When the Drugs Don’t Work: Antibiotic Resistance as a Global Development Problem

A report on how antibiotic resistance is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Publication details

Title:When the Drugs Don’t Work: Antibiotic Resistance as a Global Development Problem
Author:Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and ReAct
Published:28 February 2019
Licence: All rights reserved

Why is there a need to address antibiotic resistance in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? Because antibiotics play a crucial role in many more areas of life than most people imagine. However, antibiotics are starting to lose their effectiveness due to resistant infections, and the consequences will be far-reaching if decisive and rapid action is not taken globally and systematically.

Antibiotic resistance seriously jeopardises the achievement of several of the SDGs. Therefore, antibiotic resistance must be included in the work on sustainable development, and should be seen as a strong additional reason to urgently increase the work on the SDGs.

Managing antibiotic resistance relies on limiting use of antibiotics, discovery of new antibiotics or alternative ways to treat infectious diseases, but also on preventing infections and limiting spread of resistance. There are no quick fixes: antibiotic resistance is a systems failure and thus all sectors need to contribute to a change and jointly securing that antibiotics remain effective.



This report, co-published by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and ReAct, focuses on the SDGs related to poverty, economic growth, inequality, health, food production and the environment. It presents concrete examples of the underlying and complex aspects of antibiotic resistance and its impacts across different SDGs.

The aim of the report is to inform and stimulate discussions on how to further advance the implementation of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, National Action Plans on Antimicrobial Resistance, as well as work within all sectors that affect and are affected by antibiotic resistance.

Because of its urgency, antibiotic resistance should receive special attention on the national and global levels as a systems failure both in healthcare and agriculture. To limit the effects of antibiotic resistance, it must be considered a critical sustainable development issue. To achieve progress to meet this challenge, political will and action is urgently needed.