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Redefining Development: The Extraordinary Genesis of the Sustainable Development Goals

Paula Caballero with Patti Londoño
Redefining Development: The Extraordinary Genesis of the Sustainable Development Goals
ISBN: 978-1-955055-25-3
ISBN: 978-1-955055-26-0
ISBN: 978-1-955055-77-2
2022/293 pages/LC: 2021055193
The Policy and Practice of Governance
"Provides an insightful story into international environmental negotiations and. . . a unique perspective on how changes can occur. . . . The book is full of insights, both personal and related to the larger issue of transformative global governance. . . Redefining Development offers innumerable teaching opportunities with its wealth of memorable moments for in-class discussion, a focus on the interesting question about nontraditional actors in negotiations, and the appendices."—Casey Stevens, International Studies Review

"The authors vividly illustrate how a small group of actors punched far above their weight to deliver far-reaching outcomes, and they highlight how individuals and countries can step up 'to fill the collective leadership gap.'. . . [Their book] offers a valuable repertoire of lessons for better understanding the multifaceted dynamics of international diplomacy."—Simon Beaudoin, International Affairs

"This once-in-a-generation detailed insider's look at how a critically important UN decision was made will be valuable to both scholars and students." —Craig Murphy, Wellesley College

"Bridging the worlds of academia and practice, Caballero and Londoño provide illuminative insights on the role of small countries in shaping the UN development agenda in the broader context of the informal processes of multilateral diplomacy." —Jacques Fomerand, former director, UNU Office in North America


This extraordinary first-person story of what can be achieved through informal diplomacy traces the improbably successful struggle to achieve acceptance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—and thus transform the global development agenda—against all odds.

Moving from the framing of the SDGs concept through the entire negotiation process (including a trove of key documents), Paula Caballero and Patti Londoño's vibrant narrative provides rare insight into informal diplomacy and multilateralism in action. Their insiders' account provides a unique perspective on how global movements and agendas can be built and impelled forward. Not least, it also serves to prove that just a few committed individuals can generate radical change.


During the period covered in this book, Paula Caballero was director for economic, social, and environmental affairs, and Patti Londoño was vice minister for multilateral affairs in the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


  • Foreword—Juan Manuel Santos.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals: The Roadmap for Our Time.
  • The Merits of Informal Diplomacy.
  • Getting Governments on Board.
  • Getting the World to Understand the SDGs.
  • Positioning the SDGs.
  • A Tortuous Process.
  • Evolution of the Negotiation Text.
  • Breakthrough in Rio.
  • Creating the Open Working Group.
  • Transformative Implementation.