it will ensure coordination of SDG acceleration actions, accountability in implementation, and successful delivery of solutions that accelerate progress toward the identified national development objective.