Transitioning from the MDGs to the SDGs: accountability for the post-2015 era

25 June 2015
The Committee for Development Policy
Core CAP document type: 
Conference document type: 

The success of the post-2015 development agenda depends on adopting global goals for sustainable development and on designing a robust accountability system. All stakeholders should be involved in the accountability framework. While sustainable development goals (SDGs) are universal in character, they need to be adapted to national contexts, according to specific sets of constraints and opportunities. Countries need also to specify their global commitments to create an enabling environment for sustainable development worldwide. The adaptation of global goals into national targets ensures ownership and facilitates answerability, thus promoting an accountability framework that is inclusive, transparent and participatory bottom-up process.

For the past few years, the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) has dedicated significant attention to the possible contours of the upcoming post-2015 UN Development Agenda. During the period 2011-2012, its research work focused on possible principles and policy alternatives at the national level for a post-2015 development agenda. That analysis took into account lessons learnt from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) experience and the key development challenges that have emerged in recent years. In the period 2013-2014, the Committee shifted its focus of attention to the international environment, in particular to how intergovernmental cooperation could be strengthened to better manage the increasing interdependence among countries and reduce large inequalities among and within countries.

While having agreement on which policies would be conducive to faster implementation of the UN development agenda and to sustainable outcomes, as well as consensus on which reforms in the global rules and global governance are necessary, these factors may not be sufficient to guarantee that agreed policies are actually adopted and implemented. A strong monitoring and accountability mechanism needs to be in place to track progress and to hold States and their partners (multilateral organizations, civil society organizations, business sector and private foundations) accountable for their commitments.

The paper is organized as follows: 

  • Section 2 provides a brief overview of the concept of accountability and considers how it can be applied to the international development agenda.
  • Section 3 examines the challenges for effective accountability for the post-2015 agenda. These include ensuring that a multitude of development partners comply with their commitments and responsibilities, most of which are vaguely defined, not clearly delineated, and involve complex interdependences among several agents.
  • Section 4 identifies important lessons learnt with the MDGs. It indicates that while some of these lessons are being applied in the designing of the new agenda and its goals, others are not.
  • Based on the findings of the previous sections, section 5 presents concrete recommendations for effective accountability for the post-2015 era.

Abstract and Introduction to: Transitioning from the MDGs to the SDGs - accountability for the post-2015 era,  background paper #25, Committee for Development Policy, United Nations, June 2015. 


*  Related recent resources from the Committee for Development Policy

  1. Prospects and challenges for graduation of Least Developed Countries, a presentation by Stephan Klasen at the Ministerial Meeting of African LDCs, 8 June, 2015, Milan (download)
  2. Draft ECOSOC resolution (E/RES/2015/L.13) on Report of the Committee for Development Policy on its seventeenth session (download
  3. Statement by Prof Jose Antonio Ocampo at Coordination and Management Meeting of the 2015 session of the ECOSOC, 10 June 2015 (download