This OECD COVID-19 policy brief aims to present a Policy Coherence Roadmap, which can support governments in strengthening mechanisms and capacities for organising a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis – one that does not come at the expense of progress towards the SDGs. As governments move towards recovery, recent experiences gained by OECD and partner countries in promoting policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) can offer lessons to shape sustainable policy decisions and coherent actions in line with their commitments to accelerate progress and achieve the SDGs by 2030. These experiences have led to the articulation of a number of principles, embodied in the OECD Council Recommendation on PCSD, which seem essential for any sustainable strategy to recover from COVID-19 (Figure 1):

  1. 1. Build political commitment and leadership at the highest level - to shape the national debate and support recovery strategies aligned with the SDGs, and to mobilise whole-of-government action and orient recovery measures towards sustainable development.

  2. 2. Adopt a strategic long-term vision – to make informed choices and considering the consequences of today’s decisions, and building resilience against the long-term shocks that will affect the economy, society, and environment.

  3. 3. Strengthen policy integration - to balancing often divergent economic, social and environmental priorities for recovery.

  4. 4. Ensure whole-of-government coordination - to identify and address policy divergences and conflicts between measures for recovery and achievement of the SDGs.

  5. 5. Engage subnational levels of government appropriately – to align priorities and promote coordinated action at different levels of government for sustainable recovery.

  6. 6. Engage key stakeholder effectively – to ensure that different voices are heard and work with all relevant actors to identify challenges, set priorities, align actions and mobilise resources for recovery.

  7. 7. Analyse and assess policy impacts – to consider the effects of domestic recovery measures on global sustainable development.

  8. 8. Strengthen monitoring, reporting and evaluation systems - to inform the design of coherent and sustainable recovery strategies and adjust recovery measures in light of potential negative effects on sustainable development.

This policy brief is structured according to the above eight key elements of policy coherence and provides insights on how to use these guiding principles for organising a sustainable recovery. These elements are mutually supportive and while efforts must be made in each area in order to ensure a coherent response for a sustainable recovery, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to enhancing PCSD. Each country must determine its own institutional mechanisms and sequencing of actions according to their different national realities, capacities, and specific contexts. This brief is by no means comprehensive, it should be seen as a starting point for reflection. It is hoped that this brief can help governments consider essential mechanisms and capacities for organising a sustainable recovery.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is an unprecedented multidimensional global crisis that demands coherent policy responses. It has further highlighted the vulnerabilities and gaps in several of our basic systems, including healthcare, social protection, education, value chains, production networks, financial markets, mass transit systems and ecosystems. The Covid-19 crisis has shown how it has also reduced the resilience of key systems to shocks, and allowed failures to cascade from one system to others (Hynes et al., 2020[7]). It has also exposed the close links between biodiversity degradation and the transmission of infectious diseases (OECD, 2020[1]). Such interlinkages are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda, which also stresses the need “to protect the planet from degradation, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations” (UNGA, 2015[2]).

Responding to the COVID-19 crisis requires mutually supportive and integrated policies across economic, social and environmental objectives to address the deeper nature of the crisis. Addressing the underlying causes of vulnerability in our systems, which stem from inequalities, injustice and discrimination, weak governance and institutions, inadequate public services and infrastructure, depletion of natural resources and the degradation of biodiversity and climate, will be essential to building resilience against future outbreaks. In this context, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) become even more relevant today, given that they aim to precisely address such vulnerabilities.

The Sustainable Development Goals can be used as a framework to guide the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Policy makers increasingly see the value of scaling up action and commitment on SDGs implementation to foster an inclusive and sustainable recovery while contributing to resilient economies and societies at home and abroad. The majority of the respondents (80%) to a 2020 OECD questionnaire on policy coherence mechanisms for aligning post-COVID-19 recovery plans with the SDGs (hereafter “2020 OECD Questionnaire”) agree or strongly agree that the SDGs can be used as a framework to guide the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.1 Yet, they also note a high risk that short-term responses to mitigate the economic consequences of the pandemic could side-track long-term sustainable development and well-being priorities.

The COVID-19 crisis may significantly reverse the progress made so far in achieving national well-being targets and the SDGs, particularly in developing countries. COVID-19 has triggered the most severe economic recession in nearly a century and is causing enormous damage to people’s health, jobs and well-being. Global economic activity is expected to fall by 4.5% in 2020, and the consequences will be severe and long-lasting (OECD, 2020[3]). Developing countries are among those hit the hardest, with existing development challenges, including extreme poverty, violent conflicts, food shortages, and climate-related emergencies, compounded by the health, economic, and social shocks of the crisis. The COVID-19 crisis is reversing decades of progress on poverty, healthcare and education, according to the UN SDGs Report 2020. It is estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic will push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021(UN, 2020[8]). Drops in remittances to developing countries will also have an immediate impact on household incomes and informal social safety nets. The UN Report also finds that 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy – half of the global workforce – may be significantly affected, with their incomes estimated to have fallen by 60% in the first month of the crisis (UN, 2020[8]). A majority (72%) of the respondents to the 2020 OECD questionnaire agree that COVID-19 will impact their countries’ capacities to achieve the SDGs.

As countries move towards recovery, policy coherence will be essential to supporting a transition towards sustainable development. The slowing economy and restrictions on business and travel activities due to COVID-19 has led to significant reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions (GHG) with some positive effects in the short-term on environment-related SDGs (e.g. Goals 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, and 17).2 However, this decline in emission levels is not only transitory, but also inconsequential for tackling climate change (OECD, 2020[9]).3 This reveals the magnitude of the challenge ahead, but also the need to ensure that stimulus packages and policies for recovery orient investments towards sectors and technologies that can accelerate a sustainable low-carbon transition and improve resilience. A greener recovery is not to be taken for granted. At domestic level, creating new jobs and relaunching economic activity is tied to stark policy trade-offs in terms of sustainability. In some countries, there is pressure to weaken standards or to delay the introduction of planned climate policies (OECD, 2020[9]).

Policy coherence is needed to balance short-term economic growth objectives and long-term sustainability and resilience goals. A sustainable recovery requires policies that orient investments and support behavioural changes to reduce vulnerabilities and the likelihood of future shocks. This involves incorporating a long-term perspective to assess, for example, whether or not economic recovery measures or stimulus leads to investment in long-lived high-emitting activities and infrastructure that may lock-in GHG emissions far into the future (OECD, 2020[10]), undermining efforts in achieving SDGs and climate change goals. It also entails aligning recovery with long-term goals such as reducing emissions, increasing resilience to climate impacts, halting biodiversity loss, and ensuring sustainable production and consumption patterns, which are at the core of the SDGs.

