Smart Development Goals

‘In a world of limited resources, we can’t do everything, so which goals should we prioritize? The Copenhagen Consensus Center provides information on which targets will do the most social good (measured in dollars, but also incorporating e.g. welfare, health and environmental protection), relative to their costs.’ Copenhagen Consensus

More recently the UN sustainable development goals have been ratified.  This expands the Millennium Development Goals to include energy and the environment.   There are 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets.

“The expert analyses suggest that if the UN concentrates on 19 top targets, it can get $20 to $40 in social benefits per dollar spent, while allocating it evenly across all 169 targets would reduce the figure to less than $10. Being smart about spending could be better than doubling or quadrupling the aid budget” – Bjorn  Lomborg.

The 19 ‘smart targets’ – benefit to cost ratios greater than 15 – from the Copenhagen Consensus are listed below with links to the analysis.

The 19 Copenhagen Consensus ‘smart targets’ are the most valuable of the 169 UN sustainability targets.  The 19 smart targets maximise the benefit of the $700-billion that the world will spend on economic aid to 2030.


Lower chronic child malnutrition by 40%
Halve malaria infection
Reduce tuberculosis deaths by 90%
Avoid 1.1 million HIV infections through circumcision
Cut early death from chronic diseases by 1/3
Reduce newborn mortality by 70%
Increase immunization to reduce child deaths by 25%
Make family planning available to everyone
Eliminate violence against women and girls


Phase out fossil fuel subsidies
Halve coral reef loss
Tax pollution damage from energy
Cut indoor air pollution by 20%


Reduce trade restrictions (full Doha)
Improve gender equality in ownership, business and politics
Boost agricultural yield increase by 40%
Increase girls’ education by 2 years
Achieve universal primary education in sub-Saharan Africa
Triple preschool in sub-Saharan Africa

Reaching these global targets by 2030 will do more than $15 of good for every dollar spent.

The site more generally discusses technical, economic and institutional design factors that must come together to build peaceful and prosperous communities this century and to have an ecologically vibrant world.  There is a linked Facebook page – that I have called An Australian Iriai.  Iriai is a Japanese word meaning to enter into the joint use of resources. There are ways to a bright future for the planet, its peoples and its wild places – but these need to be consciously designed in  a broad context of economics and democracy, population, development, technical innovation, land use and the environment.