Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015 a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the Millennium Development Goals. This followed a two year process of global consultations and intergovernmental negotiations. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development brings together the three aspects of sustainable development – the economic, environmental and social - and includes 17 Global Goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators that apply to all countries, with the aim of achieving them by the year 2030.

Girls working on laptop computer

Read the full set of goals and targets

SDGs vs MDGs – what's new?

There are significant differences between the MDGs and SDGs, including:

  • The SDG framework has brought all three aspects of sustainable development – the economic, social and environmental – in a much more integrated way than the MDGs ever did.
  • There were only eight MDG goals and while some have argued that this made them more achievable, others have argued that the process that resulted in the SDGs was a much more transparent and open process with a lot more consensus on the framework that was ultimately created.
  • The SDGs take a universal development approach and apply to all countries, rich and poor alike.
  • The world has changed significantly since the MDGs were created in 2000. Notions of developed and developing have changed. International development is less about the transfer of aid from rich to poor countries and more about progressive change for everyone, everywhere. Rising powers such as China, Brazil and India are becoming increasingly influential and have established a New Development Bank. Technology has advanced significantly and the world is a much more interconnected places with challenges and opportunities experienced globally as well as locally.

Leave no-one behind 

A central part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the commitment to ensure that the benefits of achieving the goals are felt by everyone equally, including those hardest to reach, such as persons with disabilities, people living with HIV, older persons, indigenous peoples, refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants. 

Through the Participate Inititative IDS is delivering the Participatory Monitoring and Accountability programme, working with groups of people living in poverty and marginalisation to strengthen processes of citizen-led accountability. It builds on Participate’s global participatory research network, and its track record in demonstrating the value of participatory action research - in its many forms and approaches - as enabling people living in poverty and marginalisation to exercise accountability.

Voluntary National Reviews

As part of the ongoing monitoring of the progress of the 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development (or SDGs), UN member countries are encouraged to conduct regular progress reports, called Voluntary National Reviews, reviewing the progress the country has made to date at a national and sub-national level. By September 2017, 113 voluntary reviews have been submitted so far. Countries yet to submit a report include the UK and the USA. 

Related resources

Addressing Synergies and Trade-Offs between Goals for Climate-Resilient Agricultural Systems

What factors lead state and market actors in Africa to commit to implementing more ‘climate smart’ and ‘climate resilient’ agricultural approaches and practices that promoting more sustainable and pro-poor outcomes? This study is examining how different governance systems are handling the complex interface between food, energy, water and climate in pursuit of the SDGs pertaining to these sectors in four countries in Africa. More details

Building Sustainable Inclusion: From Intersecting Inequalities to Accountable Relationships

This project focuses on the need to consider and address intersecting inequalities – the spatial, economic and identity-based drivers of poverty and inequality - if the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be successful. More details

Capacity Building for Smart Data and Inclusive Cities (SDIC)

The “Capacity Building for Smart Data and Inclusive Cities” (SDIC) project aims strengthen technical and institutional capacities by working directly with municipal authorities participating in the Smart Cities Mission in four secondary cities in India: Bhopal and Jabalpur (in Madhya Pradesh) and Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi (in Kerala). More details

Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index - HANCI

HANCI measures and ranks governments’ political commitment to reduce hunger and undernutrition on an annual basis. More details

International Climate Fund: Enhancing Capacity to Deliver on Gender

A partnership between Coffey, IDS and RICARDO AEA has been formed to improve mainstreaming and targeting of women and girls in the International Climate Fund. More details

Participate: Participatory Monitoring and Accountability

The Participatory Monitoring and Accountability (PMA) programme marks a new phase of the Participate initiative. It aims to foster and support PMA learning processes that enable citizen participation for accountability to be embedded in development policy and practice. More details

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Centre

The STEPS Centre is an interdisciplinary global research and policy engagement hub, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It aims to develop a new approach to understanding, action and communication on sustainability and development. More details

Water Justice Programme

The Water Justice Programme critically examines the politics and pathways of water and sanitation policy and practice through interdisciplinary research on access, rights and control over these key resources More details

View all Research Theme's publications

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ER206_FrontCover

Gender, Sexuality and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Meta-Analysis of Mechanisms of Exclusion and Avenues for Inclusive Development

IDS Evidence Report 206 (2016)

Through its work, the Institute of Development Studies Sexuality, Poverty and Law programme provides new evidence-based knowledge and policy options support efforts to strengthen the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. More details

ER204_FrontCover

Integrating Sustainable Development: A Foresight Analysis of Interactions Among Competing Development Challenges

IDS Evidence Report 204 (2016)

This report documents explores the interactions among three key goals of international development policy and practice, namely reducing inequalities, accelerating sustainability and building secure and inclusive societies. More details

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Achieving Diverse Development Goals: How can Different Goals be Pursued Together?

IDS Policy Briefing 125 (2016)

In 2015, the international community adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to focus development policy globally. The Goals range across diverse fields of public policy from industry, finance and agriculture to education, sanitation, social protection and environmental stewardship. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The Politics of Sustainability and Development, Annual Review of Environment and Resources

Annual Review of Environment and Resources 41 (2016)

This review examines the relationships between politics, sustainability, and development. Following an overview of sustainability thinking across different traditions, the politics of resources and the influence of scarcity narratives on research, policy and practice are explored. More details

This is the cover to the book, 'Sustainable Sanitation for All'.

