Sustainable Development Goals

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Logo of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development'

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a proposed set of targets relating to future international development. They are to replace the Millennium Development Goals once they expire at the end of 2015. The SDGs were first formally discussed at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 (Rio+20).

On 19 July 2014, the UN General Assembly's Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG) forwarded a proposal for the SDGs to the Assembly. The proposal contained 17 goals with 169 targets covering a broad range of sustainable development issues. These included ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests.[1] On 4 December 2014, the UN General Assembly accepted the Secretary-General's Synthesis Report which stated that the agenda for the post-2015 SDG process would be based on the OWG proposals.[2]

The Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Post 2015 Development Agenda (IGN) began on January 2015 and ended August 2015. Following the negotiations, a final document was prepared for adoption in the UN Sustainable Development Summit September 25th-27th, 2015 in New York, USA.[3] The title of the agenda is Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development[4]


Up to 2015, the development agenda was centred on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were officially established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations (UN) in 2000. The MDGs encapsulated eight globally agreed goals in the areas of poverty alleviation, education, gender equality and empowerment of women, child and maternal health, environmental sustainability, reducing HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases, and building a global partnership for development.

The MDGs were supposed to be achieved by 2015 so a further process was needed to agree and develop development goals from 2015-2030. Discussion on the post 2015 framework for international development began well in advance. Formal debate concerning the SDGs first occurred at the 2012 United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro.[5] The 192 UN member states agreed at the Rio+20 summit to start a process of designing sustainable development goals, which are “action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities”.[6]

The Rio+20 outcome document, “The Future We Want”, called for the goals to be integrated into the UN’s post-2015 Development Agenda.[7]

Proposed Goals[edit]

Further information: Post-2015 Development Agenda

On 2nd of Aug 2015 193 countries arrived at a consensus on [8] the following 17 proposed goals:[9]

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

As at August 2015, there were 169 proposed targets for these goals and 304 proposed indicators to show compliance.[10]

The Post-2015 development agenda process[edit]

Since Rio+20 did not elaborate specific goals, a 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) was established on 22 January 2013 by the decision of the UN General Assembly. The OWG is tasked with preparing a proposal on the SDGs for consideration during the 68th session of the General Assembly, September 2013 – September 2014.[11]

The OWG used a constituency-based system of representation, which meant that most of the seats in the working group are shared by several countries. After 13 sessions, the OWG submitted their proposal of 17 SDGs and 169 targets to the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in September, 2014.[12]

The Rio+20 outcome document stated that, “at the outset, the OWG will decide on its methods of work, including developing modalities to ensure the full involvement of relevant stakeholders and expertise from civil society, the scientific community and the United Nations system in its work, in order to provide a diversity of perspectives and experience”.[7]

2014 International Symposium[edit]

The International Symposium on the Post 2015 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals scheduled for Sydney, Australia on the 12 and 13 November 2014 was cancelled. Matthew Tukaki, Chairman of Sustain Group announced that in the context of a $7.6 Billion cut in aid from the Australian budget, phased in over five years.[13]

The specific details of the Sustainable Development Goals have not yet been finalised. Delegates from the different countries have expressed differing priorities about what the SDGs should achieve. To move towards agreement on the specifics, the United Nations have scheduled a conference for September 2015, to be held in New York.[5]

World We Want 2015[edit]

The World We Want 2015 is a platform and joint venture currently being used to create a new global development framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals. It bases its work off of the priorities of the people closest to the problems and focuses on local development.

Paris climate deal and the SDGs[edit]

Nations and other parties negotiating at the UN have highlighted the links between the post-2015 SDG process, the Funding for Development process to be concluded in Addis Ababa in July and the COP 21 Climate Change conference in Paris in December. A recent analysis report concluded that only a high ambition climate deal in Paris in 2015 will enable countries to reach the sustainable development goals and targets. It also states that tackling climate change will only be possible if the SDGs are met; and that development and climate are inextricably linked, particularly around poverty, gender equality and energy. [14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Press release - UN General Assembly’s Open Working Group proposes sustainable development goals, 19. July 2014
  2. ^ Synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development". United Nations - Sustainable Development knowledge platform. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Ferdinando Giugliano (15 Jan 2015). "Lobby groups launch global anti-poverty campaign" ((registration required)). Financial Times. Retrieved 12 Feb 2015. 
  6. ^ UN General Assembly Creates Key Group on Rio+20 Follow-up, Press Release United Nations Division for Sustainable Development, retrieved 26 February 2013.
  7. ^ a b The Future We Want, Outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, retrieved 26 February 2013.
  8. ^ "Consensus Reached on New Sustainable Development Agenda to be adopted by World Leaders in September". Retrieved 5 Aug 2015. 
  9. ^ "Open Working Group proposal for Sustainable Development Goals". UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  10. ^ "Technical report by the Bureau of the United Nation s Statistical Commission (UNSC) on the process of the development of an indicator f ramework for the goals and targets of the post-2015 development agenda - working draft" (PDF). March 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  11. ^ New open working group to propose sustainable development goals for action by general assembly’s sixty-eighth session, Press Release United Nations, retrieved 26 February 2013.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Tukaki, Matthew. "Cancellation of the International Symposium on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post 2015 Agenda: Announcement from the Chair, Matthew Tukaki". linkedin. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  14. ^ Ansuategi, A; Greño, P; Houlden, V et al. (May 2015). "The impact of climate change on the achievement of the post-2015 sustainable development goals" (PDF). CDKN & HR Wallingford. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 

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