New research reveals the UK is not meeting its commitments to the SDGs in 2023

Ahead of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit taking place in New York on 18-19 September, researchers at Newcastle University have released a new analysis of where the UK currently stands in meeting the national and global commitments needed to support the SDGs now we are at the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


The report, The UK’s Response to the SDGs in 2023, is made up of three rapid-response papers suggesting that the UK is not meeting its commitments to the SDGs in 2023.

The report analyses how the UK is placed to respond to each of the UN Secretary General’s guidance points on the commitments that are required from UN member states, whilst making recommendations on how the UK can meet these commitments.

The key commitments, where the UK is at in meeting them, and recommendations from the report include:

1.States should identify and contribute to priority global actions to accelerate the SDGs.

    • Claims that the UK is acting to accelerate the SDGs – e.g. through aid priorities around climate action, education for girls, and food security – are undermined by a lack of engagement with the SDGs in UK reporting and the need to engage more with recipient country priorities.
    • Recent UK commitments to global financial reform commit only to a limited set of piecemeal, market-led reforms.
    • Debt relief and calls for structural reform towards greater equality in the global financial system have also been left unaddressed.


    • The UK should undertake a more detailed analysis of its global impacts and outputs of its UK aid priorities (climate action, girl’s education, food security) in SDG terms.
    • The UK should engage much more with voices from lower-income countries calling for radical reform of the global financial system, and address debt relief.

2.States should establish a domestic poverty benchmark for reducing poverty by 2030.

    • Poverty rates in the UK have shown no sign of reduction since 2015. Though poverty is a persistent problem for the UK, there is no UK benchmark (though the situation is different in Scotland and Wales).
    • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has responsibilities for poverty reduction, but its performance indicators miss the emphasis on multidimensional poverty in the SDG target.
    • For child poverty, Scotland and Wales do have statutory benchmarks, but the DWP does not measure its performance in terms of child poverty.
    • The recent Levelling Up White Paper does have time-bound SDG-relevant targets (‘missions’) that reflect aspects of multidimensional poverty.


    • The UK should develop and deepen the Levelling Up strategy into a set of multidimensional poverty benchmarks and strategies that:

(I) address the “headline” ambition of the SDG poverty target in the UK whilst

(ii) re-committing to new poverty metrics that can track these refined objectives and strategies.

3.States should make SDG achievement more central to national planning and oversight


    • The absence of domestic institution-building for the SDGs calls into question the UK’s stated commitment to the SDGs, misses an opportunity to enhance partnerships, and undermines UK leadership.


    • This research recommends that the UK undertakes learning from partner countries and adopts mechanisms, including those mentioned in the 2019 Voluntary National Review, to enable coordination and strengthen policy coherence across government and engagement with stakeholders on the SDGs.

Read the full analysis online.