Sustainable Sanitation for All

Describing the landscape of sustainability of CLTS and sanitation with reference to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and through examples from Africa and Asia, the book captures a range of experiences and innovations from a broad range of institutions and actors within the WASH sector, and attempts to make recommendations and practical suggestions for policy and practice for practitioners, funders, policymakers and governments. More details

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Rising Powers, Lowering Emissions?

IDS Policy Briefing 115 (2016)

The importance of ensuring that African countries can meet their rising energy needs in a low-carbon way that also benefits the poor, is widely accepted. The so-called ‘rising powers’, such as China, Brazil and India are already investing in energy infrastructure in Africa. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Reframing Men and Boys in Policy for Gender Equality: Conceptual Guidance and an Agenda for Change

Drawing on global evidence from the Department for International Development (DFID)-funded EMERGE programme, this paper explains why better engaging men and boys is crucial, the implications for reframing policy design and implementation, and provides key recommendations for policy. More details

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‘Who Cares’: Reflections on the International-level Advocacy Work of the Unpaid Care Work Programme (2012–2015)

IDS Evidence Report 157 (2015)

At the end of September 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be launched. Building on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were officially established in 2000, the SDGs will potentially have 17 goals – one of which was explicitly absent from the MDGs: the unpaid care work of women and girls. More details

ER154_FrontCover

‘Leave No One Behind’: Gender, Sexuality and the Sustainable Development Goals

IDS Evidence Report 154 (2015)

In an unprecedented move to eradicate disease, poverty and hunger, world leaders joined together in 2000 to sign into life the hotly contested but broadly agreed upon Millennium Development Goal (MDG) framework. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Working Paper 462, 'Towards a Global Reporting System for Development Cooperation on the SDGs: Promoting Transformational Potential and Impact'.

Towards a Global Reporting System for Development Cooperation on the SDGs: Promoting Transformational Potential and Impact

IDS Working Paper 462 (2015)

The proposed SDGs constitute a comprehensive, universal and interactive agenda of structural transformations as the pathway to sustainable development, leaving no-one behind while creating green economies. More details

IDS publications on international development research

The Ebola Crisis and post-2015 Development

Journal of International Development 27.6 (2015)

This article argues that the recent Ebola crisis is the result of structural violence, as interlocking institutions have produced interlaced inequalities, unsustainabilities and insecurities. More details

This is the front cover to IDS Policy Briefing 96, 'Building Tax Capacity in Developing Countries'.

Building Tax Capacity in Developing Countries

IDS Policy Briefing 96 (2015)

The agenda for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development suggests there will be less focus on aid, and more on how developing countries can generate their own financial resources for development. Governments will be urged to tax more effectively, and donors will be called upon to help build capacity in developing country tax administrations. More details

This is the cover to IDS Rapid Reponse Briefing 9, 'Understanding The Rising Powers' Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals'.

Understanding The Rising Powers' Contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

IDS Rapid Response Briefing 9 (2015)

Rising powers such as Brazil, India and China have been criticised for being obstructive in the negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. More details

This is the front cover to the Northern Ghana Millennium Villages Impact Evaluation Pre-lim.

Northern Ghana Millennium Villages Impact Evaluation: Preliminary Report on the Second Round of Data

Report (2015)

In 2011, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) commissioned an impact evaluation of the Millennium Village Project (MVP) in Northern Ghana. More details

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Sustainable Development Goals Must Consider Security, Justice and Inequality to Achieve Social Justice

IDS Policy Briefing 88 (2015)

Security and social justice have a crucial role to play in the newly proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More details

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Non-Communicable Disease and Development: Future Pathways

IDS Evidence Report 100 (2014)

From a biomedical perspective, non-communicable disease (NCD) is not a new problem, particularly in the global North. However, awareness of the increasing burden from these conditions in low- and middle-income countries (L&MICs) has only recently emerged in the arena of development policy and practice (Beaglehole et al. 2011). More details

This is the image for a Policy Briefing for New at IDS - June 2014.

Designing Inclusive Targets for a Post-2015 Agenda

IDS Policy Briefing 68 (2014)

Tackling extreme poverty and marginalisation alongside rising and intersecting inequalities must be a priority for the post-2015 agenda. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Participate Proposal for Post-2015 Targets

The Participate initiative provides high quality evidence on the reality of poverty at ground level, bringing the perspectives of the poorest into the post-2015 debate. The research demonstrates that there are certain focus areas that need to be addressed to achieve sustainable positive change in the lives of the poorest and most marginalised. More details

Non-IDS publication

'We Can Also Make Change' - Briefing Paper

This briefing draws on the real-life stories of persons with disabilities and older people in Bangladesh, as told to researchers in the Voices of the Marginalised project entitled 'We can also make change'. More details

This is the cover for 'Work with us: How people and
organisations can catalyse sustainable change.

Work With Us: How People and Organisations can Catalyse Sustainable Change

This report provides a synthesis of studies conducted by the Participate Participatory Research Group (PRG) in 29 countries, and attempts to identify and draw out the patterns of change that emerge across them from people's accounts of their own experiences of moving in or out of poverty and marginalisation. More details