Law, Theory and Implementation
Edited by Duncan French and Louis J. Kotzé
Chapter 12: SDG 17: partnerships for the Goals – cooperation within the context of a voluntarist framework
As the final Global Goal, SDG 17’s principal function is to establish partnerships in support of the achievement of the other Sustainable Development Goals. It includes targets in such areas as overseas development assistance, debt sustainability, technology transfer, capacity building, and international trade. It reflects a pattern set in the Millennium Development Goals, where the final goal is also the most instrumental, in that case MDG 8, which sought to establish a ‘Global Partnership for Development’. SDG 17 underscores the importance of cooperation in the attainment of global development, recognising more broadly that partnerships are fundamental to the achievement of sustainable development. And yet SDG 17 also reveals many of the contradictions within the primarily voluntarist nature of the international community’s approach to development. SDG 17 is reflective of an approach that possesses strong moral injunction but weak normative commitment. Thus, the chapter provides a critical analysis of SDG 17, focusing on three distinct issues. First, whether on their own terms, the targets within the Goal will contribute to the achievement of effective partnerships, or whether the systemic hurdles towards institutional reform remain as great as they always have done. Secondly, how far SDG 17 weakens still further the normative argument as to the existence of a positive obligation in international law on development cooperation. And thirdly, in the context of seeking to achieve the right to water in a domestic setting, how far SDG 17 provides legal certainty to such partnerships, especially those involving civil society. The chapter concludes that while SDG 17 promotes partnerships it has not given sufficient guidance to states in implementing them. The innate voluntarism of the cooperation that supports the Global Goals ultimately puts at risk their effective attainment, and there thus remains a necessity for the development of supportive legal frameworks.
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