A sustainable recovery requires coherent policies that take into account transboundary impacts to avoid prolonging the recession, aggravating the global effects of the crisis and reversing progress on the SDGs. The crisis emphasised the trend towards trade restrictions and showed the consequences that such measures could have if expanded, generating supply-chain disruptions in food or other essential goods and services. For instance in countries that are not in a position to stockpile supplies or add surge capacity in their health workforce, supply disruptions might increase their vulnerability to a second wave of the pandemic, undermining global efforts to prevent it (OECD, 2020[11]). During the COVID‑19 pandemic, many of the OECD countries that were already reliant on foreign-trained and foreign-born health workers introduced policies to ease their entry and the recognition of their qualifications (OECD, 2020[12]). While this can help address skill shortages in some countries, it can also deprive sending developing countries – often characterised by weak health systems – with essential health workers.

A sustainable recovery requires organisational support that transcends often compartmentalised structures of government. A “siloed” approach to recovery or fragmented governmental action may lead to unsustainable choices and pathways that would make it more difficult to respond to future shocks as well as to achieve the SDGs. Policy coherence will be essential to deal with questions such as: How to support companies while maintaining a level playing field where more efficient and sustainable businesses can succeed and avoiding distortions to global competition, in particular within the interdependent market of the EU?4 How to ensure that women, who make up almost 70% of the healthcare workforce, are not disproportionately exposed to the virus while staying in their jobs? How to ensure supply of critical health goods and services including water for healthcare facilities and sanitation services; energy to power health facility equipment? How to reconcile travel and other health restrictions, with labour migration and remittance flows which have been reduced drastically, resulting in declining economic activity?5 How to ensure that policies and stimulus measures in OECD countries do not further disadvantage developing countries’ economies, societies and opportunities?

The OECD Council Recommendation on PCSD provides a comprehensive framework to help countries equip policy-makers and key stakeholders with the necessary institutional mechanisms and policy tools to break out of policy silos, address integrated economic, social and environmental goals, and accelerate progress towards the SDGs. In other words, it can provide a policy coherence roadmap for a sustainable and inclusive recovery that leaves no one behind. The Recommendation presents a set of eight principles for promoting PCSD. While all eight principles need to be considered as an integrated set to ensure a coherent response for a sustainable recovery, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to enhancing policy coherence. Each country must determine its own institutional mechanisms and sequencing of actions according to their different national realities, capacities, and specific contexts. This is evidenced in the following sections, which draw on good PCSD practices observed in OECD countries and responses to the 2020 OECD questionnaire.

The interconnected nature of the health, economic and social crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic along with other global challenges, such as climate change, suggests that policy coherence issues will be more complex, requiring convergence between policy agendas. This calls for greater involvement of centres of government (CoG), as providers of the leadership and vision needed to advance a comprehensive sustainable recovery that works for people, planet and economy. Political leadership at the highest level is essential to sustain the complex political, social and economic balance of adopting cross sectoral recovery measures while ensuring the fulfilment of domestic priorities and international commitments, in particular the 2030 Agenda.

Effective leadership has been critical for taking whole-of-society approaches to respond to the multiple dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis. Effective leadership was crucial during the first phase of the crisis in securing support for the affected sectors, and in mobilising the public’s co-operation for enforcing stringent measures to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19. Centres of Government, which consist of the body or group of bodies that provide direct support and advice to Heads of Government and the Council of Ministers, or Cabinet, have played a key role in leading or supporting co-ordination and strategic planning, the use of evidence to inform decision-making, and communicating decisions to the public (OECD, 2020[15]).

Given the potential for conflict among various interests and priorities both in the public and private sectors, strong political leadership is needed to shape the national debate and support recovery strategies aligned with the SDGs. The OECD Recommendation on PCSD calls for building a strong political commitment and leadership at the highest political level to foster whole-of-government action for enhancing PCSD (OECD, 2019[19]). Clear government commitment to the SDGs and to policy coherence and effective communication of these commitments will be essential to steer integrated and long-term policy responses to COVID-19 and subsequent action across the government. In terms of designing recovery strategies, the processes for prioritising action to build “forward” better and improve resilience through stimulus packages can build on existing leadership structures for SDG implementation already established by many countries.

Ensuring a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis demands a long-term strategic vision to support today’s needs and those of future generations in a balanced manner. It entails making informed choices and considering the consequences of today’s decisions, and building resilience against the long-term shocks that will affect the economy, society, and environment. OECD evidence demonstrates that the recovery measures adopted by governments are mobilising considerable resources, while also creating long-lasting effects on society and the economy (OECD, 2020[20]). Managing potential trade-offs between short and long-term priorities is a key element for enhancing PCSD and for effectively achieving the SDGs. Governments around the world have adopted long-term perspectives in developing strategies and implementation plans for the SDGs. Slovenia, Malta, Finland and Belgium, for example, have used long-term visions with a timeline up to 2050 to design their national sustainable development strategy.

However, with countries’ circumstances and priorities now shifting, at least in the short-term, existing SDG strategies risk being sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, to exit from the crisis, some governments may be pressured to stimulate the economy by boosting traditional industry, e.g. by authorising more coal plants or reducing car efficiency standards. While this could have positive impacts on the economy or employment in the short-term, it undermines long-term efforts to halt climate change, and can create unnecessary costs by setting one set of policies against another, resulting in less value for money for governments and tax payers. Governments could reap greater benefits by aiming for recovery measures that achieve “double dividends” and help ensure that longer-term policy objectives, such as the SDGs, are not sacrificed for short term economic stimulus.

As such, there is an opportunity for governments to build “forward” better, find ways to update and adapt – not undermine – their strategic plans for SDG implementation, so that these take into account emerging and new challenges facing countries in a post-COVID-19 world and avoid that young people and future generations shoulder the burdens of the crisis disproportionately. In this context, the availability of age-disaggregated evidence is critical to assess the impact that COVID-19 has on the well-being of different age groups. Austria, France, Germany and New Zealand, for instance, could leverage existing “youth checks” to conduct ex-ante assessments of the likely impact of recovery measures on young people, and promote inclusivity in policy outcomes (OECD, 2020[20]).

Governments can also take into account youth and intergenerational considerations in designing inclusive recovery measures through national budgeting, performance reporting, and fiscal sustainability analysis more widely, also leveraging the expertise present in independent fiscal institutions. For instance, the Slovak Council for Budget Responsibility (CBR) considers intergenerational justice in connection with the long-term sustainability of public finances. Korea’s National Assembly Budget Office produces analysis of how fiscal burdens associated with its baseline projection are distributed among different generations using generational accounting techniques (OECD, 2020[20]).

