The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, are a set of 17 interconnected goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. These goals aim to address some of the most pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges faced by the world today. The SDGs are designed to be achieved by the year 2030. Here is a brief overview of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals:
1. No Poverty
End poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty. As of 2015, about 736 million people still lived on less than US$1.90 a day; many lack food, clean drinking water, and sanitation. Rapid growth in countries such as China and India has lifted millions out of poverty, but progress has been uneven. Women are more likely to be poor than men because they have less paid work, and education, and own less property.
2. Zero Hunger
Achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. Unfortunately, extreme hunger and malnutrition remain huge barriers to development in many countries. There are 821 million people estimated to be chronically undernourished as of 2017, often as a direct consequence of environmental degradation, drought and biodiversity loss. Over 90 million children under five are dangerously underweight. Undernourishment and severe food insecurity appear to be increasing in almost all regions of Africa, as well as in South America. The SDGs aim to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030, making sure all people–especially children–have sufficient and nutritious food all year. This involves promoting sustainable agricultural, supporting small-scale farmers and equal access to land, technology and markets. It also requires international cooperation to ensure investment in infrastructure and technology to improve agricultural productivity.
3. Good Health and Well-Being
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Good health is essential to sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda reflects the complexity and interconnectedness of the two. It takes into account widening economic and social inequalities, rapid urbanization, threats to the climate and the environment, the continuing burden of HIV and other infectious diseases, and emerging challenges such as noncommunicable diseases. Universal health coverage will be integral to achieving SDG 3, ending poverty and reducing inequalities. Emerging global health priorities not explicitly included in the SDGs, including antimicrobial resistance, also demand action.
4. Quality Education
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Since 2000, there has been enormous progress in achieving the target of universal primary education. The total enrollment rate in developing regions reached 91 percent in 2015, and the worldwide number of children out of school has dropped by almost half. There has also been a dramatic increase in literacy rates, and many more girls are in school than ever before. These are all remarkable successes.
5. Gender Equality
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Ending all discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right, it’s crucial for sustainable future; it’s proven that empowering women and girls helps economic growth and development. UNDP has made gender equality central to its work and we’ve seen remarkable progress in the past 20 years. There are more girls in school now compared to 15 years ago, and most regions have reached gender parity in primary education.
6. Clean Water and Sanitation
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of people, an alarming figure that is projected to rise as temperatures do. Although 2.1 billion people have improved water sanitation since 1990, dwindling drinking water supplies are affecting every continent. More and more countries are experiencing water stress, and increasing drought and desertification is already worsening these trends. By 2050, it is projected that at least one in four people will suffer recurring water shortages.
7. Affordable and Clean Energy
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Between 2000 and 2018, the number of people with electricity increased from 78 to 90 percent, and the numbers without electricity dipped to 789 million. Yet as the population continues to grow, so will the demand for cheap energy, and an economy reliant on fossil fuels is creating drastic changes to our climate. Investing in solar, wind and thermal power, improving energy productivity, and ensuring energy for all is vital if we are to achieve SDG 7 by 2030.
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. Over the past 25 years the number of workers living in extreme poverty has declined dramatically, despite the lasting impact of the 2008 economic crisis and global recession. In developing countries, the middle class now makes up more than 34 percent of total employment – a number that has almost tripled between 1991 and 2015. However, as the global economy continues to recover we are seeing slower growth, widening inequalities, and not enough jobs to keep up with a growing labour force. According to the International Labour Organization, more than 204 million people were unemployed in 2015.
9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation. Technological progress is also key to finding lasting solutions to both economic and environmental challenges, such as providing new jobs and promoting energy efficiency. Promoting sustainable industries, and investing in scientific research and innovation, are all important ways to facilitate sustainable development. More than 4 billion people still do not have access to the Internet, and 90 percent are from the developing world. Bridging this digital divide is crucial to ensure equal access to information and knowledge, as well as foster innovation and entrepreneurship.
`10. Reduced Inequalities
Reduce inequality within and among countries. Income inequality is on the rise—the richest 10 percent have up to 40 percent of global income whereas the poorest 10 percent earn only between 2 to 7 percent. If we take into account population growth inequality in developing countries, inequality has increased by 11 percent. Income inequality has increased in nearly everywhere in recent decades, but at different speeds. It’s lowest in Europe and highest in the Middle East. These widening disparities require sound policies to empower lower income earners, and promote economic inclusion of all regardless of sex, race or ethnicity. Income inequality requires global solutions. This involves improving the regulation and monitoring of financial markets and institutions, encouraging development assistance and foreign direct investment to regions where the need is greatest. Facilitating the safe migration and mobility of people is also key to bridging the widening divide.
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. Today, more than half the world’s population live in cities. By 2050, an estimated 7 out of 10 people will likely live in urban areas. Cities are drivers of economic growth and contribute more than 80 per cent of global GDP. However, they also account for more than 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If well-planned and managed, urban development can be sustainable and can generate inclusive prosperity. The deep inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and other cascading crises highlight the importance of sustainable urban development. Strengthening the preparedness and resilience of cities is crucial in responding to future crises.
