The concept of ‘sustainable livelihoods’ is increasingly important in the development debate. This paper outlines a framework for analysing sustainable livelihoods, defined here in relation to five key indicators. The framework shows how, in different contexts, sustainable livelihoods are achieved through access to a range of livelihood resources (natural, economic, human and social capitals) which are combined in the pursuit of different livelihood strategies (agricultural intensification or extensification, livelihood diversification and migration). Central to the framework is the analysis of the range of formal and informal organisational and institutional factors that influence sustainable livelihood outcomes. In conclusion, the paper briefly considers some of the practical, methodological and operational implications of a sustainable livelihoods approach.