The crisis has also made visible countries’ vulnerabilities in preparedness: critical stockpiles of facial masks and other personal protection equipment, diagnostic testing equipment, etc., were not large enough to deal with the sudden onset of the pandemic. Health systems also showed different levels of resilience. While the stress on health systems was unprecedented in modern times, the crisis revealed that the insufficient response capacities also resulted from past low levels of investments in health infrastructure, personnel and research. Reducing systemic vulnerabilities is at the core of the SDGs and the PCSD agenda. Such vulnerabilities are often interconnected in nature and require integrated and holistic policy packages that address their root causes, as opposed to short-term ‘band aid’ solutions, to prevent future crises before they hit.

The situation might not have worsened so rapidly had governments adopted and implemented more and better public governance tools and structures to foster resilience and anticipate risks. For example, the Centre of Government (CoG) most commonly focuses on the management and co-ordination of government operations in the event of a crisis (OECD, 2018[21]), but the priority given to risk and to foresight is more limited. In this regard, the crisis has reinforced the need to strengthen the strategic role played by CoGs, beyond response co-ordination, in mobilising the administration to develop capacities for anticipation and planning. At this time, however, only a few countries have appointed a co-ordinator within the CoG: in Argentina, the chief of the Cabinet of Ministers is responsible for co-ordinating different jurisdictions and organisations of the public sector to implement the measures and policies recommended by the National Health Authority; in Italy, the head of the Department of Civil Protection, located in the Prime Minister’s Office, is the designated special commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency; and in Latvia, the Director of the State Chancellery was appointed head of the inter-institutional co-ordination management group set up by the Prime Minister (OECD, 2020[22]).

Strategic foresight offers one approach to assist vision-building and decision-making in the face of uncertainty, and countries are now considering how to use foresight to become more responsive and agile in later stages of the pandemic as well as in the post-COVID-19 world. For example, Estonia’s Foresight Centre, a think tank at the Estonian parliament seeking to identify new (mega) trends and development avenues, is currently conducting a study on the impacts of the coronavirus, with a view to providing an assessment of the upcoming changes in the economy; and Finland has conducted a scenarios project on COVID-19 in the context of their well-established government report on the future.

To better anticipate future risks and opportunities on countries’ SDG implementation requires strategic and integrated planning across sectors and population groups. Governments could benefit from a number of strategic foresight tools to this end. Applying a PCSD lens would ensure that these tools also contribute to anticipating policy interactions and transboundary impacts to the extent possible.

Every major crisis brings opportunities to learn lessons, rethink our systems and make them more resilient to future shocks. Previously long-term visions could be accelerated – including those related to SDG implementation – and that reforms could happen faster than they would otherwise have done. We are already seeing barriers (e.g. antiquated laws, political disagreement) to digitalisation that have been debated over for years or even decades dissolve in days. For example, telemedicine has been controversial but has become the norm almost overnight, and could also incentivise governments worldwide to make internet access more readily available to all (SDG 9.c). While this digital transformation is giving countries new avenues to better detect, prevent, respond to and recover from COVID‑19, it also raises a number of risks such as diversion of resources to potentially ineffective digital tools, exacerbation of inequalities, and violation of privacy, both during and after the outbreak.

This calls for improved health data governance frameworks to safeguard privacy, including having systems for secure data exchange, automatic data extraction from clinical records, and secure data access mechanisms for research. Health systems must also be strengthened to become capable of providing national and global data that are useable and available in near real-time for surveillance and emergency response, across national and regional borders (OECD, 2020[24]). This is echoed in SDG 3.d, which encourages “strengthened capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks”.

The consequences of the pandemics made clearer the linkages among sectors such as public transports, job market, health, housing, etc., calling for strengthened mechanisms and tools that can enhance policy integration. Integration is essential to balancing often divergent economic, social and environmental priorities, and to maximising synergies and minimising trade-offs at all stages of the policy-making process. As such when considering specific measures in some sectors, there is a strong need to understand their impacts on others, so that to ensure coherence.

The COVID-19 crisis has confirmed some well-known SDG interlinkages, triggering a need for new regulatory or institutional mechanisms to address them. For instance, the importance of providing good and quality housing to improve mental and physical health as well as reducing exposure to close-contact infectious diseases (SDGs 3 and 11) (Howden-Chapman, 2017[25]), became ever so apparent during long confinement periods. New criteria might emerge from this experience for defining quality housing standards for private and public housing. Similarly, the COVID-19, as a zoonotic disease, has illustrated how the interaction between environmental and habitat changes induced by human activity (agricultural activity, deforestation, wildlife trade, and climate change) can lead to shifts in ecosystems, which in turn may intensify communicable disease transmission (SDG 3, 13, 15 and SDG 2) (Howden-Chapman, 2017[25]), the need to slow habitat transformation might be more imperative for recovery. However, habitat transformation has to be balanced, for example, against agricultural needs. This, in turn, raises the question of increasing agricultural productivity through ecological practices (SDG 2.4).

The COVID-19 crisis further emphasised the need to increase capacities for addressing trade-offs in achieving the SDGs. Governments have had difficult choices to make to contain the spread of the coronavirus, such as closing borders which had significant economic costs especially for countries reliant on tourism putting millions of livelihoods at risk and threatening progress made in SDGs. Current scenarios point to a possible loss of USD 910 billion to USD 1.2 trillion in export revenues from tourism with 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs at risk globally.6 Responses to the 2020 OECD questionnaire, indicate that as a result of the COVID-19 crisis governments are more aware (50% of the respondents) of the need to work across silos and address trade-offs. Past experience on integrated SDG implementation suggests governments will need sufficient support to ensure they can confront the multidimensionality of the COVID-19 crisis.7 This entails using strategic tools (budgeting, procurement, etc.) and relying on data that capture the sustainability dimension in order to better understand the interlinkages and to enhance policy coherence (see section 7). For instance data on cost-benefits, demand and outcome of public services, users’ satisfaction, as well as the potential and actual impacts of policies need to be linked to sustainable development indicators, i.e. what these data tell about policies’ impact on SDGs indicators?

At the European level, the EU funding for recovery will have green strings attached and provides an unprecedented opportunity to orient investments towards the long-term transformations needed to shift towards more sustainable and resilient economies and societies while advancing on the SDGs. In addition, the EU’s decision to update and use the European Semester as an instrument to integrate the SDGs can steer further policy integration within EU member states. A coherent policy making is critical to review the coherence between the recovery and resilience plan and other relevant plans and funds, such as national sustainable strategy, climate plans or energy plans.

