What are the Sustainable Development Goals?World Economic Forum
We've given you, over the last couple of weeks, a recap of some of the victories and defeats in 2017 as we try to rebuild a smarter world. Here's some goals that should help drive momentum this year.
“I am pleased to share some good news for people and planet,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said to a packed room of press delegates. The good news? After three years of negotiations and debate, 193 countries had agreed to a set of development goals more bold and ambitious than anything that has come before them.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – part of a wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These eight goals, set by the United Nations back in 2000 to eradicate poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease, expire at the end of this year.
Figure 1: The Millennium Development Goals
Source: United Nations
The MDGs were concrete, specific and measurable, and therefore helped establish some priority areas of focus in international development. But that was also one of their biggest criticisms: by being so targeted, they had left out other, equally important, areas.
Despite the criticism, significant progress has been made over the past 15 years, especially when it comes to the goals of eradicating poverty and improving access to education. That progress, however, has been very uneven, with improvements often concentrated in specific regions and among certain social groups. A 2015 UN assessment of the MDGs found they fell short for many people: “The assessment of progress towards the MDGs has repeatedly shown that the poorest and those disadvantaged because of gender, age, disability or ethnicity are often bypassed.”
In developing the SDGs – a multi-year process involving civil society, governments, the private sector and academia – the United Nations sought to take all these failings into account. So how, then, were these new goals reached and what do they look like?
17 goals for ‘people and planet’
In response to the accusation that the MDGs were too narrow in focus, the SDGs set out to tackle a whole range of issues, from gender inequality to climate change. The unifying thread throughout the 17 goals and their 169 targets is the commitment to ending poverty: “Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development,” notes the agenda’s preamble.