The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda has its origins in decades of work at the United Nations on sustainable development. In reviewing the progress towards fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) launched in 2000, in 2010 governments called both for accelerated progress on the MDGs and for new ways to advance the UN development agenda beyond 2015.

Unlike the drafting of the MDGs, the SDGs were a product of extensive Member State deliberation and stakeholder engagement over two years. In 2012, the Rio+20 Conference (the 20th anniversary to the 1992 Rio "Earth Summit") established a 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) on SDGs to gather wide stakeholder input into possible successors to the MDGs. The OWG met over 13 sessions between March 2013 and July 2014 and drafted the 17 Goals and 169 Targets. This resulting 2030 sustainable development agenda is the UN's most ambitious vision for sustainable development to date.