What are the SDGs?

This is the people’s agenda, a plan of action for ending poverty in all its dimensions, irreversibly, everywhere, and leaving no one behind." Ban Ki-moon

Here are the facts:

  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the set of 17 agreed goals which all 193 UN member states have committed to that will guide policy and funding for the next 15 years.
  • According to the World Bank, around 1 billion people still live in extreme poverty and more than 800 million people do not have enough food to eat.
  • From 2016, all UN member states will mobilise efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

  1. Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  10. Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
  14. Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Building on the success of the Millennium Development Goals

The SDGs replace and build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

  • The MDGs (which were ran between 2000 and 2015) asked all 189 UN member countries to aim to eradicate income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability. 
  • Progress was made on many of the MDGs. For example, the target of reducing extreme poverty rates by half was met five years ahead of the 2015 deadline; enrolment in primary education in developing regions reached 91 per cent in 2015, up from 83 per cent in 2000; and the average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled over the past 20 years.

Learning from our experience:

  • Despite the achievement of the MDGs, many gaps and challenges persist. For example, only a third of countries have achieved universal primary education; 201 million people are unemployed globally; women continue to experience significant gaps in terms of poverty, labour market and wages, as well as participation in private and public decision-making.
  • The MDGs were criticised for not placing enough emphasis on sustainable development, omitting crucial issues such as peace, security and political and cultural rights. Many also feel that they adopted a ‘top-down’ approach, and were more guided by member states in the developing world. 

The universality of the SDGs

  • The SDGs are unique in that they call for action by all countries to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. Launched at a historic UN summit in September 2015, from March 2016 countries will work towards the 17 goals and 169 targets agreed set of indicators.
  • They recognise that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.
  • Although the SDGs are not legally binding, governments are expected to take ownership by establishing national frameworks to achieve the Goals, and have primary responsibility for follow-up and review of the progress made in their implementation through rigorous data collection.