12. Responsible Consumption and Production
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. From 2000 to 2019, total domestic material consumption rose by more than 65 per cent globally, amounting to 95.1 billion metric tons in 2019. During this period, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia showed the steepest rise in domestic material consumption, from 31 per cent in 2000 to 43 per cent in 2019. In 2020, an estimated 13.3 per cent of the world’s food was lost after harvesting and before reaching retail markets. An estimated 17 per cent of total food available to consumers (931 million metric tons) is wasted at household, food service and retail levels. Food that ends up in landfills generates 8 to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, the amount of e-waste generated globally was 7.3 kilograms per capita, out of which only 1.7 kilograms was managed in an environmentally sound way.
13. Climate Action
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. In 2021, the global mean temperature was about 1.1°C above the pre-industrial level (from 1850 to 1900). The years from 2015 to 2021 were the seven warmest on record. The global annual mean temperature is projected to rise beyond 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in at least one of the next five years. Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions declined by 5.2 per cent in 2020 due to lowered energy demand caused by COVID-19-induced social and economic disruptions. But with the phasing out of COVID-related restrictions, energy-related CO2 emissions for 2021 rose by 6 per cent, reaching their highest level ever. Climate finance provided and mobilized by developed countries totalled $79.6 billion in 2019, up from $78.3 billion in 2018. It is estimated that $1.6 trillion to $3.8 trillion will be needed each year through 2050 for the world to transition to a low-carbon future and avoid warming exceeding 1.5 °
14. Life Below Water
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development. Continuing ocean acidification and rising ocean temperatures are threatening marine species and negatively affecting marine ecosystem services. Between 2009 and 2018, the world lost about 14 per cent of coral reefs. In 2021, more than 17 million metric tons of plastic entered the world’s ocean, making up 85 per cent of marine litter. The volume of plastic pollution entering the ocean each year is expected to double or triple by 2040. The global coverage of marine protected areas stood at 8 per cent of global coastal waters and oceans in 2021. More than a third (35.4 per cent) of global fish stocks were overfished in 2019, up from 34.2 per cent in 2017 and 10 per cent in 1974. However, the rate of decline has recently slowed. Almost half a billion people depend at least partially on small-scale fisheries, which account for 90 per cent of employment in fisheries worldwide.
15. Life on Land
Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss. Forest cover fell from 31.9 per cent of total land area in 2000 to 31.2 per cent in 2020, a net loss of almost 100 million hectares. Agricultural expansion is driving almost 90 per cent of global deforestation, including 49.6 per cent from expansion for cropland and 38.5 per cent for livestock grazing. Between 2010 and 2021, the area of forest land under certification schemes increased by 35 per cent. The proportion of forests under a long-term management plan increased from 54 per cent in 2010 to 58 per cent in 2020. More than 700 million hectares of forest (18 per cent) were in legally established protected areas in 2020. Human activities such as logging and farming are encroaching upon habitats, putting about 20 per cent of reptile species at risk. Globally, the mean percentage coverage of key biodiversity areas increased from over one quarter in 2000 to nearly one half in 2021. More and more countries are establishing national targets for incorporating ecosystem and biodiversity values into their accounting and reporting systems. By January 2022, 37 per cent of countries assessed are on track to achieve or exceed their national targets.
16. Peace, Justice, and Strong 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. As of May 2022, the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution had surpassed 100 million. In 2021 alone, 320 fatal attacks against human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists were recorded in 35 countries. At least 13,842 deaths were associated with 12 of the world’s deadliest armed conflicts in 2021, including 11,075 civilians. However, civilian deaths dropped by 17 per cent from 2020, and by 69 per cent from 2015. Over the last decade, the world has spent $349 billion on peacekeeping, humanitarian relief and refugee support. Between 2016 and 2020, 28 per cent of seized weapons were reported as successfully traced. From 2018 to 2019, national authorities destroyed 48 per cent of weapons seized, found or surrendered. Between 2015 and 2020, the global homicide rate declined by 5.2 per cent – from 5.9 to 5.6 homicides per 100,000 people. Globally, 8 out of 10 recorded homicide victims are male. Women and girls comprise about 60 per cent of all homicide victims killed by intimate partners or family members. By 2030, the global homicide rate is projected to decrease by 19 per cent from the 2015 level, to around 4.8 per 100,000 people, but still short of the “significant reduction” targeted in the SDGs. Globally, almost 1 in 6 businesses face requests for bribe payments by public officials. Source: The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022
17. Partnerships for the Goals
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. In 2021, net ODA flows amounted to $177.6 billion, an increase of 3.3 per cent in real terms from 2020, representing 0.33 per cent of donors’ combined gross national income (GNI). Despite hitting a new peak, it still fell short of the 0.7 per cent target. In 2021, 150 countries and territories reported implementing a national statistical plan, up from 132 in 2020. ODA for data and statistics amounted to $650 million in 2020, a slight decline from $662 million in 2019. The overall trend in funding for this sector has remained stagnant at 0.3 per cent of total ODA. Total external debt stocks of low- and middle-income countries rose by 5.3 per cent in 2020 to $8.7 trillion, driven by an increase in long-term debt, which rose by 6 per cent to $6.3 trillion. In low-income countries, the total public and publicly guaranteed debt service to export ratio rose from 3.1 per cent in 2011 to 8.8 per cent in 2020. The number of Internet users surged by 782 million to reach 4.9 billion people in 2021, or 63 per cent of the global population. Fixed broadband subscriptions continue to grow steadily, reaching a global average of 17 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in 2021. In least developed countries, fixed broadband remains a privilege of the few, with only 1.4 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. Global foreign direct investment flows rebounded strongly in 2021, reaching $1.58 trillion, up 64 per cent from 2020.
