The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development demands profound reflection and a sharp ability to understand and navigate complexity. The interconnectedness and indivisibility of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) challenge siloed and fragmented approaches to development, forcing the international community to rethink the work of multilateral cooperation in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

The UN System Leadership Framework sets forth systems thinking as one of the four behaviours that international leaders need to adopt in their leadership practice in order to move towards the full realization of the 2030 Agenda. Leaders are now asked to: think across and beyond the specific area of their expertise and mandate; analyse their environment as a set of complex ecosystems; discern their organising principles as well as the linkages, interactions, dependencies and power distribution among components and constituencies; and strategically identify leverage points to achieve maximum impact.

These new approaches and competencies call for a shift from linear thinking to non-linear systems thinking. In the context of sustainable development, this entails building on and working through the lenses of five intertwined dimensions: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.

Leading for Sustainable Development has been specifically designed to enable senior international leaders to think systemically and act cooperatively in their work on sustainable development in order to achieve the greatest impact.


  • Understanding of tools, perspectives and concepts relating to systems thinking
  • Application of systems thinking to international challenges related to sustainable development

Course Methodology

Course Methodology: 

The programme will mix real life case studies with presentations and instructor-led inputs, discussion sessions and reflections. The programme faculty - composed of thought leaders on sustainable development and systems thinking from within and outside the UN - will introduce new and innovative learning methods to accelerate learning application and impact. 

Course Contents

Course Contents: 
  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: interconnectedness and indivisibility of the agenda and the role of international leadership
  • Systems thinking for sustainable development – key concepts and tools, case studies, field work and reflection for personal action and own leadership practice

Target Audience

Target Audience: 

Senior UN staff at the D1 – D2 levels;

Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators;

Agency Country representatives;

Alumni of the UN Leaders and UNCT Leadership Programmes.

Senior staff operating in relevant fields of international cooperation and sustainable development

Cost of participation

Cost of participation: 

The fee amounts to USD 2,200 per participant.


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