Leave No One Behind section banner shows a child practices his writing during a kindergarten class in Tachilek, Myanmar.

Leave No One Behind

Photo: © UN Photo/Kibae Park

Universal Values
Principle Two: Leave No One Behind

Leave no one behind (LNOB) is the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It represents the unequivocal commitment of all UN Member States to eradicate poverty in all its forms, end discrimination and exclusion, and reduce the inequalities and vulnerabilities that leave people behind and undermine the potential of individuals and of humanity as a whole. 

LNOB not only entails reaching the poorest of the poor, but requires combating discrimination and rising inequalities within and amongst countries, and their root causes.  A major cause of people being left behind is persistent forms of discrimination, including gender discrimination, which leaves individuals, families and whole communities marginalized, and excluded. It is grounded in the UN’s normative standards that are foundational principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international human rights law and national legal systems across the world.  
LNOB compels us to focus on discrimination and inequalities (often multiple and intersecting) that undermine the agency of people as holders of rights.  Many of the barriers people face in accessing services, resources and equal opportunities are not simply accidents of fate or a lack of availability of resources, but rather the result of discriminatory laws, policies and social practices that leave particular groups of people further and further behind.  

The UN approach to leaving no one behind is set out in the Shared Framework on Leaving No One Behind: Equality and Non-Discrimination at the Heart of Sustainable Development, endorsed by the Chief Executives Board in November 2016. This includes a shared framework for action to ensure the UN System puts the imperative to combat inequalities and discrimination at the forefront of United Nations efforts to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

Operationalizing the commitment to LNOB at the country level requires a comprehensive approach with a series of steps, including identifying who is being left behind and why; identifying effective measures to address root causes; monitoring and measuring progress; and ensuring accountability for LNOB. Ensuring free, active and meaningful participation of all stakeholders, particularly those left behind is a key component of all steps and phases of policy, planning and programming for LNOB. The UNSDG Operational Guide for UNCTs on Leaving No One Behind provides a framework for: 

  • Operationalizing the LNOB pledge to leave no one behind using a step-by-step approach. 
  • Adapting and employing relevant tools from across the UN System to assess who is left behind and why; sequencing & prioritizing solutions; tracking and monitoring progress; and ensuring follow-up and review.
  • Integrating this methodology into UN programming and policy support for Member States.  

Identifying inequalities and discrimination requires the generation of evidence and data collection and disaggregation that go beyond gender, geography and age, to include all grounds of discrimination prohibited under international law, ensuring that all forms of discrimination and other root causes of inequalities are identified and addressed. The human rights-based approach to data helps in ensuring the use of data and statistics is consistent with international human rights norms and principles, including for participation, self-identification, transparency, privacy and accountability.  

LNOB is one of the six Guiding Principles of the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework. The Companion Piece on the Guiding Principles provides guidance to United Nations country teams on application of the LNOB in the context of the Cooperation Framework.