This evolving report examines key developments around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
WHAT ARE THE SDGs?
In 2015, the millennium development goals (MDGs) – launched in 2000 to make global progress on poverty, education, health, hunger and the environment – expired. UN member states are finalising the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that will replace them, so the Guardian analysed what the SDGs aim to achieve, how they differ from the MDGs and assessed whether the MDGs made much progress.
The SDGs are a proposed set of global targets adopted by governments that business can help achieve. There are currently 17 goals (see below) with 169 indicators to help define progress. Driven by the UN adopting an 'inclusive and transparent intergovernmental process open to all stakeholders' the SDGs launch in September 2015 at the UN Summit. They're going to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were good, but fell short, because they were focused on poverty alleviation in the developing world, whereas the SDGs are globally applicable and integrate economic, social and environmental aspects. Expectations are high for the SDGs.
The 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have among their objectives primary-school education for all children, jobs for all adults, and an end to hunger and poverty.
The SDGs provide an aspirational narrative and specific targets for human development: a world free from hunger, injustice and absolute poverty; a world with universal education, health and employment; a world with inclusive economic growth, based on transparency, dignity and equity. They call for “global citizenship and shared responsibility” and provide legitimacy for a new global social contract for a grand transformation toward a sustainable future.
SDG 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
SDG 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
SDG 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.
SDG 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
SDG 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
SDG 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
SDG 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
SDG 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
SDG 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.
SDG 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries.
SDG 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
SDG 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
SDG 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (taking note of agreements made by the UNFCCC forum).
SDG 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
SDG 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.
SDG 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.
SDG 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
HOW WILL THE SDGs BE MEASURED?
The SDGs have created a new set of challenges for the world’s statistical community. The UN Member States, through the Statistical Commission, have provided a crucial new opportunity to address the SDG data challenge – the first United Nations World Data Forum, to be held in Cape Town, South Africa from 15 to 18 January 2017.
WHAT PROBLEMS LIE AHEAD?
Time is moving on. To implement the UN 2030 agenda. Just 14 years are left. Which of the 17 goals, which of the 169 targets should be tackled first? Policy makers, the media, civil society and scientists all ask these questions.
Further, the SDGs are noble aspirations – but also very expensive. Can we really afford them all, asked Bjorn Lomberg of the Copenhagen Consensus, pointing out that the OECD has estimated that meeting all 17 SDGs, which comprise 169 specific development targets, would cost $3.3-4.5 trillion annually – about the same as the United States’ 2016 federal budget, and far more than the nearly $132 billion spent globally on overseas development aid last year.
Further, research by Deloitte found that high rates of global economic growth will not be enough to reach the goals by 2030 if unless combined with innovative policies, cultural change and, crucially, the involvement of the private sector.
Yet well-targeted spend can yield major dividends: e.g. economists estimate that investing to reduce the incidence of malaria by 50% yields a 35-fold return in benefits to society.
HOW ARE PEOPLE RESPONDING?
University of Edinburgh professors assessed how the SDGs might change the world.
Professor Stephen Hawking tells us that for the Global Goals to be executed, everyone in the world needs to know about them. Hawking says, “the more people that know about [the goals] the more likely our leaders are to stick the them.” Hawking admits these goals are ambitious but also believe that they are achievable if they are shared and "each person on this planet" takes action.
WHAT CAN YOU DO PERSONALLY?
Talk about the goals, with family members, your office, and your social networks etc. Knowing about them is the start of the movement. And you can join the Global Citizen online community to learn more and stay informed.
- Explore what the Goals Mean for Your Community and Country: While the goals are made to sound simple, they are radically complex. Or rather, achieving them is radically complex. Watch this TED Talk highlighting what it will really take to reach the Global Goals.
- Give Your Time and Skills: One of the biggest barriers to global progress is a lack of access to skills. No matter your skills, there are ways you can go "Experteering" them to help social impact organisations build a better world.
- Give Your Money: Global Giving has made it easy to select the goal you care the most about, and then donate directly to vetted organisations working to make that goal a reality. Global Impact has also launched a Sustainable Development Goals Good Fund that you can donate too.
- Simplify and Live Within Your Means: Some of the most challenging Global Goals have to do with overconsumption by those that have more. The UN provides an easy-to-digest list of suggestions it calls The Lazy Person's Guide to Saving the World. In summary, the guide suggests that you reduce consumption, eat and shop more responsibly, and reuse as much as possible. A few of the easiest ways to get started are to begin using Good Guide and the Think Dirty App to see if your products are OK for the world, give business to registered B Corps and nonprofits, eat less meat and more vegetables, and use less water and heat.
- Get Your Organisation to Take Action: Organisations can launch an international corporate volunteering programme, a Bright Fund to support the goals, or simply help promote them via media. The UN has a whole toolkit just for employers that makes it easy to figure out which goal your company is best positioned to support, and suggestions how to get started. A new initiative, Impact2030, has also launched to help companies harness their assets to help achieve the goals.
A new (2017) platform called the Global Opportunity Explorer, hosted by partners Sustainia, DNV GL, and the UN Global Compact, features example after example of real solutions for the SDGs from all over the globe. Visitors can browse solutions by market sector (like Health, Energy, Fashion, and Education) or by SDG.