What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
The Sustainable Development Goals or more popularly known as the SDGs are a set of 17 interconnected goals that aim to transform our world. It is designed to be a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”. This is the reason why they are also called Global Goals. They were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly. It is a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
In other words, the basic premise of Sustainable Development Goals is to strive for a harmonious balance between the three basic pillars of Sustainability, i.e, Social Sustainability, Economic Sustainability, and Environmental Sustainability. All 17 goals are interconnected and integrated well with each other to strike a balance in such a way that development and outcomes in one area will affect other areas as well. There are cross-cutting areas of concern and synergies between the different goals. The SDGs were unanimously adopted by 193 UN members.
17 SDGs of the UN
All 17 Sustainable Development Goals focus on a specific area and try to address an issue of society that needs to be improved. For easy recognition, people more commonly address the goals by their number. For instance, when someone says SDG 5, people already know it is about Gender equality.
SDG 1 – No Poverty
It talks about one of the most alarming problems crippling the advancement of our society, i.e, poverty. Eradicating poverty in all of its forms and dimensions by 2030 is the goal. It involves targeting the most vulnerable section of our society, increasing basic resources and services, and supporting communities affected by conflict and climate-related disasters. It talks about ending poverty everywhere.
The goal has seven targets and 13 indicators to measure progress. The 5 outcome targets are the eradication of extreme poverty; reduction of all poverty by half; implementation of social protection system; ensuring the equal right to ownership, basic services, technology, and economic resources; and the building of resilience to environmental, economic, and social disaster.
SDG 2 – Zero Hunger
It talks about ending all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030. The aim is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”. This can be achieved only if all people, especially children, have sufficient and nutritious food all year. It involves promoting sustainable agriculture, supporting small-scale farmers, and equal access to land, technology, and market.
The goal has 8 targets and 14 indicators to measure progress. The five outcome targets are: ending hunger and improving access to food; ending all forms of malnutrition; agricultural productivity; sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices; and genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants, and farmed and domesticated animals; investments, research, and technology.
SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being
It talks about life expectancy, quality of life, and overall health and well-being. The aim is to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”. Decreasing infant and maternal mortality rates are among the key focuses of this SDG. Good health of all the people in a society and Sustainable development go hand in hand. They both are interconnected. This SDG takes into account the widening economic and social inequalities, rapid urbanization, and threats to the climate and the environment among other pressing issues.
The goal has 13 targets and 28 indicators to measure progress toward targets. The first nine targets are outcome targets. Some of them include the reduction of maternal mortality; ending all preventable deaths under five years of age; fighting communicable diseases, etc.
SDG 4 – Quality Education
It talks about achieving inclusive and quality education for all. This is also crucial and directly interconnected to achieving Sustainable development. The aim is to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. A major focus is providing access to education, specifically at the primary school level, for both boys and girls.
The goal has 10 targets which are measured by 11 indicators. There are seven outcome targets. Some of them are free primary and secondary education; equal access to quality pre-primary education; affordable technical, vocational, and higher education, etc.
SDG 5 – Gender equality
It talks about giving women equal rights to land and property, sexual reproductive health, and to technology and the internet, etc. The aim is to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. It also talks about sexual violence and exploitation, the unequal division of unpaid care and domestic work, and discrimination in public offices.
The goal has 10 targets and 14 indicators to measure performance. There are six outcome targets as well. Some of them include ensuring access to Universal reproductive rights and health; ensuring full participation of women in leadership and decision-making; increasing the value of unpaid care and promoting shared domestic responsibilities, etc.
SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation
It talks about ensuring universal safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. The aim is to ” Ensure availability and Sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.
The goal has 8 targets which are measured by 11 indicators. There are six outcome targets as well. Some of these are Safe and affordable drinking water; ending open defecation and providing access to sanitation, and hygiene, improving water quality, wastewater treatment, and safer reuse, etc.
SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy
It talks about expanding infrastructure and upgrading technology to provide clean and more efficient energy in all countries which will encourage growth and help the environment as well. The aim is to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern Energy for all”.
