Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): IIED and the new global agenda on sustainable development

In September 2015, the global community agreed the Sustainable Development Goals, setting out new development priorities for all countries, post-2015. The 17 new goals have been designed to integrate global ambitions on tackling poverty, reducing inequality, combating climate change, and protecting ecosystems including oceans, forests and biodiversity. It is an ambitious and universal agenda.

Article, 15 March 2016

Animated explainer: the SDGs in three minutes

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and set the direction for the post-2015 agenda, do not stand alone. 

The new international development framework also incorporates the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, agreed in July 2015, the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, which will replace the current UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2020, and a new international agreement on disaster reduction and relief, the Sendai Framework.

Far more than any previous international framework, the SDGs reflect the vision of sustainable development that IIED has pursued over the last 40 years. But the global progress suggested by the SDGs is fragile, and will only be sustained through concerted effort by many actors

While virtually every aspect of IIED's programme can be linked to aims and values articulated in the new global agenda, IIED is also working with partners on several initiatives that explicitly explore the potential of the SDGs and related instruments to accelerate progress on sustainable development at national and local levels.

Supporting effective evaluation

Evaluation processes will play a key role in the follow-up and review systems for the SDGs. IIED is promoting effective evaluation in partnership with EVALSDGs (Evaluation – adding Value And Learning to the SDGs), a network of policymakers, institutions and practitioners that advocates for evaluation.

IIED and EVALSDGs have published a series of briefing papers on evaluation making the case for greater use of evaluation and evaluative thinking in follow-up and review processes, especially at the national and sub-national levels. 

The papers are designed to be accessible and useful to a wide audience: they use clear language and avoid technical jargon. Each briefing will be translated initially into French, Portuguese and Spanish, and other languages when possible.

Convening expertise from around the world

IIED is co-convener, along with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), of the Independent Research Forum (IRF), a partnership of 10 leading sustainable development research institutes and think tanks from across the world. 

IRF provides an independent source of critical thinking, integrated analysis and awareness-raising on the SDGs and other aspects of the new global agenda.

IIED has also convened the Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group (IEG), an informal group of individuals with experience in diverse aspects of sustainable development. Through the generation and sharing of ideas and approaches relevant to the local contexts, the group aims to build ambition and capacity for sustainable development in less developed countries.   

Understanding the political dimension of the SDGs

Countries will not shift to sustainable development pathways simply because they have signed on to the SDGs; real progress will require political support and citizen demand. 

In order to understand how such support and demand are generated, IIED is looking at the political economy of the SDGs through interviews with key actors in specific countries and around the world. Findings from this research have been documented through a briefing paper and a short case study of Jamaica.

Moving from aspiration to action

On those aspects of the SDGs where IIED has particular expertise, it is looking at what is needed to translate broad goals into concrete policies and actions. Current areas of research include creating incentives for sustainable oceans (SDG 14); meeting the water and sanitation targets at scale (SDG 6); and achieving the SDG aim of leaving no one behind in specific contexts.

Further reading:

Before the SDGs were adopted

IIED has been engaging with the aspirations captured in the 17 SDGs in a variety of ways for many years. In the run-up to the United Nations formally adopting the SDGs, IIED released an animation about the goals and their potential to transform the lives of people round the globe, and recorded a series of video interviews on the theme "Understanding the SDGs". These short films featured researchers and partners analysing the aspirations of the SDGs and the challenges of bringing them into reality.


Tom Bigg ([email protected]), head of IIED's Strategy and Learning Group