These goals cover a wide range of issues and provide a comprehensive framework for countries, organizations, and individuals to work towards a more sustainable and equitable future.
Aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to address and achieve sustainable development in various areas of global concern. Here are the overarching aims of the SDGs:
- Eradicate Poverty: The SDGs aim to end poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, by ensuring access to resources, basic services, and opportunities for all people.
- Achieve Social Inclusion: The goals seek to promote social inclusion, equality, and non-discrimination, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their background, have equal access to opportunities and rights.
- Promote Environmental Sustainability: The SDGs aim to protect the planet by addressing environmental challenges, such as climate change, pollution, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity, and promoting sustainable resource management practices.
- Ensure Economic Prosperity: The goals strive to foster inclusive and sustainable economic growth, promote decent work and entrepreneurship, and ensure equitable access to economic opportunities for all.
- Improve Quality of Life and Well-Being: The SDGs aim to improve people’s quality of life by promoting good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, access to clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, and other essential services.
- Foster Peaceful and Inclusive Societies: The goals seek to promote peaceful and inclusive societies by addressing the root causes of conflict, reducing violence, promoting access to justice, and ensuring strong and accountable institutions.
- Global Partnership for Sustainable Development: The SDGs emphasize the importance of global cooperation and partnerships among governments, businesses, civil society, and other stakeholders to mobilize resources, share knowledge, and implement effective strategies to achieve the goals.
By pursuing these aims, the SDGs aim to create a more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous world for present and future generations, leaving no one behind. They recognize the interdependence of social, economic, and environmental factors and provide a comprehensive framework to guide action at local, national, and global levels.
Implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a collective effort involving governments, organizations, businesses, civil society, and individuals at various levels. Here are some key aspects of how these goals are implemented:
- National Strategies and Policies: Governments play a crucial role in implementing the SDGs by developing national strategies, policies, and action plans aligned with the goals. This involves integrating the SDGs into national development plans and establishing mechanisms for coordination, monitoring, and reporting progress.
- Stakeholder Engagement: Effective implementation requires engaging a wide range of stakeholders, including civil society organizations, businesses, academia, and local communities. Stakeholders collaborate to identify priorities, develop partnerships, and contribute their expertise and resources towards achieving the goals.
- Data and Monitoring: Monitoring progress is essential for effective implementation. Governments and international organizations collect and analyze data to track indicators related to the SDGs. This data helps identify gaps, measure progress, and make evidence-based decisions to guide policies and interventions.
- Financing: Adequate and sustainable financing is critical for implementing the SDGs. Governments, development banks, private sector entities, and international financial institutions mobilize resources, including domestic and international investments, official development assistance, and innovative financing mechanisms to support SDG-related projects and initiatives.
- Capacity Building: Building the capacity of individuals, institutions, and communities is essential for successful implementation. This involves enhancing knowledge, skills, and resources at all levels to effectively address the complex challenges and opportunities associated with the SDGs.
- Technology and Innovation: Harnessing technology and fostering innovation are important drivers of SDG implementation. This includes leveraging digital technologies, promoting research and development, and supporting innovative solutions that can accelerate progress toward the goals.
- Partnerships and Collaboration: Collaboration among governments, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector is crucial. Partnerships facilitate knowledge-sharing, resource mobilization, and joint action towards achieving the SDGs. Multi-stakeholder platforms, such as the UN Global Compact and local networks, bring together diverse actors to work collectively.
- Local Action: Implementation occurs at the local level, where the impact of the SDGs is most directly felt. Local governments, communities, and organizations play a vital role in adapting global goals to local contexts, implementing projects, and driving change at the grassroots level.
The implementation of the SDGs requires a holistic and integrated approach, considering the interlinkages between the goals. It relies on the commitment and collaboration of multiple actors to translate the goals into concrete actions, policies, and projects that create sustainable and positive impacts.