Guide to the Sustainable Development Goals

The UN General Assembly has sent the draft ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ to Member States for adoption at the UN Summit in New York 25-27 September. The draft includes the new 17 sustainable development goals due to replace the millennium development goals from January 2016. 

SDGsThe sustainable development goals (SDGs) are a new, universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states will be expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years.

The SDGs follow and expand on the millennium development goals (MDGs), which were agreed by governments in 2001 and are due to expire at the end of this year.

From MDGs to SDGs
The MDGs provided a focal point for governments to develop policies and overseas aid programmes designed to end poverty and improve the lives of poor people. It achieved a lot of positive results related to reducing poverty and hunger and combating HIV, malaria and other diseases.

However, the were criticised for being too narrow. The MDGs failed to consider the root causes of poverty and overlooked gender inequality as well as the holistic nature of development. The goals made no mention of human rights and did not specifically address economic development.

While the MDGs, in theory, applied to all countries, in reality they were considered targets for poor countries to achieve, with finance from wealthy states. Conversely, every country will be expected to work towards achieving the SDGs.

What are the proposed 17 goals?

  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 wellbeing 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 industrialisation, 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 (acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change)
  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 revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

Within the goals are 169 targets, to put a bit of meat on the bones. These indicators are still being thrashed out by an expert group. Each indicator is being assessed for its feasibility, suitability and relevance, and roughly two for each target are expected. The indicators are due to be finalised in March 2016. Read more about them here.

SDGs applicable from January 2016
The UN has conducted the largest consultation programme in its history to gauge opinion on what the SDGs should include. An open working group, with representatives from 70 countries, developed and published the final draft, with its 17 suggestions, in July 2014. Alongside the open working group discussions, the UN conducted a series of “global conversations” and an online survey.

The 17 SDGs have received criticism for being to long, with an ideal number suggested to be 10-12. The UN said it had been a hard battle to get in down to 17 and did not expect to bring it down any further.

It is expected that the SDGs will be officially adopted at a UN summit in New York 25-27 September, and will become applicable from January 2016. The deadline for the SDGS is 2030.

The Guardian has produced a nice interactive explanation of the SDGs that you can see here: The SDGs: changing the world in 17 steps – interactive

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