This Special Feature on “Making the SDGs Succeed” suggests that the SDGs are an opportunity to permanently transform the nature of development and make environmental and social sustainability a defining characteristic of economic activity. The articles explore how these goals were created and discusses the limitations on the resulting agenda.
The formation process of the SDGs was unique when compared with other global governance efforts (as will be explored more in Chasek and Wagner, this issue) and can help us understand the transformative impact of key actors like leaders in international negotiations, the inclusion of civil society, and efforts to work around the negotiating blocks prominent on most global environmental governance decisions. The aims of the SDGs in the Rio+20 outcome were quite significant aiming to be aspirational, universal, inclusive, integrated, action-oriented, transparent, etc. While each of these may simply be a buzzword that has little impact on action, some aspects of these ideas can become important practice-guiding cores of discussion. Understanding what these ideas could entail in global sustainability governance and what they are likely to mean in early implementation is crucial in understanding the transformational potential of the SDGs. The practice lens adopted by the articles in this Special Feature adds specific insights crucial to understanding the current era of global environmental governance more widely.