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What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

Also known as SDG´s, the sustainable development goals have become part of current social discourse. But do we know what they are?

In recent years we’ve all heard about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), be it in the news or in conversations of various kinds. They have become a key part of the goals that society at a global level has set in order to achieve a better and more equal world. Nevertheless, perhaps we could all do with a bit of context and background to get a clearer idea of what they are and how they aim to make this world a better place. Well, today we’re going to explain it to you.

Like any story, this one has a strong rationale. We live in a complex world, and this often results in problems of social injustice, poverty, inequality, lack of opportunities, climate impact, etc. All these problems are part of our societies and they deny millions of people a life of dignity, as well as destroying our habitat and endangering future generations. The fact that, according to sources such as Intermon Oxfam, nearly half of the world’s population survives on less than $5.5 a day, and that more than 258 million children do not attend school, or that, as highlighted by the WHO, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by more than 30% in recent years, demonstrates that humanity requires a plan of action. And the SDGs are part of this solution.

That is why, in 2015, the United Nations took a historic step: the approval of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an ambitious roadmap that aims to improve the lives of all people, with no exceptions. This agenda, which we’ll explain below, consists of 17 major objectives, also called Sustainable Development Goals; and they cover a wide range of challenges such as poverty eradication, climate action, education, gender equality, environmental protection and designing sustainable cities.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

If every cause has an effect, every problem has a solution. Under this premise, the United Nations sought to tackle the major problems we face today. Thus, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development set a time-frame of 15 years in which to achieve 17 goals, which in turn hold 169 integrated and indivisible targets. Ambitious, isn’t it?

This strategy, framed within the economic, social and environmental spheres, didn’t appear out of nowhere, but was carefully prepared during more than two years of public consultations, interaction with civil society and negotiations between UN member states. As a result, the agenda entails a common and universal commitment in which each country takes responsibility for tackling specific challenges.

17 goals, 17 challenges

Now that we know how the strategy works, it’s time to take a closer look at the 17 major goals that make up the 2030 Agenda. Let’s go through them one by one:

  1. Goal 1: End poverty (Over 700 million people live in extreme poverty)
  2. Goal 2: Zero hunger (821 million people are undernourished while a third of all food goes to waste)
  3. Goal 3: Good health and well-being (Thanks to vaccines, measles deaths fell by 80% in less than two decades)
  4. Goal 4: Quality education (617 million children cannot read or do basic maths)
  5. Goal 5: Gender equality (1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence)
  6. Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation (Over 40% of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity)
  7. Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy (Three billion people lack access to clean cooking fuels and technologies)
  8. Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth (20% of young people neither study nor work)
  9. Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure (Many developing countries lack infrastructures)
  10. Goal 10: Reduced inequalities (The poorest 40% of the world’s population accounts for less than 25% of world income)
  11. Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities (9 out 10 people living in cities breathe polluted air)
  12. Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production (By 2050, the equivalent of three planets could be required to sustain current levels of consumption)
  13. Goal 13: Climate action (CO2 emissions have increased by 50% since 1990)
  14. Goal 14: Life below water (Over three billion people depend on marine ecosystems for their livelihoods)
  15. Goal 15: Life on land (Forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity)
  16. Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions (Over 70 million people have been displaced by conflicts)
  17. Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals (Achieving the SDGs could open up $12 trillion of market opportunities and create 380 million jobs)

How is compliance with these SDGs monitored?

Drawing up plans is easy, ensuring compliance less so. This is why clear indicators have been established at global level to monitor compliance. All the details are set out in an annual report published by the United Nations, where progress in the different regions of the world can be observed and analysed. In addition, an annual meeting is held to review this progress.Want to know more about the SDGs? Click on the following video: