Reimagining development in the LDCs: what role for the SDGs?

09 May 2016
Events, 13 June 2016

The challenges and opportunities that the Sustainable Development Goals create for Least Developed Countries were discussed at an event in London in June.

An image showing two men on the roof of a school in Zambia carrying out a macrosolar installation. Sustainable energy solutions for Least Developed Countries were discussed at the event in London (Photo: Steve Woodward)

The Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group, IIED and the ESRC's STEPS Centre hosted a dialogue on 13 June to discuss the challenges and opportunities that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) create for LDCs and seek ways forward beyond the current implementation debate.

The one-day event in London included sessions on inclusive urbanisation and sustainable energy transitions for low carbon futures, as well as a round table debate on the politics of the transformations at the heart of the SDG agenda.

Our news report about the meeting describes key contributions and some of the main talking points, and this paper summarises the event and outlines four areas of action. 

IIED senior researcher Essam Yassin Mohammed described how the Istanbul Programme of Action sets out a roadmap for the world's poorest nations to climb the development ladder – but challenges hinder progress.

IIED also interviewed experts and civil society representatives attending the dialogue meeting to learn about how they are working to implement the SDGs. Watch the playlist of interviews below or watch them on IIED's YouTube channel


The SDGs could be the catalyst for radical transformation in the world's poorest countries. To explore the potential and the challenges, IIED has published a series of blogs and interviews with LDC leaders, experts, and civil society representatives. These include:

A new global agenda and opportunity for LDCs

Across the LDCs there are real opportunities for radical shifts in development pathways. The LDCs are not yet locked into unsustainable systems of production and patterns of consumption and rapid transformation towards sustainable models of development is possible.

The SDGs can provide an important political opportunity for mobilising ideas, plans and funds for alternative pathways to development, framed by the SDG ideals.

The Istanbul Programme of Action sets out a comprehensive agenda for LDCs: a review was carried out in late May resulting in a declaration that reconfirmed and strengthened the commitment of stakeholders in the light of last year's global agreements on the SDGs and climate change, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (PDF).

The SDGs could provide a real opportunity for radical transformation in LDCs. But national SDG implementation processes could all too easily get bogged down in endless debates over bureaucratic procedures of target-setting, delivery and monitoring, and fail to achieve change.  

The dialogue brought together experts from across the globe to discuss how to ensure the implementation debates focus on the politics of transformation for which the SDGs have created space. Guest blogger Nathan Oxley reported on five challenges for the LDCs that were discussed by the meeting participants. 

The ESRC's STEPS Centre has also produced a guide to some of the key terms and ideas involved.

Related publications

The Paris Agreement and the LDCs, Achala Abeysinghe, Brianna Craft, Janna Tenzing (2016), IIED Briefing

A whole-landscape approach to green development in Africa, Mariteuw Chimère Diaw (2015), IIED Briefing

Financing inclusive low-carbon resilient development in the least developed countries, Dave Steinbach, Nanki Kaur, Neha Rai (2015), IIED Report

Impact of climate change on Least Developed Countries: are the SDGs possible?, Helena Wright, Saleemul Huq, Jonathan Reeves (2015), IIED Briefing

Transforming global development: An LDC perspective on the post-2015 agenda, Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group (2014), IIED Report

Other resources