FACTBOX: What are the Sustainable Development Goals and why do they matter?

Reuters , Wednesday 23 Sep 2015

UN Flags
File photo: Flags of member nations fly outside of the United Nations headquarters. (Photo: AP)

More than 150 world leaders are meeting at the United Nations in New York this week to adopt a new global plan of action to end poverty and hunger, advance equality and protect the environment, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The SDGs are a set of 17 goals and 169 targets aimed at resolving global social, economic and environmental problems.

To be met over the next 15 years, beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, the SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were adopted in 2000 and expire this year.

Implementation of the new goals, requiring trillions of dollars in investment, will be monitored and reviewed using a set of global indicators to be agreed by March 2016. WHO DECIDED THE SDGs? Governments came up with the idea at the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in Brazil 2012. A working group with representatives of 70 nations drafted a proposed set of goals.

At the same time, the United Nations ran public consultations around the world and an online survey asking people about their priorities for the goals.

This summer governments negotiated a final version of the SDGs that are due to be adopted by 193 countries at a Sept. 25-27 summit at the United Nations in New York. WHAT DID THE MDGs ACCOMPLISH? The United Nations says the MDGs - a set of eight goals with 21 targets - led to achievements including: - more than halving the number of people living in extreme poverty, to 836 million in 2015 from 1.9 billion in 1990 - gender parity in primary schools in the majority of countries - reducing the rate of children dying before their fifth birthday to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births from 90 - a fall of 45 percent in the maternal mortality ratio worldwide - some 37 million lives saved by tuberculosis prevention and treatment, over 6.2 million malaria deaths averted, and new HIV infection rates down by around 40 percent - access to improved sanitation for 2.1 billion people - official development assistance from developed countries up 66 percent in real terms to $135.2 billion


Some 795 million people still go hungry and around 800 million people live in extreme poverty, with fragile and conflict-torn states experiencing the highest poverty rates - between 2008 and 2012, 144 million people were displaced from their homes by natural disasters, a number predicted to rise as the planet warms, bringing more extreme weather and rising seas - water scarcity affects 40 percent of the global population and is projected to increase - some 946 million people still practice open defecation - gender inequality persists in spite of more representation for women in parliaments and more girls going to school - 57 million children still denied right to primary education


The 17 goals aim to achieve these wider aims by 2030: - end poverty and hunger everywhere - combat inequalities within and between countries - build peaceful, just and inclusive societies - protect human rights, and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls - ensure lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources - create conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all. WHAT'S NEW AND DIFFERENT ABOUT THE SDGs? The United Nations says the SDGs go much further than the previous goals, because they address the root causes of poverty and pledge to leave no one behind, including vulnerable groups.

They also emphasise the need to tackle climate change urgently and protect the environment through a shift to sustainable consumption and production, and wiser management of natural resources.

The SDGs are intended to be universal, applying to all countries rather than just the developing world.

They recognise the key role of the private sector in pursuing and financing sustainable development, in partnership with governments and civil society. (Sources: United Nations Development Programme and other UN agencies. 

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