Sustainable Development Goals

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The Sustainable Development Goals are a UN Initiative.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), officially known as Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, are an intergovernmental set of aspiration Goals with 169 targets. The Goals are contained in paragraph 54 United Nations Resolution A/RES/70/1 of 25 September 2015.[1] The Resolution is a broader intergovernmental agreement that, while acting as the Post 2015 Development Agenda (successor to the Millennium Development Goals), builds on the Principles agreed upon under Resolution A/RES/66/288, popularly known as The Future We Want.[2]

On 19 July 2014, the UN General Assembly's Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 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.[3] On 5 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.[4]

The Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Post 2015 Development Agenda (IGN) began in January 2015 and ended in August 2015. Following the negotiations, a final document was adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit September 25–27, 2015 in New York, USA.[5] The title of the agenda is Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development[6][7]

Goals 1-6 directly address health disparities, primarily in developing countries.[8] These six goals address key issues in global public health and public health: Poverty, Hunger and food security, Health, Education, Gender equality and women's empowerment, and water and sanitation.


The history of the SDGs can be traced to 1972 when governments met under the auspices of the United Nations Human and Environment Conference, to consider the rights of the human family to a healthy and productive environment.[9] It was not until 1983 that the United Nations agreed to create the World Commission on Environment and Development as an independent body of the UN. In 1992 the first UN conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio. It was here that the first agenda for Environment and Development was developed and adopted, also known as Agenda 21. Twenty years later, a resolution, known as The Future We Want[10] was reached by member states. Among the key themes agreed on were on poverty eradication, energy, water and sanitation, health, and human settlement. Paragraph 246 of the Future We Want outcome document forms the link between The Rio +20 agreement and the Millennium Development Goals: "We recognize that the development of goals could also be useful for pursuing focused and coherent action on sustainable development." The goals should address and incorporate in a balanced way all three dimensions of sustainable development (environment, economics, and society) and their interlinkages. The development of these goals should not divert focus or effort from the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals" Paragraph 249 states that, "the process needs to be coordinated and coherent with the processes to consider the post-2015 development agenda." Taken together, these two paragraphs paved the way to bring together the development agenda centered on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),[11] which were officially established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, and the agreement under the Future We Want outcome document. The Rio+20 summit also agreed that the process of designing sustainable development goals, should be “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”.[12]

The MDGs were supposed to be achieved by 2015. 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, with the United Nations System Task Team on Post 2015 Development Agenda[13] releasing the first report known as Realizing The Future We Want[14] The Report was the first attempt to achieve the requirements under paragraph 246 and 249 of the Future We Want Outcome Document. It identified four dimensions as part of a global vision for sustainable development:Inclusive Social Development, Environmental Sustainability, Inclusive Economic Development, and Peace and Security. Other processes included the UN Secretary General's High Level Panel on Post 2015 Development Agenda,[15] whose report[16] was submitted to the Secretary General in 2013.

Sustainable development goals[edit]

Further information: Post-2015 Development Agenda

On 25 September 2015, the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Development Agenda titled Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Following the adoption, UN agencies, under the umbrella of the United Nations Development Group, decided to support a campaign by several independent entities, among them corporate institutions and International Organizations. The Campaign, known as Project Everyone,[17] introduced the term Global Goals and is intended to help communicate the agreed Sustainable Development Goals to a wider constituency. However the decision to support what is an independent campaign, without the approval of the member states, has met resistance[18] from several sections of civil society and governments, who accuse[19] the UNDG of ignoring the most important communication aspect of the agreement:Sustainability. There are also concerns that Global Goals is a term used to refer to several other processes that are not related to the United Nations.

Description and agenda[edit]

The Official Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted on 25 September 2015 has 92 paragraphs, with the main paragraph (51) outlining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and its associated 169 targets.This included the following goals:[20]

  1. Poverty - End poverty in all its forms everywhere[21]
  2. Food - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture[22]
  3. Health - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages[23]
  4. Education - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all[24]
  5. Women - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls[25]
  6. Water - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all[26]
  7. Energy - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all[27]
  8. Economy - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all[28]
  9. Infrastructure - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation[29]
  10. Inequality - Reduce inequality within and among countries[30]
  11. Habitation - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable[31]
  12. Consumption - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns[32]
  13. Climate - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts[33]
  14. Marine-ecosystems - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development[34]
  15. Ecosystems - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss[35]
  16. Institutions - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels[36]
  17. Sustainability - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development[37]

As of August 2015, there were 169 proposed targets for these goals and 304 proposed indicators to show compliance.[38]

Chart of UN Sustainable Development Goals.png

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 was tasked with preparing a proposal on the SDGs for consideration during the 68th session of the General Assembly, September 2013 – September 2014.[39]