Governments have a range of strategic tools that could be used more proactively to advance a sustainable and coherent recovery in alignment with SDGs, such as budgets, laws, regulatory policies and public procurement systems. The budget, for example, as a key policy and priority-setting document, constitutes an effective tool for considering potential impacts that actions in one policy area can have on others (OECD, 2019[26]) and for mobilising public policy and resources for transformative investments that help achieve the overarching goals of the SDGs. During COVID-19, exceptional financial emergency and recovery measures have been implemented at exceptional speed (OECD, 2020[27]). Under these circumstances there has been little time to assess the impact of recovery on future generations and social and economic sustainability. However, the long-term impact of recovery expenditures to support economic activity should be identified, assessed and managed carefully to avoid long-term negative effects on sustainable development (OECD, 2015[28]). Iceland and Canada have already made the use of gender impact assessments in their policy and budget processes mandatory can use this analysis to understand the relative impact of recovery measures on gender equality.

Lessons from past crisis and post-crisis situations have shown that countries need budgetary processes that allow an early assessment of how expenditures meet national development needs in a cost-effective and coherent manner” (OECD, 2015[28]). These frameworks need to be linked to assessment and co-ordination mechanisms that are aligned to PCSD principles (see section 4 and 7). There are several ways to apply SDGs budgeting (i.e. tagging budget measures, etc.) that support a prudent assessment of costs and benefits of capital investments in terms of sustainability, affordability, relative priority among various projects, and the impact on future generations. For instance, recovery packages can use structural change to chart a pathway to low-carbon emissions. In other cases, when countries conduct spending reviews to prioritise fiscal measures for recovery, central budgetary authorities may consider embedding SDG considerations as a criteria in the review process. Where countries have existing tagging processes, SDG budgeting can help highlight the existing development challenges (i.e. shortages in funding to a certain goal) for consideration by decision-makers.

Lessons learned from well-being budgeting, for instance in New Zealand8, show that adding small changes to budgetary policies early on can have a greater impact on fiscal sustainability, the well-being of future generations, and resilience to future shocks. Assessing the sustainable impact of public investments is necessary if a country decides to issue sustainability bonds to finance its recovery. For example, the International Capital Market Association (ICMA) provides reference to indicators9 that issuers should consider as they identify eligible operations for Green, Social and Sustainability bonds that contribute to the mitigation or adaptation to climate change and amelioration of social challenges globally. In the Netherlands, the financial sector, supervisory authorities and government ministries work in tandem to increase the proportion of sustainable finance under the Sustainability Finance Platform.10 They develop a set of indicators that investors can use to assess the impact of their investments on the SDGs.

Public procurement systems (12% of GDP in OECD countries) and infrastructure governance frameworks can in turn help ensure that the implementation of the economic recovery packages integrates sustainability dimensions. The OECD Recommendation on PCSD (OECD, 2019[19]) also identifies strategic procurement as an operational tool to integrate sustainable development into sectoral policies and supporting broader outcomes consistent with the SDGs, as expressly stated in SDG 12.7. As countries are considering a number of updates to increase resilience of procurement systems, the 2015 OECD Recommendation on Public Procurement and the 2020 OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Infrastructure provides support to develop post-COVID-19 public procurement and infrastructure strategies in a way that fully serve inclusiveness and sustainability as well as build resilience, beyond delivering economic goals. Using procurement as a tool for policy integration can help highlight where public expenditures might be in contradiction with sustainability principle and shift the public budget towards environmentally sustainable business actors, goods and services. Used strategically, public procurement can also influence business behaviour and the greater uptake of responsible business conduct standards in public sector supply chains.

Recently, the OECD has benchmarked how countries are using procurement as a strategic lever for achieving broader policy objectives and outcomes, from environmental protection to SME development and innovation. The OECD public procurement toolbox11 includes case studies, tools and frameworks to promote a strategic use of public procurement.

Three key trends in public procurement that affect the achievement of the SDGs have emerged since the crisis:

Countries experienced gaps in anticipating the needs and ensuring timely supply of critical goods and services when an emergency erupts, according to evidence compiled by the OECD since the COVID-19 crisis (OECD, 2020[29]) (OECD, 2020[30]). In response, countries generally used their established frameworks for emergency contracting that ensured the needed flexibility for meeting the extremely urgent purchasing needs whilst at the same time they provided additional guidance and support to their contracting authorities on how to use them correctly, respecting the principles of integrity and transparency.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced governments to co-operate and collaborate on national or international levels in procurement operations in a more strategic way. It highlighted, across OECD countries and beyond, critical risks in the procurement of essential goods and services when demand for goods or services peaks or drops globally at the same time (e.g. surge in request for protective equipment and drop in airport traffic). In response, some countries joined forces against the health crisis, such as under the Joint Procurement Agreement by the Member States of the European Union12, which included the launch of joint procurement for essential health products. Others, such as Canada, Colombia, Latvia, Germany, Italy and Korea, increased the centralisation of purchasing essential medical and health products. If such protocols took the SDGs into account they could not only make the multilateral trading system more equitable (17.10) but could, for instance, insert clauses that allow developing countries to build their stocks of such essential goods at non-discriminatory and more equitable conditions and when they have the capacity to be considered as preferential suppliers (SDG 17.12).

The new purchasing environment created by the COVID-19 crisis also forced public buyers to unleash the potential of digital technology to improve the immediate emergency response while not compromising transparency (i.e. further advances on digitalisation, e-procurement platforms, use of risk-based approaches, emphasis on strategic sourcing, innovative ways to engage with the market for more sustainable solutions, training for emergency procedures or enforced contract management). These updates contributed to SDG targets related to procurement activities (SDG 9, 16, 17) by promoting accountability, open trade systems and preventing corruption. Digital procurement has made access to public markets simpler and more transparent (SDG 17.12) and makes it easier to identify red flags, collusion, price gouging, counterfeits and other misbehaviour (SDG 16.6), by recording transactional information on emergency procurements. To this effect, new forms of market engagement were used by several countries, such as Canada13 and the United Kingdom14, where the government, while recommending public authorities to pay suppliers as quickly as possible, also required suppliers in receipt of public funds to operate according to an ‘open book’ policy. This means they are required to make any data, including from ledgers, cash-flow forecasts, balance sheets, and profit and loss accounts, available to the contracting authority as requested, in order to demonstrate that payments have been made to the supplier under contract in the manner intended (OECD, 2020[31]). For example, in Lithuania, the Public Procurement Office has established a transparency platform exclusively for COVID-19 related contracts. It provides information on the type of purchase, the duration of the contract and the volume of the.15

The OECD has also been working with the European Commission to promote the use of strategic procurement in the context of the EU Cohesion policies, mainstreaming green, social and innovative criteria which will support sustainability and advance circular economy.16 These recommendations could be particularly relevant to orient the implementation of the 2021-2027 EU Multiyear Financial Framework (MFF).