The goal has 5 targets which are measured by 6 indicators. Three out of five targets are outcome targets. These are universal access to modern energy; increasing global percentage of renewable energy; double the improvement in energy efficiency.
SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth
It talks about employment and employment conditions as mere work is not sufficient enough to achieve social Sustainability. The aim is to ” Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.
The goal has 12 targets to be achieved by 2030. It is measured by 17 indicators. The first ten targets are outcome targets. Some of them include improving resource efficiency in consumption and production; full employment and decent work with equal pay, promoting youth employment, education, and training, etc.
SDG 9 – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
It talks about the crucial drivers of economic growth and development, i.e, investment in infrastructure and innovation. The aim is to “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation”.
The goal has 8 targets that are measured by 12 indicators. The first five targets are outcome targets. Some of these include increasing access to financial services and markets; upgrading all industries and infrastructure for sustainability; enhancing research and upgrading industrial technologies, etc.
SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities
It talks about the widening income inequality and the need for sound policies to empower lower-income earners and promote economic inclusion of all regardless of sex, race, or ethnicity. The aim is to ” Reduce income inequality within and among countries”.
The goal has 10 targets that are measured by 11 indicators. The first seven targets are outcome targets. Some of these include adopting fiscal and social policies that promote equality; enhancing representatives of developing nations in financial institutions; ensuring equal opportunities and ending discrimination, etc.
SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
It talks about making cities sustainable by creating career and business opportunities, safe and affordable housing, and building resilient societies and economies. The aim is to ” Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and Sustainable”.
The goal has 10 targets that are being measured by 15 indicators. Seven out of ten targets are outcome targets. Some of these include inclusive and sustainable urbanization; protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage, reduction of the adverse effects of natural disasters, etc.
SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production
It talks about the efficient management of our shared natural resources, and the way we dispose of toxic waste and pollutants. The aim is to ” Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. It also focuses on encouraging industries, businesses and consumers to recycle and reduce waste.
The goal has 11 targets. Out of the eleven, the first 8 targets are outcome targets. Some of these include promoting public procurement practices that are sustainable; ensuring that people everywhere have relevant information and awareness for sustainable development; encouraging companies to adopt sustainable practices, etc.
SDG 13 – Climate Action
This is one of the most important sustainable development goals. It talks about efforts to integrate disaster risk measures, sustainable natural resources management, and human security into national development strategies. The aim is to ” Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy”. It also talks about limiting the increase of global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The goal has five targets and some of them include building knowledge and capacity to meet climate change; implementing the UN framework convention on climate change; integrating climate change measures into policies and planning, etc.
SDG 14 – Life Below Water
It talks about sustainably managing and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems from pollution, as well as addressing the impact of ocean acidification. The aim is to “Conserve and Sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.
The goal has 10 targets and out of them, 7 are outcome targets. Some of them include protecting and restoring ecosystems; reducing ocean acidification; conserving coastal and marine areas; ending subsidies contributing to overfishing, etc.
SDG 15 – Life on Land
It talks about urgent action to reduce the loss of natural habitats and biodiversity which are part of our common heritage and support global food and water security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and peace and security. The aim is to ” protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.
The goal has 12 targets that are measured by 14 indicators. Nine out of 12 targets are outcome targets. Some of these include ensuring the conservation of the mountain ecosystem; protecting biodiversity and natural habitats; ending desertification and restoring degraded land, etc.
SDG 16 – Peace, Justice, and Strong Institution
It talks about reducing all forms of violence and working with governments and communities to end conflict and insecurity. The aim is to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for Sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
The goal has 12 targets and 24 indicators. Out of twelve targets, 10 are outcome targets. Some of these include reducing violence; protecting children from abuse; developing effective, accountable, and transparent institutions; Substantially reducing corruption and bribery, etc.
SDG 17 – Partnership for the Goals
It talks about cooperation and promoting international trade, and helping developing countries to increase their exports for achieving a universal rules-based and equitable trading system that is fair and open and benefits all. The aim is to ” Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for Sustainable development”.
The goal has 19 targets divided into five categories namely Finance, Technology, Capacity building, Trade, and Systemic Issues.
These are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the UN. If, as humankind, we somehow achieve these goals, we will be able to buy some more time for our survival.