RELEASE: Will the Sustainable Development Goals Leave Fragile States Behind?

Washington, D.C. — As United Nations member states negotiate the global development agenda for the next 15 years—known as the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs—the risk is increasing that the most vulnerable groups in fragile and conflict-affected states will be left behind by this ambitious agenda.

This is one of the key findings from a new report, “Fragile Progress,” by the Center for American Progress and Save the Children. “Fragile Progress” explores the records of 55 fragile states in meeting the current Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, and compares the record of these different countries against a variety of other factors to determine if certain broad conditions were more or less correlated with relative progress on the MDGs.

“The very concerning track record of fragile states has been obscured to a degree by the broad overall success of the MDGs,” said John Norris, Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at CAP. “With the negotiations for the Sustainable Development Goals at a critical moment, we need to understand that we simply cannot end extreme poverty if we leave fragile and conflict-affected states behind—and we are at a real risk of doing so.”

“This time with the SDGs, we must reach the kids in the most vulnerable places first and not last,” said Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children. “Governments must commit concrete actions and resources to marginalized groups, otherwise ‘leave no one behind’ remains just words on paper.”

Key points include:

  • Thirty-seven of the 55 countries achieved 2 or fewer of the 15 relevant Millennium Development Goal targets or were so incomplete in official data that it was impossible to determine their progress.
  • On average, countries met two targets, meaning that slightly better than 13 percent of the total targets were met across the 55 countries.
  • Bolstering the capability and effectiveness of institutions remains crucial to end conflict and promote durable stability. Corruption and weak governance were some of the factors most heavily associated with the failure of fragile states to make progress against the MDG targets.

The report concludes that the SDGs should embrace more sharply drawn, realistic, and measurable targets to drive progress in fragile states. The authors also note the most dramatic gains often occurred when specific and appropriate interventions were targeted at traditionally marginalized or vulnerable populations.

Click here to read the report.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at  or 202.481.7141.