Policy Integration for Sustainable Development through Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Dona Azizi, Frank Biermann, Rakhyun E. Kim

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Over the past three decades, policy integration has become a key objective for guiding and harmonizing policies for sustainable development. Most recently, the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals have added new impetus to efforts of integrating competing objectives of environmental sustainability, social development, and economic growth, as well as of integrating issue-specific environmental policies on climate change and terrestrial and marine biodiversity. While multilateral environmental agreements are important international instruments for achieving sustainable development, there has been little focus so far on their contribution to policy integration. Covering the years from 2007 to 2016, this article presents an empirical analysis of sustainability policy integration (i.e., how multilateral environmental agreements integrate environmental, social, and economic issues in their decisions) and environmental policy integration (i.e., the outreach of multilateral environmental agreements to different environmental issue areas beyond their mandate). The analysis finds that multilateral environmental agreements have not moved toward further policy integration over the studied period. If policy and institutional coherence is a key global governance target in the post-2015 era, a concerted effort will be required to improve the extent of policy integration by multilateral environmental agreements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-475
Number of pages31
JournalGlobal Governance
Issue number3
Early online date25 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Fragmentation
  • Global governance
  • Multilateral environmental agreements
  • Policy integration
  • Sustainable development goals


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