The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the full Agenda 2030 in which they are embedded are aspirational and intended to be both transformational and integrative in a number of ways. The need for integration across policy domains is stressed throughout the agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals are also accompanied by an emerging system for follow-up and review centered on a long list of indicators that are intended to enable countries to be accountable towards their citizens. There is, however, in the accountability literature indication that some accountability mechanisms can be counterproductive for integrative policies. This paper is centered around the question whether an accountability regime, and if so how, is compatible with a high degree of policy integration both conceptually and in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. We approach this question through looking both at the literature on integrative governance and some of the central concepts it covers such as (environmental) policy integration and mainstreaming, and the accountability literature. This enables us to provide an analytical framework for evaluating the potential of the emerging accountability regimes for the Sustainable Development Goals to enhance more integrated policy making and action. We conclude that there are little or no strong hierarchical elements of accountability relationships at the global level which can be good news for more integrative policies – but only if there is a strong sense of shared responsibility among actors at all levels, available information on the types of behavioural efforts that support integration, and accountholders that take an active interest in integration. At the national level, there may be hierarchical accountability mechanisms with sanction possibilities that may discourage integration. Here, those who hold actors to account can counteract this if they have deeper understanding of the underlying interlinkages among the goals and targets, and based on this, engage in accountability mechanisms.
- sustainable development