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Principles of effective governance for sustainable development

Principles of effective governance for sustainable development

The 11 principles of effective governance for sustainable development, developed by the Committee and endorsed by ECOSOC in July 2018, aim to provide practical, expert guidance to interested countries on a broad range of governance challenges associated with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They highlight the need for pragmatic and ongoing improvements in national and local governance capabilities to reach the SDGs. The principles are grouped under the sub-headings of effectiveness, accountability and inclusiveness. They are linked to 62 commonly used strategies for operationalizing responsive and effective governance, many of which have been recognized and endorsed over the years in various UN forums, resolutions and treaties.

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To perform their functions effectively, institutions are to have sufficient expertise, resources and tools to deal adequately with the mandates under their authority

Commonly used strategies include the promotion of a professional public sector workforce, strategic human resources management, leadership development and training of civil servants, performance management, results-based management, financial management and control, efficient and fair revenue administration and investment in e-government.

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Sound policymaking

To achieve their intended results, public policies are to be coherent with one another and founded on true or well-established grounds, in full accordance with fact, reason and good sense

Commonly used strategies include strategic planning and foresight, regulatory impact analysis, promotion of coherent policymaking, strengthening national statistical systems, monitoring and evaluation systems, science-policy interface, risk management frameworks and data sharing.

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To address problems of common interest, institutions at all levels of government and in all sectors should work together and jointly with non-State actors towards the same end, purpose and effect

Commonly used strategies include centre of government coordination under the Head of State or Government, collaboration, coordination, integration and dialogue across levels of government and functional areas, raising awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals, network-based governance and multi-stakeholder partnerships.

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To serve in the public interest, civil servants are to discharge their official duties honestly, fairly and in a manner consistent with soundness of moral principle

Commonly used strategies include the promotion of anti-corruption policies, practices and bodies, codes of conduct for public officials, competitive public procurement, elimination of bribery and trading in influence, conflict of interest policies, whistle-blower protection and provision of adequate remuneration and equitable pay scales for public servants.

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To ensure accountability and enable public scrutiny, institutions are to be open and candid in the execution of their functions and promote access to information, subject only to the specific and limited exceptions as are provided by law

Commonly used strategies include proactive disclosure of information, budget transparency, open government data, registries of beneficial ownership and lobby registries.

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Independent oversight

To retain trust in government, oversight agencies are to act according to strictly professional considerations and apart from and unaffected by others

Commonly used strategies include promotion of the independence of regulatory agencies, arrangements for review of administrative decisions by courts or other bodies, independent audit and respect for legality.

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Leaving no one behind

To ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality, public policies are to take into account the needs and aspirations of all segments of society, including the poorest and most vulnerable and those subject to discrimination

Commonly used strategies include the promotion of equitable fiscal and monetary policy, promotion of social equity, data disaggregation, and systematic follow-up and review.

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To respect, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, access to public service is to be provided on general terms of equality, without distinction of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other status

Commonly used strategies include promotion of public sector workforce diversity, prohibition of discrimination in public service delivery, multilingual service delivery, accessibility standards, cultural audit of institutions, universal birth registration and gender-responsive budgeting.

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To have an effective State, all significant political groups should be actively involved in matters that directly affect them and have a chance to influence policy

Commonly used strategies include free and fair elections, regulatory process of public consultation, multi-stakeholder forums, participatory budgeting and community-driven development.

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To promote government that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of all people, central authorities should perform only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more intermediate or local level

Commonly used strategies include fiscal federalism, strengthening urban governance, strengthening municipal finance and local finance systems, enhancement of local capacity for prevention, adaptation and mitigation of external shocks, and multilevel governance.

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Intergenerational equity

To promote prosperity and quality of life for all, institutions should construct administrative acts that balance the short-term needs of today’s generation with the longer-term needs of future generations

Commonly used strategies include sustainable development impact assessment, long-term public debt management, long-term territorial planning and spatial development, and ecosystem management.

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adressing common



Learn how the principles are used as a reference point to advance effective governance for sustainable development in response to country requests.

Download CEPA strategy guidance notes on a range of topics in institution-building prepared by some of the world’s leading experts.

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Regional and Country Studies



The principles provide an overarching analytical framework for assessing institutional capacity for achieving the SDGs.

Studies by our partners explore the status of implementation of the principles in Africa and in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

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Why do we need the principles of effective governance?

Institutions play a crucial role in the achievement of all SDGs and targets, but public sector` reforms are required which remain a major challenge in many countries. Applying the principles and associated strategies to all public institutions can accelerate efforts to strengthen national and local governance capacities to achieve the 2030 Agenda and other international agreements.

How can the principles of effective governance be of benefit?

The principles are designed to:

  • Help interested countries, on a voluntary basis, build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, with a view to achieving the shared vision for people and planet embodied in the 2030 Agenda
  • Support countries in operationalizing the institutional aspects of SDG16 through concrete strategies
  • Promote mainstreaming of effective governance in SDG implementation and development plans and programmes at all levels
  • Engage the relevant UN organizations, regional organizations and professional and academic communities, in an inclusive manner, together with all relevant stakeholders
  • Bring together proven standards and operational guidelines in all areas of public sector institution-building relevant to SDG implementation
  • Provide a baseline for policymaking while strengthening evidence-based and action-oriented implementation of and follow-up to the 2030 Agenda
The principles of effective governance at a glance

The principles of effective governance for sustainable development are available in six languages: 
Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish 


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