Infrastructure investment will be at the core of economic and social recovery. Infrastructure governance will be more important than ever to deal with the aftermath of the crisis and to deliver sustainable and inclusive growth. The above-mentioned OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Infrastructure aims to provide timely guidance to help governments prepare for effective and inclusive post-crisis economic interventions. It will serve as an instrument to adapt infrastructure responses to countries’ evolving priorities, to increase economic capacity and productivity, to achieve the SDGs and to improve overall societal well-being.

Addressing the multidimensional nature of this pandemic and fostering a sustainable recovery demands co-ordinated action across the government. Co-ordination has been critical during the COVID-19 outbreak for responding quickly and for bringing together the parts of the government that have a key role in containing the pandemic and protecting people. This includes those responsible for the provision of essential public services related to health, public order and safety or social protection. As with the SDGs, effective mechanisms for policy co-ordination at multiple levels are essential to consult, co-ordinate, negotiate and arbitrate policy decisions to manage the multiple dimensions of this pandemic and address its economic, social and environmental consequences. In a number of countries the centre of government (CoG) has played a key role in managing and co-ordinating government’s immediate response measures to the COVID-19 crisis (Box). In particular, COGs have taken the lead in terms of co-ordinating government operations during the crisis, including with subnational governments, as well as governing the use of evidence to inform decision-making and communicating decisions to the public. This is reflected in the different “units” found in many of the emergency institutional structures put in place by states (OECD, 2020[15]).

At the European level, increasing co-ordinated action and collaboration among EU member states have facilitated regional responses to the COVID-19 crisis. These measures included: the enforcement of a co-ordinated temporary restriction of non-essential travel to the EU; the treatment of intensive-care patients in other Member States, the sending of doctors and nurses, the supply to other countries of protective suits and masks as well as ventilators; the organisation of flights, many of them facilitated and funded through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism, to bring home European citizens of all nationalities that were stranded abroad. Moreover, a Joint European Roadmap towards lifting of COVID-19 containment measures sets out key principles and areas for action to guide the EU and its Member States. It provides a frame for ensuring EU-level and cross-border co-ordination while recognising the specific epidemiological situation, territorial organisation, healthcare service arrangements, population distribution or economic dynamics of each Member State (European Commission and European Council, 2020[32]).

Whole-of-government co-ordination is a relevant governance mechanism to identify and address policy divergences and conflicts between measures for recovery and achievement of the SDGs. Most OECD countries have established co-ordination mechanisms for SDG implementation that can play a key role for ensuring a sustainable recovery for the SDGs. Responses to the 2020 OECD questionnaire, indicate that the SDG co-ordination mechanisms have been involved in organising the recovery from the COVID-19 as mechanisms for information sharing (31%); consultation (14%); joint decision-making (5%); assessing sustainability (14%) and facilitate dialogue with subnational levels of government (12%). Building greater resilience in the long-run will require to strengthen the strategic role played by the Centre of Government, not only in terms of co-ordination, but also in mobilising the public administration to develop capacities for anticipation and planning (OECD, 2020[15]).

Subnational governments are at the frontline of the COVID-19 response and two thirds of OECD countries have adopted measures in support of subnational governance finance (OECD, 2020[33]). Regional and local authorities are responsible for delivering critical short-term containment measures and more long-term recovery activity – from health and social care to economic development and public investment. They need to work together actively as well as in close collaboration with the national government. Evidence compiled by the OECD highlights that a co-ordinated response to COVID-19 by all levels of government, can minimise crisis-management failures. Conversely, non-coordinated action in a crisis risks “passing the buck” to other levels of government, resulting in a disjointed response (OECD, 2020[33]). According to the OECD 2020 questionnaire, close to half of the respondents note that subnational levels of government have been engaged in the crisis management and recovery plans through dedicated multi-level mechanisms for immediate and mid-term recovery.

Subnational responses to the COVID-19 pandemic will also have important implications for the overall achievement of the 2030 Agenda. The OECD estimates that at least 100 out of the 169 SDG targets will not be reached without the engagement of local and regional governments. (OECD, 2020[34])This underlines the need to promote PCSD at different levels of government and to support them in applying PCSD in their legal frameworks, plans and actions for localising the SDGs. It also encourages the promotion of synergies among national, regional and local policies to better align with and contribute to relevant economic, social and environmental goals (OECD, 2019[19]).

Overall vertical co-ordination and coherence between levels of government is equally important in federal and unitary countries. Yet, more decentralised countries are at a bigger risk of fragmented policy responses in times of crisis and need to move swiftly to mobilise their co-ordination platforms to ensure policy coherence. But there is no one-size-fits all and countries around the world are setting up different mechanisms to this end. This is highlighted also by past experiences to promote PCSD between different levels of governments.

While vertical co-ordination can be challenging at the best of times, in many countries, associations of regional and local governments have been successful in supporting vertical co-ordination during the crisis. On the one hand, they act as interlocutors between national and subnational governments. On the other hand, they continue to co-ordinate efforts, identify solutions, and support the implementation of emergency measures. Regular dialogue between the national government and these associations can be particularly valuable to address crisis-generated social and economic damage throughout a country (OECD, 2020[33]).

The COVID-19 crisis has a strong regional impact, calling for differentiated governance and policy responses. The regional and local impact of the crisis has been highly asymmetric. The medium-term economic impact will also differ across regions, thus risking to increase inequalities (SDG 10) further. Evidence from a number of countries shows that the virus has had disproportionately high impacts on poor and deprived areas. In Wales, for example, the most disadvantaged areas have registered around 45 COVID-19 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants, while areas with less deprivation have experienced close to 23 COVID-19 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants (Lacobucci, 2020[37]). To prevent disproportionate impacts of future shocks – be they economic, social or environmental – governments need to fully understand and address the interrelated root causes of inequality, such as structural factors that limit people’s opportunities to benefit fully from economic assets and resources; or discriminatory laws, regulations and policies and regressive tax systems. These issues are all closely intertwined and require integrated policy approaches (OECD, 2019[38]).