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.[40]

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”.[41]


A report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) of 2013 criticized the efforts of the SDGs as not ambitious enough. Instead of aiming for an end to poverty by 2030, the report "An Ambitious Development Goal: Ending Hunger and Undernutrition by 2025" by Shenggen Fan and Paul Polman calls for a greater emphasis on eliminating hunger and undernutrition and achieving that in 5 years less, by 2025. It bases its claims on an analysis of the experiences from China, Vietnam, Brazil and Thailand and identifies 3 pathways to achieving this goal: agriculture-led, social protection– and nutrition intervention–led, or a combination of both of these approaches.[42]


Achieving the SDGs requires economic growth that will provide the resources for achieving the range of goals that are considered. Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann argue that the most important determinant of economic growth is the “knowledge capital” of nations, which they define as the aggregate skills of the country’s population and which they measure by achievement scores on international mathematics and science examinations.[43] This argument indicates that the importance of the education goal should be elevated, because achieving it would provide the resources to reduce poverty, to improve health, and to provide for inclusive growth that lessens inequality within and between countries. In related analysis, they provide a measurable definition of quality: basic skills, or achieving Level 1 on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).[44] With this definition, they show the economic gains for each of the 76 countries with test data that can be achieved by reaching universal secondary schooling along with all students having basic skills. While access to school is important (consistent with the prior Millennium Development Goals), improving the quality of schools provides a much larger economic impact for both developing and developed countries.

Water, sanitation, and hygiene[edit]

WASH experts have stated that without progress on Goal 6, the other goals and targets will not be able to be achieved.[45][46]

Paris climate deal[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.[47]

In May 2015, a report concluded that only a very ambitious climate deal in Paris in 2015 will enable countries to reach the sustainable development goals and targets. [48] The report 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^, adopted on 27 July 2012 during the Rio +20 Summit.
  3. ^ Press release - UN General Assembly’s Open Working Group proposes sustainable development goals, 19. July 2014
  4. ^ Synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda
  5. ^ "World leaders adopt Sustainable Development Goals". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 25 September 2015. 
  6. ^ "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development". United Nations - Sustainable Development knowledge platform. Retrieved 23 August 2015. 
  7. ^ "Breakdown of U.N. Sustainable Development Goals". Retrieved 26 September 2015. 
  8. ^ "Sustainable development goals - United Nations". United Nations Sustainable Development. Retrieved 2015-11-25. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Millennium Development Goals". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 25 September 2015. 
  12. ^ UN General Assembly Creates Key Group on Rio+20 Follow-up, Press Release United Nations Division for Sustainable Development, retrieved 26 February 2013.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "United Nations General Assembly Draft outcome document of the United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda". UN. Retrieved 25 September 2015. 
  21. ^ "Goal 1: No poverty". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  22. ^ "Goal 2: Zero hunger". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  23. ^ "Goal 3: Good health and well-being". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  24. ^ "Goal 4: Quality education". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  25. ^ "Goal 5: Gender equality". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  26. ^ "Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  27. ^ "Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  28. ^ "Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  29. ^ "Goal 9: Industry, innovation, infrastructure". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  30. ^ "Goal 10: Reduced inequalities". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  31. ^ "Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  32. ^ "Goal 12: Responsible consumption, production". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  33. ^ "Goal 13: Climate action". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  34. ^ "Goal 14: Life below water". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  35. ^ "Goal 15: Life on land". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  36. ^ "Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  37. ^ "Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals". UNDP. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  38. ^ "Technical report by the Bureau of the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC) on the process of the development of an indicator framework for the goals and targets of the post-2015 development agenda - working draft" (PDF). March 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^
  41. ^ The Future We Want, Outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, retrieved 26 February 2013.
  42. ^ Fan, Shenggen and Polman, Paul. 2014. An ambitious development goal: Ending hunger and undernutrition by 2025. In 2013 Global food policy report. Eds. Marble, Andrew and Fritschel, Heidi. Chapter 2. Pp 15-28. Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  43. ^ Hanushek, Eric; Woessmann, Ludger (2015). The Knowledge Capital of Nations: Education and the Economics of Growth. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-02917-9. 
  44. ^ Hanushek, Eric; Woessmann, Ludger (2015). Universal Basic Skills: What Countries Stand to Gain. OECD. 
  45. ^ Rao Gupta, Geeta (October 2015). "Opinion: “Sanitation, Water & Hygiene For All” Cannot Wait for 2030". Inter Press. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  46. ^ Batty, Margaret (25 September 2015). "Beyond the SDGs: How to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere". Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  47. ^ "Paris Climate Change Conference: COP21". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 25 September 2015. 
  48. ^ 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. 

External links[edit]