A short history of the SDGs

This piece is written by Paula Caballero, Senior Director, Environment, at the World Bank. Paula created the first drafts of the SDGs while Director for Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, and continued to be a key proponent and negotiator in the run-up to the adoption of the post-2015 framework in September 2015. This piece is the second in a series aimed at capturing the inside story of the negotiations for history’s most ambitious development agenda.

Note: These are brief and informal reflections on a long and complex process. No attempt is made to capture the full complexity of the negotiations. I merely seek to share a few highlights of the SDG journey. Only a few names are mentioned as it would be impossible in this short space to give full credit to the many friends and colleagues who made the SDGs a reality.

Shortly after joining the Colombian government as Director of Economic, Social and Environmental Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October 2010 I started to think about Rio+20. It was such an historic opportunity to galvanize global political will around a renewed commitment for an agenda on sustainability and equity. For better or for worse, I was concerned that the entire Conference was to focus on green economy– a concept mired in controversy – and a new international architecture for sustainable development. Neither were particularly compelling for a broad audience. Most importantly, neither had the potential for incentivizing the deep transformations at scale so urgently needed on a planet that is breaching so many boundaries all at once, while remaining stubbornly inequitable at many levels.

Read Paula’s full piece here (PDF)

If you would like to send us your own stories of how the SDGs came to be agreed, or respond to any of the contributions in this series, please send us an email

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