A New Sustainable Development Agenda

Voices around the world are demanding leadership on poverty, inequality and climate change. To turn these demands into actions, world leaders gathered on 25 September, 2015, at the United Nations in New York to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2030 Agenda comprises 17  new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will guide policy and funding for the next 15 years, beginning with a historic pledge to end poverty. Everywhere. Permanently.


The concept of the SDGs was born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, in 2012. The objective was to produce a set of universally applicable goals that balances the three dimensions of sustainable development: environmental, social, and economic.

The SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which in September 2000 rallied the world around a common 15-year agenda to tackle the indignity of poverty.

The MDGs established measurable, universally-agreed objectives for eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly but treatable disease, and expanding educational opportunities to all children, among other development imperatives.

The MDGs drove progress in several important areas:

  • Income poverty
  • Access to improved sources of water
  • Primary school enrollment
  • Child mortality

With the job unfinished for millions of people—we need to go the last mile on ending hunger, achieving full gender equality, improving health services and getting every child into school. Now we must shift the world onto a sustainable path. The SDGs aim to do just that, with 2030 as the target date.

This new development agenda applies to all countries, promotes peaceful and inclusive societies, creates better jobs and tackles the environmental challenges of our time—particularly climate change.

The SDGs must finish the job that the MDGs started, and leave no one behind.

What is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

At the Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015, UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.

The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets that the world committed to achieving by 2015. The MDGs, adopted in 2000, aimed at an array of issues that included slashing poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, and access to water and sanitation. Enormous progress has been made on the MDGs, showing the value of a unifying agenda underpinned by goals and targets. Despite this success, the indignity of poverty has not been ended for all.

The new SDGs, and the broader sustainability agenda, go much further than the MDGs, addressing the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people.

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark noted: "This agreement marks an important milestone in putting our world on an inclusive and sustainable course. If we all work together, we have a chance of meeting citizens’ aspirations for peace, prosperity, and wellbeing, and to preserve our planet."

The SDGs will now finish the job of the MDGs, and ensure that no one is left behind.

What are the SDGs?

All 17 SDGs are connected to UNDP’s Strategic Plan focus areas: sustainable development, democratic governance and peacebuilding, and climate and disaster resilience. Goals Number 1 on poverty, Number 10 on inequality and Number 16 on governance are particularly central to UNDP’s current work and long-term plans. 

Having an integrated approach to supporting progress across the multiple goals is crucial to achieving the SDGs, and UNDP is uniquely placed to support that process.

What is UNDP's Role in the SDGs?

UNDP can support, and is already supporting, countries in three different ways, through the MAPS approach: mainstreaming, acceleration and policy support.

This sees us:

  • Providing support to governments to reflect the new global agenda in national development plans and policies. This work is already underway in many countries at national request;
  • Supporting countries to accelerate progress on SDG targets. In this, we will make use of our extensive experience over the past five years with the MDG Acceleration Framework; and
  • Making the UN’s policy expertise on sustainable development and governance available to governments at all stages of implementation.

Collectively, all partners can support communication of the new agenda, strengthening partnerships for implementation, and filling in the gaps in available data for monitoring and review. As Co-Chair of the UNDG Sustainable Development Working Group, UNDP will lead the preparation of Guidelines for National SDG Reports which are relevant and appropriate for the countries in which we work.

UNDP is deeply involved in all processes around the SDG roll out. The guidance and tools being developed will be shared as they become available. As well, we are bringing our extensive programming experience to bear in supporting countries to develop their national SDG efforts.

Conversation with Haoliang and Nicholas on SDG implementation

In Asia and the Pacific, UNDP will continue to support governments in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, while focusing on issues such as urbanization, job creation for youth, and inequality; all seen as key challenges, says the agency’s top leadership in the region.

In this interview, watch Haoliang Xu, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, and Nicholas Rosellini, Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific and Director, Bangkok Regional Hub, speaking from the ministerial meeting to mark 50 years of UNDP, held in New York last month.

The March meeting brought together representatives of more than 120 countries, including Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers from over 80 UN Member States to chart a course for the future of global development.