Off to a strong start: putting the Sustainable Development Goals into practice

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Call for Regional Papers

Please note we are no longer accepting proposals. Selected authors will receive notice by 16 October.

Background on the issue

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), establishing a new round of development targets for the world to meet by 2030. Much of the focus to date has been on what the goals should be. But how they are implemented – what policies and actions will drive progress – is just as, and perhaps ultimately, more important.

The negotiation process has drawn to a close at the United Nations and an agreement on the new declaration and goals is expected for September 2015 during the 70th Regular Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 70). Once agreement is reached, the focus will be on how to implement such a comprehensive agenda during the next 15 years. In particular, there is an urgent need to prioritise action for the most marginalized people, to ensure that progress leaves no one behind.

Implementing this ambitious agenda will bring challenges at the national, regional and international level of a broader scale than those of the original MDGs, with efforts to go the last mile being particularly important to SDG success. From the experience of the MDGs, it is clear that getting off to a strong start is essential. It is critical to take advantage of the momentum of the new political agreement and take forward initial actions that will set the stage for implementation in the coming decade.

Background on the initiative

To maximize the potential of the first months and years after the new SDGs are launched, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Southern Voice on Post-MDG International Development Goals (SV), along with other partners, will work together on a set of research and events focused on identifying priority early actions on the SDGs – a 1000-day agenda of sorts. Research to identify key actions toward addressing the unfinished business of the MDGs and how to reach those who are furthest behind in relation to the new goals will be invaluable to informing proposed priority actions.

A series of research papers is being prepared to help frame broader discussions on prioritization, and will serve as background to three regional dialogues taking place across Africa, Asia and Latin America between January and April 2016, followed by a global flagship event on SDG implementation later in 2016.


This series of papers will provide input to a wider conversation around priority actions for the first three years of the SDGs – just over 1000 days – with relevant stakeholders in each region. Furthermore, the papers will serve as inputs for a global report to inform proposed early actions in the first years of the SDG era. By identifying possible windows of opportunity for significant change, along with current constraints, an agenda for action focused on each region’s particular needs can begin to be debated.

Through this call, we aim to commission research that:

  • Takes an African, Asian or Latin American lens to the question of SDG implementation with a particular focus on leaving no one behind;
  • Focuses on one of the three pillars of sustainable development addressed through goals and targets – the economic, social or environmental – recognizing their integrated nature where relevant;
  • Discusses progress across the region in relation to select goals and targets, using available data to specifically look at unfinished business on the MDGs, where relevant, as well as countries and groups that are likely to be left behind for the SDGs;
  • Identifies priority actions in terms of means of implementation for these issues, which could include policies, institutions, financing, or other key aspects;
  • Focuses on national action which could be applicable in multiple countries in the region, but with an eye to how regional and global mechanisms and processes could support these.

While we ask that papers concentrate broadly within the economic, social or environmental pillars, it is expected that authors be selective to some of the most relevant issues for the region and not necessarily cover each related goal or target.


Up to three (3) papers will be commissioned for each region, with one each covering the economic, social and environmental themes. Papers will draw both on current policy and academic literature, involve interviews and/or focus groups, and be well sourced. Data used would likely be administrative or secondary data rather than primary. The research will not necessarily include field work, but can if the author’s approach, as well as time and budget, allow. They are expected to be from 10,000 to 15,000 words in length.

Quality assurance

The proposed documents, like all other outputs produced by Southern Voice and ODI, will have a complete peer review process that will include internal and external revisions. The author is expected to use such reviews to improve and strengthen the regional proposal to fulfill the quality requirements of this initiative.

Requirements for application

The call is open to researchers based in Africa, Asia or Latin America that are part of or affiliated to a think tank or research centre in the region. We highly encourage collaboration across fields or countries, and the participation of members of the Southern Voice network in the research teams. That said, while this call is being made in partnership with the Southern Voice network, institutions or individuals do not need to be members of this network to apply.


The research will take place during the second half of 2015, and authors will adhere to the following timeline:

Last day to submit proposals: 2 October
Notice to selected authors: 16 October
First draft due: 27 November
Second draft due: 22 January
Final draft due: 12 February

These papers will be used and discussed as background papers to a series of regional dialogues planned for Africa, Asia and Latin America taking place in early 2016. Authors (one per paper) would be invited to present at these dialogues.

Research proposal

Interested authors must submit a proposal of not more than 2000 words for the selection process. These proposals should include:

  1. Selected pillar, including brief discussion of key related issues for the region, along with specific goals and targets to be focused on, including justification;
  2. Identification of marginalised sections of society which are of concern in terms of ‘leave no one behind’ – both within countries and between countries in the region;
  3. Possible priority actions that could be identified in the course of the research and how these fit with means of implementation issues;
  4. Methodology and approach to be employed for the research, including a brief overview of data, literature, and interviewees to be consulted;
  5. Author(s)/research team and institutional affiliation, including an explanation of experience in the region, on the selected theme, and in preparing policy papers. An overview of the planned budget and indication of recipient of funds (whether institutional or individual) is also requested.

Selection criteria

Selection of proposals will be made by a small committee of at least 3 reviewers comprised of members of the Southern Voice Steering Committee and ODI senior staff. Criteria for selection include:

  • Links to current global, regional and domestic policy agendas;
  • Initial ideas for priority actions and their promise for further development;
  • Quality of data, literature and interviewees proposed;
  • Relevant experience of author(s)/research team.


Up to US$10,000 per paper. Half of the final amount will be dispersed on receipt of a first draft meeting basic quality and length requirements. The remainder is to be dispersed on receipt of the final draft.


For questions and submissions, please contact Suzi Nandera at ODI and Andrea Ordóñez at Southern Voice, directing your submissions to them both: and

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