Rilli Lappalainen

Rilli Lappalainen

Secretary General of Kehys

Article written by Rilli Lappalainen, Secretary General of Kehys, the Finnish NGDO Platform to the EU.

Policy coherence for sustainable development is finally starting to break through both in political documents and speeches. Now the development of an indicator measuring the sustainable development target 17.14 on coherence has also been started. Read Rilli’s feedback on the High-Level Political Forum 2018 and get an insight on the progress done in policy coherence for sustainable development.

In developing countries policy coherence is being discussed even more than in Europe. The reason for this is obvious: the need to achieve development is greater there than here, where everything should be going okay already. There are tons of interesting models for coherence around the world, for example in Mongolia and Guatemala. In both of these countries sustainable development is set as the core of national development plans.

Policy Coherence in High-level Political Forum 2018

Policy coherence for sustainable development has finally gained ground in United Nations’ High-level Political Forum (HLPF)  as the countries are trying to find the most effective ways to achieve the SDGs before 2030. I had the pleasure of speaking in three side events regarding coherence during the two intense weeks in New York. We discussed different models of implementation of the SDGs, integrated approach to sustainable development and new ways to measure coherence.

The Finnish model for the implementation of sustainable development never seizes to raise interest. The wide participation of all different stakeholders and civil society in the national implementation is still quite rare. Even though I work in an NGO, in New York I represented the official delegation of Finland. This represents well how the work and responsibility on sustainable development is spread across actors in Finland.

Also, the mean of implementation of sustainable development in Finland called society’s commitment to sustainable development is quite extraordinary. Anyone, individuals, cities, companies and organisations can make concrete commitments towards sustainable development, for example only serving vegetarian food like my organisation has done.

Your public commitment is really involving all sectors in society. That’s one of the key elements to get people at every level involved
Ludgarde Coppens

United Nations’ Environment Programme

There is no quick fix. There is need for capacity-building and peer learning about the past experiences. No single actor can do this alone, everyone has to feel responsible.
Ebba Dohlman


Measuring policy coherence and tracking progress

OECD is the international organisational that has worked with coherence for the longest. My organisation, the Finnish NGDO Platform to the EU, Kehys, has been one of the few NGOs that has taken part in this work. Lately also research centres around the world have joined the work and started to develop different kinds of tools to support the coherence between institutions.

Interesting examples of new tools to track sustainable development and coherence can be found around the globe. The German Development Institute is currently working on a project to build tools to follow the coherence between the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement. Spanish project is developing a tool to monitor the coherence of parliamentary work. The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific UNESCAP is researching ways to implement the SDG 6 on water and sanitation comprehensively and coherently.



One must also be able to measure coherence. The sustainable development target 17.14 on policy coherence for sustainable development is a new target so the development of indicators is also in an early stage. At the moment coherence is measured globally only by looking into how many countries have built their own mechanism for measuring coherence.

Measuring target 17.14 is now getting more concrete. The United Nations Environment Programme UNEP is leading a working group to develop measuring the target and Kehys has also been invited to join the group. The work has only just started but at the moment it looks like the indicator will be a three-piece tool. It will measure the political commitment to coherence, the mechanisms of institutional coherence and the participation of different sectors into the implementation of sustainable development. The different discussions we had at the HLPF on measuring target 17.14 will feed into this work.

Indicators are of course meaningful and necessary. But alongside it should also be considered whether coherence is after all a question of power and leadership. Achieving coherence requires different actors’ commitment to a joint goal and its implementation. This demands compromises in which everyone feels like they are winning in one way or another. Compromises and cooperation require wise leadership and encouraging everyone to move towards the same target.