“No One Left Behind: Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in Australia”

by Whitlam Institute



This policy paper investigates international best practices in SDG governance structures, policy and planning and presents 12 policy recommendations around leadership, governance, and implementation to enable more integrated policy-making and implementation of the SDGs in Australia.

Project implemented: June 2020

Project goal

This research project aims to identify the emergent national best practice examples of SDG implementation – including governance structures, policy and planning – to assist Australia to improve its SDG performance for the benefit of all Australians. It aims to give weight to the voices and views of the many stakeholders who made submissions to the Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into the SDGs of 2018.

delivering on

why is this project important?

Whilst the Australian Government is yet to release a national SDG plan of action, our recent bushfire crisis over the 2019-2020 period followed by COVID-19 underline the urgent need for strategic policy leadership at the highest levels of government to align national policy with our international SDG commitments.

This policy paper provides evidence-based research, policy recommendations and tools to assist policymakers and political leaders to develop more integrated domestic policy settings around the SDG’s and to measure our performance in relation to the 17 SDG goals.

Key steps to make it happen

1Key Interviews

Key informant interviews with SDG related policymakers and stakeholders in three countries (Germany, Mexico, and Indonesia).

2Written Submissions

Analysis of the 164 written submissions to the Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into the UN SDGs.

3Literature Review

Literature review of emergent scholarly and SDG practitioner work relating to national SDG governance structures & policies.

Both political commitment (that includes financing) and new innovative and integrated approaches to SDG policy, planning and implementation are essential to success. This report offers a SDG Momentum Matrix as a tool for those stakeholders to chart the way forward. The matrix is a practical instrument that identifies and sets out the key indicators of best practice, as found by this study, for maximising SDG governance, policy and planning impact, particularly at the national level.

It is critical that the Australian Government takes leadership in the implementation of the SDGs in part because of the political and constitutional peculiarities of Australia’s federal system of government. Only the Commonwealth has the capacity and authority to coordinate the various State and Territory jurisdictions and Local Government bodies. Why has the Australian Government been so slow to take up its responsibilities to implement the SDGs, despite the parliamentary inquiry that gave clear guidance on how to do so? This report builds on one of the parliament’s recommendations – that Australia look to international best practice to improve its own efforts to work toward a sustainable future for Australia – by analysing best practice around the world and offering tools for Australian government to take charge of SDG implementation in this country. The new National Cabinet and National Federation Reform Council are exactly the kind of mechanisms needed to effectively implement the SDGs and make sure no Australians are left behind. To read the full report, see here.

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