The role of context in identifying linkages between SDG 2 (food) and SDG 6 (water)

Han Su*, Maarten S. Krol, Rick J. Hogeboom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
74 Downloads (Pure)


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nation’s Agenda 2030 are formulated to promote the development of integrated, multisectoral policies that explicitly consider linkages across SDGs. Although multiple recent studies have tried to identify linkages across SDGs, the role of contextual factors in identifying SDG linkages is neither well described nor understood. For the case of SDG 2 and SDG 6, this study aims to (i) identify linkages—at country and SDG target level—through the application of various quantitative and qualitative identification methods, and (ii) explore contextual factors to explain the differences across identified linkages. Hereto, we first conducted a text analysis of 195 Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) reported by 159 countries from 2016 to 2020. Next, we synthesized linkages reported by previous qualitative studies and conducted a quantitative (correlation) analysis on the UN’s SDG database. Last, we compared identified linkages across methods, paying special attention to the role of context. From the text analysis, we identified 221 country-specific linkages between 25 SDG target pairs and observed that countries increasingly report SDG linkages in their VNRs over time. Comparing text analysis, existing qualitative studies, and our quantitative correlation analysis, we found substantial differences between the number and nature of linkages identified. These differences can be explained in part by methodological considerations, but to a significant extent also by contextual factors, such as project design, technology application, phase of interventions, and project scale. We conclude by discussing the strengths and limitations of the methods involved, and suggestions for future studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1605-1618
Number of pages14
JournalSustainability Science
Early online date30 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


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