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

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

HEART (Health and Education Advice and Resource Team)

HEART is a consortium of leading organisations in international development, health, nutrition, education, social protection and WASH. 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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IDS publications on international development research

Rethinking the Millennium Development Goals for Africa

The global economy and especially its poorest members, face a perfect storm. The crisis has been created by a Global LIe: leverage this is unfathomable, institutions that are discredited, and, experts who are uncertain about the uncertainty. More details

IDS Bulletin 41.1 image

The MDGs and Beyond

IDS Bulletin 41.1 (2010)

Do the MDGs still reflect what is important about how development happens and how policy influences that process? The MDGs were an approach born of a benign era of relative stability, stronger economic growth and fairly buoyant aid budgets. We now face a very different world. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Beyond Business as Usual: What Might 3-D Wellbeing Contribute to MDG Momentum?

IDS Bulletin 41.1 (2010)

The Millennium Declaration provided considerable impetus to refocus the efforts of development agents around the world on the major ethical challenge of eradicating global poverty. More details

IDS Working Paper

Quantifying the Impact of Social Mobilisation in Rural Bangladesh: Donors, Civil Society and ‘The Road not Taken’

IDS Working Paper 333 (2009)

As part of a general trend toward a reduced role for the state, international donors have increasingly encouraged development NGOs to take up a service delivery function. More details

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing

After 2015: Pro-Poor Low Carbon Development

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing 9.4 (2009)
IDS In Focus Policy Briefing

After 2015: Gender Equality

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing 9.3 (2009)

Gender equality is essential for poverty reduction yet a focus on gender only features in only two of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Attention to the links between the gender related MDGs and other key economic, health and environmental goals is needed to ensure sustainable gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women. More details

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing

After 2015: Pro-Poor Policy

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing 9.1 (2009)

Low carbon development (LCD) debates to date have been mainly about high- and middle-income countries. More details

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing

After 2015: '3D Human Wellbeing'

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing 9.2 (2009)

'3D Human Wellbeing' is emerging as a complement to the more traditional and material ways of conceptualising and measuring poverty and deprivation such as those implicit in the MDGs. More details

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing

After 2015: Promoting Pro-Poor Policy After the MDGs

IDS In Focus Policy Briefing 9 (2009)

As we enter an era characterised by global uncertainties such as climate change and the global economic crisis, what has been the impact of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) model and how can we accelerate progress on poverty reduction through such turbulent times? More details

IDS publications on international development research

After 2015: What are the ingredients of an MDG-plus agenda?

Journal of International Development 21.6 (2009)
IDS Research Summary

Taking Community-Led Total Sanitation to Scale: Movement, Spread and Adaptation

IDS Research Report of IDS Working Paper 298 (2009)

Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is a new approach to sanitation which encourages communities to eliminate open defecation. This approach involves a shift away from the traditional focus on subsidies for toilet construction towards changing the attitudes and behaviour of the community, and it has huge potential to contribute towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals. More details

This is the image of After 2015: International Development Policy at a Crossroads

After 2015: International Development Policy at a Crossroads

This book discusses the evolution of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and development policy and asks what happens after 2015? Framed around the MDGs, which are core to the new global development studies agenda MDGs are a very complex set of goals, targets and indicators. More details

Front cover of Bulletin 38.3, Debating Social Protection

Debating Social Protection

IDS Bulletin 38.3 (2007)

The rapid rise of social protection up the development policy agenda has been startling: it can achieve bigger development objectives, such as economic growth and the MDGs. Its predecessor 'social safety nets' was disparaged and attacked during the 1990s, and was then reborn as 'social protection' at the turn of the millennium. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Pathways to Sustainability: An Overview of the STEPS Centre Approach

This booklet gives a quick insight in to the STEPS approach as the Centre seeks to grapple with two of the most pressing challenges of our times: linking environmental sustainability with poverty reduction and social justice, and making science and technology work for the poor. More details