PCSD analysis on SDG interactions offers important insights on how to identify and address linkages of this nature. For instance, (OECD, 2019[38]) explores the interplay between education (SDG 4), economic growth and employment (SDG 8) and equality (SDG 10). It illustrates that equal access to quality education (SDGs 4.1 and 4.3) promotes social mobility; contributes to economic empowerment by providing skills that help people find more qualified and decent jobs (SDG8.5); and increases their incomes (SDG10.1). Conversely, unequal access to land and other productive resources (SDG1.4), for example, will reduce employment opportunities for those who are excluded and also increase inequalities. Moreover, these types of interlinkages depend on specific country contexts and challenges.

As such, subnational governments need to join forces and work together in partnerships. An example of cities sharing resources at the global level to counter the pandemic is the C40 Task Force. The C40 has established a COVID-19 Knowledge Hub17 to exchange best practices between mayors of the world's largest cities to address the critical issues they are facing during the immediate response period. Among other things, C40 mayors have agreed to “ensure that the recovery from COVID-19 is healthy, equitable and sustainable”. Should this evolve into more long-term measures, it could be a useful resource for engaging in dialogue with national governments.

Making different voices in society heard will be critical for ensuring an inclusive and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Experience shows that major barriers to policy coherence are strongly rooted in differing perceptions of stakeholders on the challenges and priorities for transitioning towards sustainable development. It is therefore essential to have in place mechanisms for dialogue and engagement through which governments and key stakeholders can come together to identify common challenges, set priorities, contribute to the development of laws and regulations, align policies and actions, and mobilise resources. This is particularly relevant in a context where the COVID-19 crisis puts the ability of governments to act effectively under the public spotlight and where trade-offs have to be made to balance public health and economic priorities and to allocate large-scale stimulus packages across different sectors and beneficiaries.

Diverse stakeholders –including businesses and industry, civil society, science and academia and youth– will have essential roles to play to ensure a sustainable recovery. Their roles can range from mobilising resources, providing evidence, solutions and innovations, supporting changes in production patterns and lifestyles, and giving voice to the concerns and needs of those affected and under-represented communities. For instance, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the youth sector, youth organisations and volunteers have swiftly stepped in to provide their support in mitigating the effects of the crisis and promote societal resilience through new initiatives, by providing supplies to the elderly; organising educational sessions through digital platforms; and disseminating relevant and trustworthy information about the crisis (OECD, 2020[20]).

An effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires strengthening collaboration between scientists and policymakers Many countries have established governance mechanisms to co-ordinate scientific advice to different ministries involved in efforts for containing, delaying, and mitigating the virus, which are helping to break out of policy silos in addressing the pandemic, and providing recommendations on how recovery efforts can contribute to more inclusive, sustainable and resilient economies, which could support SDG efforts. In Belgium, for example, the Federal Institute for Sustainable Development is organising a study by a diverse group of scientists with an economic focus, to produce an analysis of the Belgian support-measures and their ability to contribute to the SDG. This will provide concrete policy recommendations to inform decision-makers on how recovery efforts contribute to a resilient and sustainable economy.

Several OECD countries, including Estonia, Germany, Poland and Switzerland, have launched e-participation initiatives to engage citizens in the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, while Italy established a multi-stakeholder task force to address the spread of disinformation linked to the pandemic (OECD, 2020[40]). On national and local levels, governments can also explore partnerships with organised and non-organised youth in order to promote resilience and anti-fragility measures (OECD, 2020[20]). Countries could also rely on the multiple initiatives and mechanisms that they have put in place for engaging stakeholder in SDG implementation to organise recovery responses, including national councils, commissions, platforms and forums on sustainable development.

The COVID-19 crisis has further demonstrated the interconnectedness of our societies and economies. It has also reminded us that in highly interconnected world, the transmission channels are numerous – for example through financial flows, imports and exports of goods and services, migration or knowledge transfers – and countries’ policies necessarily impact on one another (OECD, 2018[41]). In this context, a sustainable recovery will require considering the potential impacts of domestic policies on the sustainable development prospects of other countries. This is a key element of PCSD. Disruptions of global supply chains and limited movement of people across borders during the pandemic have triggered negative transboundary impacts, in particular on countries that are heavily dependent on tourism, such as small island developing states (SIDS); inflows of remittances; or official development assistance, with a risk of reversing progress in eradicating poverty (SDG 1).18

The COVID-19 crisis has also made it clear that countries cannot address global challenges without strengthened global partnerships and international rules. The pandemic has increased awareness of the need to apply international rules on issues that generate transboundary effects and need to be managed at global level. A plethora of international rules and standards have been adopted by OECD members on a number of global issues such as: the action plan for climate objectives (under the Paris agreement), responsible business conduct, or the reduction of the cost of sending remittances (G20 members within the work of the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion). Some countries took action to internalise these global commitments into national action plans, such as Portugal that adopted an action plan for implementing the Global Compact on Migration.19

The pandemic also increased awareness of the need to assess possible effects of domestic policies on developing countries. This could increase the trend of integrating a development cooperation-dimension in regulatory impact assessments (OECD, 2018[41]) (OECD, 2019[38]), or as the Netherlands and Sweden did, to have a general action plan that identifies priorities, objectives and actions for adjusting policies to enhance their positive impact and avoid negative impact on developing countries (Government of the Netherlands, 2018[42]) (Government of Sweden, 2017[43]). Similarly, the EU issued a specific guidance (EU’s better regulation toolbox #34) which provides an overview of key links between EU policies and developing countries, a typology of possible effects, and examples that illustrate how to conduct assessments and design mitigating measures. The Dutch guidance also suggests focusing on the effects on the most vulnerable and recommends consulting civil society in the Netherlands and in developing countries.

Beyond the development co-operation dimension, applying a policy coherence lens, in both ex-ante and ex-post assessments is essential to address the multi-dimensional and transboundary effects from the pandemic. Several respondents (32%) to the 2020 OECD questionnaire see the need for more evidence based analysis on the transboundary and long-term impacts of policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Several countries and institutions have recently attempted to connect separated policy evaluations (Box) into a sustainability assessment and the OECD survey revealed that new practices are being introduced since COVID-19, which can be essential tools beyond the immediate crisis response to ensure a coherent and sustainable recovery and to strengthen resilience and preparedness for future crises.

