2016 was a year full of action, excitement and surprises in the arena of sustainable development. SDSN launched a new SDG Index and Dashboards, rolled out new courses at the SDG Academy, hosted several successful international conferences and more. Some of the key highlights are summarized below.


The World Happiness Report 2016 Update, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels, was released in Rome on March 16th in advance of UN World Happiness Day, March 20th. The widespread interest in the World Happiness Reports, of which this is the fourth, reflected growing global interest in using happiness and subjective well-being as primary indicators of the quality of human development.


In the spring of 2016, SDSN, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the SDG Charter, and the European Economic and Social Committee jointly convened a multi-stakeholder meeting in Brussels to explore the question of how to make the SDGs “Europe’s business” and position the EU as a key leader in sustainable development.


The summer got off to a great start with some hot new releases including the SDG Index and Dashboards, launched in partnership with The Bertelsmann Stiftung, one of the largest foundations in Germany. The Index and Dashboards will assist countries in operationalizing the SDGs using data available today.

In July, the SDSN, Ford Foundation, the Office of the Mayor of New York City, and 100 Resilient Cities co-convened a workshop on SDG localization. The workshop provided an opportunity to reflect on a range of practical tools to support implementation, including a new SDSN guide for cities getting started with the SDGs.

The new SDG 16 Data Initiative, on which SDSN collaborated, showcased currently available data on all SDG 16 targets. The global data compiled and presented on the SDG16 website were selected from a variety of official and nongovernmental sources by specialists from fourteen independent organizations.


During the September Leadership Council meeting, the SDG Academy was launched. It now has 10 courses and has reached 125,000 students worldwide.

During the same week the 4th Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development featured several high-level speakers, including Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica and Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway. The conference had over 1,000 people in attendance for the second year in a row.

Later in the fall of 2016, the global urban community came together in South America for two milestone events: the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, in Bogota, Colombia, and Habitat III, in Quito, Ecuador. Following the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, Habitat III presented a unique opportunity for the world’s cities to signal their commitment to a more sustainable world and to assert their role in delivering it.

In November, the Government of Morocco, SDSN, WBCSD and ICLEI co-hosted the COP22 Low-Emissions Solutions Conference. Cities, business, academics and government came together to scale up solutions for climate action at COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, and accelerate the implementation of the historic Paris Agreement.

The Jeffrey Cheah Foundation generously provided a $10 million Gift to SDSN and launched the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University in Malaysia in December of 2016.

Finally, SDSN Youth had an instrumental year in the expansion of their network and activities. They are now operating with 60+ core youth, in 40+ countries, on a variety of initiatives including Local Pathways Fellowship, Global Schools Program, Vatican Youth Symposium, TwentyThirty and the Youth Solutions Report.