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The post-2015 development goals

In 2000, the world signed up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These are a set of eight goals and 18 associated targets for human development, to be achieved by the end of 2015. As the deadline for meeting these goals approaches, attention has turned to what should replace them.

The next generation of development goals

In July 2014, a UN General Assembly 'Open Working Group' published proposals for a "set of goals that consider economic, social and environmental dimensions to improve people's lives and protect the planet for future generations".

The Working Group proposed 17 'Sustainable Development Goals' (SDGs) to be attained by 2030, each with a number of associated targets (169 in total).

What's new?

What else, apart the obvious increase in the number of goals and associated targets, is likely to be new about the SDGs? We can be confident that they will involve a greater integration of developmental and environmental objectives. Although there are bound to be criticisms that this has not gone far enough.

Several issues which were felt to be marginalised by the MDGs, such as reducing inequality and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, will also feature more prominently. And there will be a renewed focus on encouraging new sources of finance. While remaining important, aid is likely to become a smaller part of the overall pot, and private sector investment and philanthropy is expected to play a more significant role.

There are also hopes that the SDG process will reflect greater developing-country ownership and promote a more 'bottom-up' approach to international development.


The proposed SDGs have been criticised for their number and complexity. It is argued that this could undermine efforts to monitor and communicate progress against them, and hinder efforts to identify and prioritise the most important objectives.

There are also concerns that some goals, particularly the one to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, are unrealistically ambitious. It is also pointed out that further development, particularly in middle- and high-income countries, will involve complex trade-offs between growth, equality and sustainability that cannot properly be addressed through quantitative measures.

These and other concerns have led some to conclude that the SDGs could play a more marginal role than their predecessors.

Next steps

The UN General Assembly agreed in September 2014 that the SDG proposals should be the "main basis" for the inter-governmental negotiation process, which has been underway since then. Two summits during 2015 are likely to be of critical importance to the process.

  • July 2015. Addis Ababa. International conference on financing for development. Commitments on funding for implementation of SDGs.
  • September 2015. UN General Assembly (New York). Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda. Final goals likely to be formally agreed.

Running parallel to the post-2015 SDG process, it is hoped that an effective global agreement to tackle climate change for the post-2020 period can be reached at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Paris in December 2015.


Party Lines

  • Conservatives: aid budget will meet OECD rules
  • Greens: increase aid budget to 1.0% of GDP
  • Labour: will protect the international development budget
  • Liberal democrats: continue to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid
  • UKIP: will abolish DfID

Current Briefing Papers

The Key Issues articles were published in May 2015. However, the Commons Library producesnew briefings as topics evolve.

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Key Issues 2015

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