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.

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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

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

Requirements for a Sustainable Bioeconomy in the Context of SDG Implementation

A sustainable bioeconomy can potentially do its part to replace the era of fossil resources and supply a growing world population. The transformation to such a sustainable bioeconomy is characterized by economic, ecological and social opportunities, but also by risks. These potentials and challenges of the sustainable bioeconomy are specified by this project for the German Environment Agency (UBA). 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

Strengthening Multi-Sectoral and Multi-Stakeholders Platforms (MSP): Design for Effectiveness

To achieve its aim of reducing malnutrition in the countries with the highest burden, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement is supporting the creation of multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) in multiple SUN member countries. The overall objective of this work is to identify and document information on the institutional configurations for MSPs that are most appropriate for achieving national goals on nutrition in different contexts, and develop tools and resources to disseminate best practices for designing MSPs. 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

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Use this search to display this theme's publications and filter by journal, author, country and much more.


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

This is the image for IDS Virtual Bulletin 3, 'IDS on MDGs'.

IDS on MDGs

IDS Virtual Bulletin 3 (2013)

This Virtual Bulletin focuses on past articles that inform the debate about the MDGs from an historical perspective. More details

This is the cover of IDS Bulletin Vol 44.5-6, 'Whose Goals Count? Lessons for Setting the Next Development Goals'.

Whose Goals Count? Lessons for Setting the Next Development Goals

IDS Bulletin 44.5-6 (2013)

This IDS Bulletin compiles reflections from various actors on the core elements of the MDGs and also on topics not explicitly covered in them, such as governance, participation and infrastructure. More details

Image Teaser for Policy Briefing 44

Informing Post-2015 Development with Ground Level Knowledge

IDS Policy Briefing 44 (2013)

This policy briefing is part of the special MDG series and examines how the views and experiences of the poorest and most marginalised must shape a post-2015 framework. More details

This is the image for IDS Policy Briefing 43, 'Achieving Gender Equality Through a Post-2015 Framework'.

Achieving Gender Equality Through a Post-2015 Framework

IDS Policy Briefing 43 (2013)

This policy briefing is part of the special MDG series and examines how a post-2105 framework can help to promote women and girls’ empowerment and achieve gender equality. More details

This is the image for IDS Policy Briefing 42, 'Engaging Science and Politics
in a Post-2015 Framework'.

Engaging Science and Politics in a Post-2015 Framework

IDS Policy Briefing 42 (2013)

This policy briefing, part of the special MDG series, examines how science and politics must be engaged in a post-2015 framework in order to tackle the interlinked environmental and social justice challenges which the world currently faces. More details

This is the image for IDS Policy Briefing 38, 'Ensuring Women and Girls’ Rights to Water and Sanitation Post-2015'.

Ensuring Women and Girls’ Rights to Water and Sanitation Post-2015

IDS Policy Briefing 38 (2013)

This policy briefing, part of the special MDG series, examines how a post 2015 framework can help ensure women and girls rights to water and sanitation. More details

This is the image for IDS Policy Briefing 39, 'Promoting Inclusive Social Protection in the Post-2015 Framework'.

Promoting Inclusive Social Protection in the Post-2015 Framework

IDS Policy Briefing 39 (2013)

This policy briefing, part of the special MDG series, examines how the post 2015 development framework should promote ‘Inclusive Social Protection’. More details

This is the image for IDS Policy Briefing 33, 'Embedding nutrition in a post-2015 development framework'.

Embedding Nutrition in a Post-2015 Development Framework

IDS Policy Briefing 33 (2013)

Putting an end to the current nutrition crisis by 2030 is possible, but only if nutrition is embedded within a post-2015 development framework. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Recommendations and Key Findings for the Post-2015 Global Development Framework

This document outlines key recommendations based on the findings of the research with people living in greatest poverty and those who are most marginalised. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Citizen-led Accountability: Recommendations and Key Research Findings for the Post-2015 Agenda

This document outlines key recommendation for citizen-led accountability in the post-2015 framework. More details

This is the cover for Participate publication, 'What Matters Most?'.

What Matters Most? Evidence from 84 Participatory Studies with Those Living with Extreme Poverty and Marginalisation

This Participate report draws on the experiences and views of people living in extreme poverty and marginalisation in 107 countries. More details

Non-IDS publication

Editorial: Poverty, Vulnerability and Resilience in a Post-2015 World

Social Indicators Research (2013)

Looking ahead, the global economic crisis (2007) may mark the end of a relatively benign era of strong growth, buoyant aid budgets and reasonable stability. Poverty reduction will then need to be pursued in a context of economic recovery, climate change, urbanization and demographic change. More details

IDS publications on international development research

People's Experiences of Living in Poverty: Early Findings for High Level Panel Deliberations

This document presents the early findings of Participate's major synthesis of recent participatory research and sets out eight key messages from those who are living in poverty and who are most marginalised. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Participate Global Participatory Research Network Map

This map outlines the geographic distribution of the Participate global participatory research network, the work of the organisations and their specific research within Participate. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Trade and Development – A Forgotten Issue?

The UN system has invited international organisations, governments and local government bodies, academic institutions and think tanks, civil society organisations, the private sector, trade unions, foundations, religious groups, individuals to offer their ideas and views on the next development agenda. More details

The New Face of Poverty: How has the Composition of Poverty in Low Income and Lower Middle-Income Countries (excluding China) Changed since the 1990s?

IDS Working Paper 408 (2012)

To what extent do education, health and nutrition poverty rates differ by the spatial and social characteristics of households? And how has the composition of education, health and nutrition poverty changed since the 1990s in terms of the spatial and social characteristics of households? More details

IDS publications on international development research

What Do We Know About How to Bring the Perspectives of People Living in Poverty into Global Policy-making?

Review of what has come before in global consultations with people living in poverty. More details

Beyond Low and Middle Income Countries: What if There Were Five Clusters of Developing Countries?

IDS Working Paper 404 (2012)

The paper challenges the continuing use of income per capita to classify developing countries as low income or middle income now that most of the world's poor no longer live in low income countries (LICs) and ambiguity over the usefulness of the middle income country (MIC) classification given the diversity in the group of over 100 MICs. More details