Countries could make use of their existing SDG data to inform their recovery strategies. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of data for designing short and long-term actions that can help set countries back on track to achieve the SDGs. While there are signs of an increasing demand for capturing potential trade-offs and impacts while taking informed decisions on the measures needed to recover from the COVID-19 crisis without compromising progress on the SDGs, countries still make little use of SDGs data for this purpose. Only a small proportion (27%) of respondents to the 2020 OECD questionnaire found that SDGs data collection in their country was used to anticipate COVID-19 impact in particular on most vulnerable groups and to inform decision-making during the formulation of crisis and post-crisis measures.

A sustainable COVID-19 response calls for rigorous assessment of vulnerabilities to orient short and long term recovery measures (for instance to target emergency income support, SME’s transfers/loans, etc.). The 232 SDGs indicators, regularly updated by the UN Inter-agency Expert Group on SDGs (UN-IAEG-SDGs) could provide a comprehensive and readily available source of data in every country. In particular SDGs indicators provide a comparable –at global, national and local level-- holistic view of COVID-19 impact in terms of health, social and economic outcomes for the most vulnerable as well as for different age cohorts who have been affected disproportionately by the crisis. Some statistical authorities have used SDGs indicators to account for the impact of COVID-19. For instance, the Italian Statistical Institute (ISTAT) included in the annual 2020 report a section on the interactions between the pandemic and the 17 SDGs (ISTAT, 2020[45]).

Governments need now more than ever robust monitoring, reporting and evaluation systems to inform the design of coherent and sustainable recovery strategies. In an unprecedented context where the effects of the COVID-19 crisis affect different sectors and groups of people differently, governments need to strengthen their mechanisms and capacities to track the progress of their policies, and adjust them as needed in light of evidence on potential negative or unintended effects. Many countries have made efforts to track how progress are made towards policy coherence and how more coherent policy-making translates into progress on the SDGs enhancing sustainability. These experiences can offer relevant insights on how to monitor and evaluate the extent to which policies underpinning the recovery from COVID-19 are being coherent with the SDGs.

Assessing and tracking progress on the ability of institutional arrangements to avoid fragmented government action will be essential to ensure a sustainable recovery. When faced with an urgent need to act, as is the situation with COVID-19, decision makers across all sectors tend to take actions without sufficient consultation or exchange of information (OECD, 2020[39]). Coherence and whole-of-government co-ordination will make the recovery responses more effective and sustainable by limiting the duplication of efforts, reducing negative transboundary impacts, resolving discrepancies between short-term and long-term priorities, promoting mutually supporting actions across sectors and institutions, and by concentrating resources towards common objectives. This will entail, in the spirit of SDG target 17.14, assessing the extent to which existing governance structures, processes, systems are conducive to improvements in policy coherence for sustainable development. The past experience from countries, notably EU Member States, that have made efforts to assess and report on policy coherence for development (PCD) can offer lessons to track progress on processes and institutional mechanisms for PCSD, particularly on how to consider impacts on developing countries including efforts to achieve the SDGs in partner countries in specific priority areas such as food security, health, migration mobility, wildlife trafficking; trade; taxation; domestic resource mobilisation; and resilience and fragility amongst others.21 Similarly, efforts from countries’ national supreme audit institutions (SAIs) which are increasingly carrying out assessments of preparedness to achieve the SDGs could support assessments on PCSD mechanisms and processes by incorporating questions into their performance audits to identify and assess overlaps, conflicts and fragmentation between sectoral policies.

Promoting a sustainable recovery from COVID-19 will require strengthening capacities to monitor and evaluate policy coherence and assess how public policies interact for achieving the SDGs. Given the multidimensional nature of the health, economic, financial and societal challenges posed by the impact of the pandemic, monitoring and evaluation systems will need to draw on novel integrated methods to be responsive to the complexity of the COVID-19 crisis. The SDGs monitoring frameworks established by many countries may enable policy makers to rely more on systems thinking to identify policy interlinkages and visualise the interconnectedness of the COVID-19 effects with other economic, social and environmental dimensions, and thus avoiding sector silo responses (OECD, 2020[46]). Such an approach could inform the development of holistic and integrated strategies for recovery but also support efforts to track progress on the SDGs. This would entail linking indicator frameworks to policy questions about major trends, well-being issues and impacts to make them useful to decision-making. In the Netherlands, for example, the Monitor of Well-being and the SDGs evaluates the quality of life “here and now”, i.e. the well-being of the present population of the Netherlands, as well as the extent to which this quality is achieved at the expense of future generations or of people in other countries (CBS, 2020[47]). This type of measurement frameworks may provide insights into synergies, trade-offs and externalities between economic, social and environmental policies for a sustainable recovery aligned with the SDGs.

In times of COVID-19, the data landscape has quickly changed often increasing the potential of existing statistics and sometimes creating new ones. These updates in data landscape can greatly contribute for improving measurement of what works in terms of policy coherence, measuring policy impact and how progress in policy coherence influenced it. For instance one of the elements of the policy coherence cycle is the use of policy foresight tools such as monitoring early-warning indicators, which could significantly impact the country’s ability to make progress on the SDGs by adapting their strategies faster. Identifying and monitoring indicators of such developments is easier through multi-stakeholder collaboration that broadens data available.

The COVID-19 crisis spurred experimental data collection as governments needed an up-to-date knowledge of presence and movements of patients to avoid spreading contagion and the phenomenon of hoarding. In some countries such as the Netherlands private and public data owners shared data with Statistics Netherlands (CBS). Private data owners include Dutch Payments association, retail scanners, traffic loops, payment systems as well as the Schiphol Airport and ProRail. A single knowledge and co-ordination point has been set up at CBS for the increasing use of data scouting. By combining external data sources with administrative data new figures could be produced to rapidly support policy making. For instance local authorities could rapidly track the applications for the financial support to respond to COVID-19 crisis under the Temporary Bridging Measure for Self-Employed professional (Tozo)22.

Looking ahead, beyond the immediate responses to the health and economic crisis, governments through the COVID-19 recovery have an unprecedented opportunity to chart a new policy course and steer transformations towards resilient and sustainable economies and societies. Policy coherence for sustainable development has a clear role to play in ensuring that the recovery is in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2030 Agenda and its 17 SDGs could provide a framework to understand the interconnectedness of the COVID-19 effects on the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The SDGs, which are a universal set of goals that apply to all countries, envisage a world free of poverty, hunger and inequality; where good quality education, health care, decent work and justice are available to all; and where economic growth is not at the expense of the environment and climate stability. The SDGs focus on major components of the economic, social and natural asset base from which human well-being is derived. For instance, the universal goals on water (SDG 6), energy (SDG 7), land, forest and ecosystems (SDG 15) and oceans (SDG 14) are essential to life and a major foundation of economic activity.

