Updated Study of Capacities and Functions of the UN Development System to Accelerate Progress on the SDGs


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development established a comprehensive and intertwined set of goals with ambitious targets for social, economic and environmental progress. Recognizing the need for integrated solutions, the UN General Assembly also adopted a plan in 2018 for the repositioning of the UN development system (UNDS) to enhance its capacities to help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The 2023 SDG Summit, held at the half-way mark to the target year of 2030, heard that progress towards the achievement of the SDGs has been limited. Only about 12% of SDG targets are on track, while 30% have shown no progress or regressed. (1) Multiple shocks and crises have hampered progress and threaten to derail the achievement of the SDGs.

Bold actions are needed by Member States and other actors to meet the Goals by 2030. More will be needed, too, from the UNDS, to champion and support SDG acceleration.

This study, prepared at the request of the Secretary-General following discussions in the UN Sustainable Development Group, presents an updated analysis of the UN development system’s capacity to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, together with recommendations for how the UNDS could substantially enhance its capacities. The study makes comparisons with a similar study conducted by Dalberg in 2017; reflects on progress achieved since the repositioning in 2019; examines the system’s ability to deploy its collective capacities to offer integrated policy advice and support for building resilience to current and future shocks; and identifies opportunities to make step changes in UNDS capabilities and effectiveness. The findings are based on data provided by UNDS entities about allocations of their expenditures and personnel, on responses to qualitative surveys of all UNDS entities and resident coordinators (RCs), on interviews with senior leaders of UNDS entities and RCs, and on past reports (both internal and external, and including surveys conducted for the quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR). 


(1) Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Towards a Rescue Plan for People and Planet. Report of the Secretary-General (Special Edition) (2023).