MSc Global Challenges

Sustainable Development Goals

Introduction to the Sustainable Development Goals which UN member states will be expected to use over the next 15 years.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

National governments will meet at a summit in September 2015 to finalise the 17 goals that could transform the world by 2030. These 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 2000, and are due to expire at the end of this year.

Why do we need more goals?

Whilst they served the purpose to concentrate the minds of nations to adopt policies and programmes to improve the lives of poor people, the MDGs have been criticised for being too narrow. Numerous key issues such as economic development, human rights and child welfare were not adequately addressed by the MDGs. The MDGs were very much seen as targets for poor countries to strive for while every country will be expected to work towards achieving the SDGs.

Which goals are proposed and by when?

Establishing post-2015 goals was an outcome of the Rio+20 summit in 2012, which mandated the creation of an open working group to come up with a draft set:

  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 (taking note of agreements made by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change forum)
  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

Under these goals sit 169 proposed targets. If member states agree the draft set of SDGs at a UN summit in New York in September, they will become applicable from January 2016. The expected deadline for the SDGs is 2030.