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Leaving no one behind: A critical path for the first 1,000 days of the Sustainable Development Goals

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Key messages
• The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be met if the poorest and most marginalised people continue to be left behind by progress. Efforts to ensure that no one is left behind are vital in the first 1,000 days – or three years – of the SDGs: the longer governments take to act, the harder it will be to deliver on their promises by 2030.
• If sub–Saharan Africa (SSA) is to eliminate ultra poverty, for example – that is people living on less than just $1 a day (2011 PPP), an estimate of the minimum survival level – by 2030, its current progress needs to be nearly twice as fast, rising to over three times as fast if no action is taken in the next six years. If nothing happens until 2024 or 2027, the region will need to speed up progress by factors of 4.5 and nearly 8 respectively – a formidable task.
• There is clear alignment between the leave no one behind agenda and what marginalised people say they want from their governments: better services such as universal health coverage and rural electrification; greater public awareness, such as creating environments where all girls are expected to go to school; and institutional and legal reform, including the extension
of a minimum wage to informal workers, or the introduction of women’s land rights.
• The total cost of leaving no one behind in health, education and social protection across the 75 countries for which we have data is an annual average of $739 billion. Of these, the 30 low-income countries (LICs) will require an additional $70 billion each year to meet these costs. In the case of the 45 middle-income countries (MICs), governments are generating enough
public revenues to meet these costs: the challenge is their allocation.
• The benefits of leaving no one behind include solid returns. Evidence suggests an additional dollar invested in high-quality pre-schools delivers a return of anywhere between $6 and $17 (Engle et al., 2011).

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