Branding for Business? Hungary and the Sustainable Development Goals

Balázs Szent-Iványi, Zsuzsanna Vegh, Simon Lightfoot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Negotiations leading to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have dominated the diplomacy of global development in the past years. The paper looks at the actions and motivations of a relatively new development actor, Hungary, which co-chaired the UN General Assembly’s Open Working Group on SDGs, and thus had a highly visible position during the talks. Hungary had a key priority of having an SDG on water related issues, driven mainly by its perceived comparative advantage in the sector. Using the insights of the literature on small state influence in multilateral negotiations, the paper argues that Hungarian diplomats used alliance building as well as reputational and framing strategies to counter the structural disadvantages of the country’s small state status, and were successful in shaping the final outcome. However, the Hungarian government did not act out of a strong commitment to sustainable global development, but rather used the forum to brand itself as an expert on water issues, with the hope of future business benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-209
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018 Springer Publishing. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Journal of International Relations and Development. The final authenticated version is available online at:


  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Hungary
  • small state influence
  • United Nations
  • foreign aid


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