The Economic Challenges of the UN Sustainable Development Goals: a Systems Dynamics approach

  • Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir University of Iceland
  • Harald Sverdrup


This article considers the seventeen UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) and provides an analysis of economic challenges which are largely missing in the discussion to date. Whilst the UN SDGs are a considerable achievement, they do not address the issue of finite natural resources for technology and food production, nor do they address issues of infrastructure and materials. In terms of the social dimensions, diminishing the extensive corruption in the global system and the promotion of social trust, fundamental for functioning democracy, are also in need of urgent attention. Using the WORLD model, we draw up the system that exists in our world and come to preliminary conclusions about changes that are necessary to achieve the goals. Our analysis will show that there are some important missing systemic elements that are needed to deliver the SDGs and we make recommendations on this basis. We propose that achieving these goals depend upon establishing new economic systems, more equitable societies and diverting military funding into SDG achievement.