Joint International Economics - UNU-CRIS Seminar by Justine Miller, joint work with Samuel Standaert on Mapping the Policy Space of SDGs: Insights from Signed Networks at the Local Level

22 May 2024
Research Seminar

Abstract: The effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the local level is challenged by constrained resources and limited autonomy for local governments. Contextual factors such as population size, demographics, and wealth levels, are beyond their control and further restrict their capacity to design efficient SDG policies. This paper introduces the notion of "policy space" as a conceptual framework to assist local governments in formulating strategies that capitalise on synergies and trade-offs among SDGs, optimising resource allocation and avoiding ineffective expenditures. 

We operationalise the policy space as the residuals obtained from regressing contextual factors onto the SDG scores of municipalities, capturing the unexplained variation in SDG performance. We use data from the SDG monitor which tracks the performance of all 300 Flemish municipalities between 2014 and 2023 across SDGs. Then, we calculate the correlations between policy spaces, focusing only on those significant at the 1% level. We dummify these correlations to obtain a signed network where significant positive correlations represent a weight of 1 between two SDGs, and a weight of -1 for significantly negative correlations. For each yearly signed network, we analyse its structure and compute centrality measures. SDG indexes that have a higher centrality foster synergies in the network, providing policymakers with the potential for the highest return on SDG implementation. On the contrary, SDGs that have a lower centrality, or even a negative degree, create trade-offs between implementation strategies. We conduct both static and dynamic analyses, allowing us to study the performance of municipalities in a given year, as well as the changes in performances over time. The results provide valuable insights for policymakers seeking to optimise their strategies for SDG implementation.

This is a closed event. For further information, please contact Ruben Dewitte ( and Pascale Vantorre in cc (