The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set a universal agenda intended to stimulate social, economic and environmental action. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has the potential to assist in the implementation of actions supporting the SDGs by providing a systematic framework to incorporate them into policies, plans and programmes; and the SDGs in turn, could substantiate SEA's contribution to sustainable development. Therefore, the partnering of both policy instruments fosters a mutualistic relationship, benefiting both. In this paper, we review current engagement of SEA with the SDGs both in the academic literature and in practice. The findings reveal a recognisable subtle shift towards the adoption of a new paradigm in plan-making, particularly supported by governments' growingly proactive embracement of SDGs, albeit through different approaches, initiatives and commitments. This sets a robust foundation for spatial planning and, by extension, a reference framework for SEA. Nevertheless, operationalising the SDGs is difficult. The extent to which SDG objectives and targets are embedded in SEA and, indeed, integrated into plans/programmes seems to be hampered by the broad scope of both sustainability and SEA, and a general lack of awareness and know-how. This suggest a need to clarify SEA's mandate for engaging with the SDGs, as well as to provide training for a more proactive integration of the objectives and targets. Through initiatives such as these, there are opportunities to optimise mutual gains for both policy instruments.
- Sustainable development
- impact assessment
- mutual benefits
- spatial planning
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law