2014/15 annual report: our work on a sustainable future

Article, 13 October 2015

The Sustainable Development Goals set the development agenda for decades to come. How will IIED's work feed into the SDG agenda?

The 2014/15 Annual Report sets out key ways IIED and partners have worked to ensure the SDGs are set for success (Image: We Are Tangerine/IIED)

In 2012, at the Rio+20 conference in Brazil, world leaders gathered to develop a blueprint for a fairer, greener world that balances the economic, social and environmental dimensions of prosperity and human wellbeing. There, they reaffirmed their commitment to sustainable development and opened the door for a guiding global framework: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Three years on, after much negotiation, a set of 17 goals – from reducing poverty, hunger and inequality to protecting ecosystems and tackling climate change – will drive the global development agenda until 2030. But can they really fulfil global ambitions?

If they are to live up to their ambitions to 'leave no one behind', the SDGs must be applicable and adaptable across countries and contexts. That means ensuring the goals, targets and indicators are relevant on the ground – taking account of local, national and regional seats of power and the varying capacities of countries to implement and monitor progress.

It also means working with the full array of other decision-making processes and agreements that impact sustainable development. Coherence is critical: both externally (with global climate change negotiations or disaster risk reduction plans, for example) and internally, within and across goals.

Over 2014/15, as was detailed in the Annual Report, IIED and partners have worked on a number of key fronts to ensure the SDGs are set for success:


The SDG on energy aims to "ensure access to affordable, sustainable, reliable, and modern energy services for all". This goal will be a powerful driver for development: universal access to energy services is crucial for the success of the post-2015 development framework.

IIED is working with the new Alliance of CSOs for Clean Energy Access (ACCESS) to advocate for people living in poverty to have access to safe, reliable and affordable energy.

We are developing a holistic approach for energy service delivery that aims to integrate 'bottom-up' approaches, and focuses on development impact with cross-cutting targets.

We are analysing whether current indicators measure what matters and are exploring ways to ensure that indicators can deliver real progress on the ground.


IIED argues that successfully achieving the SDGs depends upon developing an integrated approach to policymaking across different governance frameworks. This is particularly true when it comes to the SDGs on forests, where the goals and targets on forests overlap.

IIED is exploring at how this integrated approach could be achieved by taking a modular approach to SDG implementation, designing innovative indicators, and agreeing common indicators across different frameworks.

IIED is reviewing progress on the integration of forests in the SDGs to date, and has identified the emerging issues needing attention by experts, policymakers and negotiators involved with the post-2015 agenda.


IIED argues that it will fall to urban governments to plan and manage many of the commitments of the SDGs. Urban areas now house four billion people, and drive most of the world's economy and new investments. A billion people live in informal settlements. We are working with Slum/Shack Dwellers International to highlight the importance of ensuring that goals can be implemented and to give slum-dwellers a mandate for participation.

Urban governments will be responsible for implementing and monitoring the delivery of universal provision of basic services, poverty reduction, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. We are highlighting the need for local governments with a strong financial base and finance institutions committed to setting the highest standards in local accountability.

IIED is examining the international, national and municipal mechanisms for financing adaptation. Our work reveals the systemic barriers that prevent money being channelled into the hands of vulnerable urban residents in low- and middle-income countries. We are building the case for more direct control of funding for resilience by urban residents and local governments.


The SDG on oceans and marine resources commits governments to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

IIED argues that there is a need to make an economic appraisal of the significance of marine and coastal resources, both for livelihoods and for economic systems, and that it will help to make a compelling case for investment in sustainable fisheries.

We have set out a vision for post-2015 development on sustainable fisheries and have listed 10 things policymakers can to achieve this vision. We have identified financing issues which are critical to implementing the goal, and are researching the use of economic incentives for conservation and sustainable fisheries management.

We are also bringing together researchers and academics to discuss alternative financing mechanisms for sustainable fisheries, including fiscal reforms, official development assistance and private sector 'impact investments'.

Water and sanitation

Water and sanitation have been recognised as human rights, but there is still little agreement on how these rights are best pursued. The targets and indicators attached to the SDGs need to be practicable and aligned across different levels of decision making.

We are working with the Green Economy Coalition on the Measure What Matters initiative, which aims to align reporting methods across national and international social, economic and environmental indicators. Measure What Matters has analysed how water sustainability is being measured by businesses, communities, government and international institutions (PDF).

To address issues of practical implementation, IIED has been working with local partners to identify how sanitation and water services can be improved in deprived urban locations.

Our work with the Global Water Initiaive (GWI) in West Africa looks at how to make large water infrastructure – especially dams and irrigation schemes – better in terms of benefit sharing and food security for local people.

Global partnerships

IIED created the LDC Independent Expert Group to help the world's 48 Least Developed Countries to take a leading role in key negotiations on the international development agenda.

The LDC Independent Exert Group brings together experts from governments, civil society organisations, research institutes and international agencies. They have provided an independent voice on sustainable development for the LDCs, contributing ideas, expertise and challenges to international debates.

The adoption of the SDGs marks the end of an important phase in international development, but work to support the LDCs efforts to achieve the SDGs will continue.

Climate change

The 2015 SDGs define the world's development goals — but climate change could make these goals hugely challenging for the world's Least Developed Countries.

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has given stark warnings about the impacts of climate change on developing countries. These impacts will fall hardest on countries with high poverty and least capacity to adapt.

We have analysed how projected climate change impacts could affect the ability of the LDCs to achieve each SDG. We also identified key policy issues for the LDCS in the run-up to international negotiations in 2015.

Was this page useful to you?