The SDGs could provide a framework to guide national and international recovery efforts and to build resilience against future shocks, as they aim to transform systemic conditions that undermine well-being and perpetuate vulnerabilities. Several SDGs are essential to addressing a range of deprivations and disadvantages that are still experienced by many people in OECD and non-OECD countries, in access to health and social protection (SDG 3), education (SDG 4), and decent and good quality jobs (SDG 8).

The post-crisis recovery responses present an opportunity to transform sectors; address the deeper nature of the crisis; further align public policies with SDGs, and build resilience and recovery responses to future outbreaks. There are four main reasons for this:

  • The scale of the COVID-19 shock entails historic levels of public expenditures with more flexible fiscal frameworks. More than two-thirds of governments across the world have scaled up their fiscal support to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and the stringent lockdowns. Fiscal measures are estimated through mid-June 2020 at near USD 11 trillion globally (IMF, 2020[3]).

  • The general public today is more aware of the strong impact of our lifestyle on the environment. While before the crisis the effects of climate change were perceived as distant and not urgent (Romano, 2020[4]), there is emerging evidence that the public might now be more ready for bold measures to fight the impact of the global warming. For example, according to an IPSOS opinion poll conducted across 29 countries, 65% of the surveyed agreed that climate change must be prioritised in the economic recovery (IPSOS, 2020[5]).

  • Societies showed their ability to act in alignment with public health measures, and adapt and change their habits, for instance through social isolation (road traffic fell temporarily by 70% in the UK). Recovery measures could be designed to build on and support further these behavioural changes once the emergency has passed.

  • The crisis showed that no individual country is immune to global risks nor can they successfully fight them alone. Co-ordinated and coherent actions at all levels of government (international, national and sub-national) and between all countries, supported by international organisations, is needed to foster public trust and meet the most immediate needs while maintaining political and economic stability as well as social cohesion. The pandemic has provided a window of opportunity to further work towards the SDGs as a universal agenda. Voices are mounting in favour of ‘a co-ordinated global partnership to support the most vulnerable countries in dealing with a crisis’ (Siwisa, 2020[6]).

Some key elements for enhancing policy coherence and ensuring that the recovery from COVID-19 does not come at the expense of progress towards the SDGs could include:

  • Building strong political commitment and leadership. Commitment and leadership at the highest political level to the SDGs and to policy coherence is essential to steer integrated and long-term whole-of-government responses to COVID-19 and subsequent action across the government. Governments can make use of existing leadership structures already established for SDG implementation to co-ordinate the processes for prioritising sustainable action aligned with the 2030 Agenda and designing recovery plans.

  • Adopting a long-term perspective. To ensure a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, governments need to consider the long-term consequences of today’s decisions. These include: aligning recovery priorities with existing strategic visions for achieving the 2030 Agenda, collecting age-disaggregated evidence on the impact of the pandemic; integrating a youth perspective in the design of recovery measures; addressing the root causes of systemic vulnerabilities, and making use of strategic foresight to foster resilience and anticipate risks.

  • Capitalising on synergies and address trade-offs across sectors and taking account transboundary and long-term impacts of recovery measures. The consequences of the pandemic has made clearer the linkages among sectors such as the expansion of human settlements, habitat changes and shifts in ecosystems, and risks of disease transmission from animals. Such sectoral interlinkages are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. Managing these interlinkages more effectively call for strengthening existing tools that can enhance policy integration. The range of strategic tools that governments use for policy making such as budgets, laws, regulatory policies, investment policy and public procurement systems, should systematically orient towards sustainable decisions by accounting for trade-offs, synergies, long-term and transboundary impacts related to the policies they are assessing.

  • Engaging stakeholders and providing mechanisms for participation through which governments and key stakeholders can come together to identify common challenges, set priorities, mobilise resources, contribute to shape policies and regulations so as to align recovery with sustainable development priorities and maximise overall well-being. Countries could rely on existing initiatives and mechanisms put in place for engaging stakeholders in SDG implementation to organise recovery responses, including national councils, commissions, and platforms and forums on sustainable development.

  • Engage appropriately subnational levels of government. A sustainable recovery requires a co-ordinated response to COVID-19 by all levels of government in order to minimise crisis-management failures. National governments need to promote vertical coherence and support local governments in applying PCSD in their legal frameworks, plans and actions for localising the SDGs. This includes the promotion of synergies among national, regional and local policies and regulations to better align with and contribute to relevant economic, social and environmental goals. Additionally, the strong regional impact of the COVID-19 crisis calls for differentiated governance and policy responses and partnerships between subnational governments.

  • Strengthen capacities to monitor and evaluate policy coherence and assess how policies and recovery measures interact in achieving the SDGs. Novel integrated methods will be needed to understand better the impact of COVID-19 on all dimensions of sustainable development and to be responsive to the complexity of the COVID-19 crisis. Governments can build on existing SDGs monitoring frameworks which may enable policy makers to identify policy interlinkages and better understand the interconnectedness of the COVID-19 effects.


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← 1. The questionnaire was completed in May 2020 by 31 respondents from 24 different countries including from governments (53%), civil society organisations (19%), international organisations (10%), academia (9%); private sector (3%) and other (2%).

← 2. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2020[54]) forecasts that energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, from power plants, cars and other sources in the U.S., will decrease by 7.5% in 2020. In the EU, a 58 per cent decline in carbon emissions per day of lockdown is expected, according to calculations by Sia Partners, a French consultancy specialising in energy:

← 3. The EIA forecasts that already in 2021, energy-related CO2 emissions will increase by 3.6%.

← 5. For instance, seasonal migrant labour force gaps are observed in key sectors such as agriculture, and the impact of restrictions of movement is significant in countries of origin in a range of areas related to family and food security (IOM and EURASYLUM, 2020[13]).

← 7. In a global online country needs survey conducted by the OECD in March 2020 among 595 respondents across different world regions, including 310 policy practitioners from 37 OECD and 48 non-Member countries, 79% of the policy practitioners indicate that they were struggling with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and 77% perceived governance or policy coherence challenges as an obstacle to SDG implementation:

← 11.

← 21. At national level, a number of DAC members provide dedicated reports on policy coherence and its impact on developing countries, covering both actions and results, to their parliaments and the public (Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, EU). Germany includes PCD in its reporting to parliament, though only every four years. Germany and Sweden have used their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) to illustrate their action on PCD. Almost all EU Member States report to the EU on their actions on PCD.


This paper is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and the arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of OECD member countries.

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