UN Sustainable Development Goals: A Plan to Build a Better World
In 2015, the United Nations adopted formal goals to promote prosperity while protecting the environment. These seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outline a framework for all countries, both rich and poor, to build a better planet by 2030. The Sustainable Development Goals tackle climate change and work to preserve the world’s oceans. In addition to addressing key environmental issues, they focus on strategies that build economic growth such as education, health, equality, and job opportunities.
What are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
The UN’s sustainable development goals comprise an ambitious roadmap for a better world:
Goal 1: No poverty. Eliminate poverty once and for all through sustainable jobs and equality.
Goal 2: Zero Hunger. Create sustainable agriculture and food production systems to end all forms of malnutrition and end hunger for all.
Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being. Fund health systems, improve sanitation and hygiene and increase access to physicians to help save the lives of millions.
Goal 4: Quality Education. Invest in educational scholarships, teacher training workshops, school building and improvement of water and electricity access to schools.
Goal 5: Gender Equality. Provide women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes.
Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. Improve sanitation and access to drinking water.
Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. Universal access to energy.
Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities. Reduce inequalities within and among countries.
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Goal 13: Climate Action. Urgently tackle climate change and its impacts.
Goal 14: Life Below Water. Conserve and sustainably use the world’s oceans, seas and marine resources.
Goal 15: Life on Land. Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss.
Goal 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.
Goal 17: Partnerships. Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.
How are these Sustainable Development Goals Different?
Development plans of the past focused on developing nations. Today’s reality requires different action. Most of the world’s poor face growing inequality within middle income countries. Communities around the globe suffer from the results of climate change and environmental degradation, which is why the 2030 Agenda is both integrated and universal. It implores all nations to take action with the end goals of eliminating poverty and adopting sustainable development. Previous sustainable development goals focused on individual initiatives: hunger, clean energy, etc. The 2030 SDGs recognise the need for integrated development that balances economic, social, and environmental sustainability, and all of the goals link to one another. Balance requires actions to be linked. For example, stimulating local economies, reducing danger of childbirth, and building inclusive communities will support women’s and girls’ empowerment. The Leave No One Behind pledge prioritises those countries furthest behind and aims to bring the world to a reality of zero poverty, hunger, AIDS, and discrimination against women and girls by 2030.
Sustainable Development Goals in Action
A plan for a sustainable future means nothing without action. Here are a few programs that are doing their part to achieve the 2030 targets.
1. Reducing Waste, Improving Gender Equality
The Government of Canada funds a recycling centre in Northern Shouneh, Jordan that employs over sixty women. The United Nations Development Programs coordinates with the Ministry of Local Administration to improve the lives of participants and the community where they live. In addition to providing women much needed jobs, the streets are cleaner, and the program cultivates a new culture of recycling within the community. The program pays women about AUD$475 a month, and the women pooled their funds to start a cooperative that sells waste to recycling factories. “Imagine that the very people I was scared might mock my job are now asking me how they can join us,” said Haifa, 31, a participant.
Photo by UNDP/Sumaya Agha
2. It Takes a Village: Coming Together to Build a Sustainable Community
The Government of Japan supports Idjwi, a tiny island in Democratic Republic of Congo. Over 80 percent of the island’s population works in agriculture, fishing, and farming. Overpopulation is now causing soil erosion which is diminishing crop yields. Malnutrition is widespread. This UNDP initiative supplied six full fishing crews which employ Bantu and Pygmy fisherman. “Before, there was a lot of tension and misunderstanding. Now we eat and work with the Bantou. The more we work and fish together, the better off we both are,” said Charles, a participating fisherman. This partnership supports nearly 7,000 households and over 13,00 children. Nearly five thousand cassava and banana producers learned to combat local plant diseases, and five hundred households were trained to fight soil erosion.
Photo: UNDP DRC / Aude Rossignol / 2017
3. Women in Solar: Let There Be Light
A partnership between the Government of India and the Small Grants Programme supports a six-month “solar engineers” study programme in 18 countries. This program has trained seventy-one women as solar engineers, ensuring that nearly four thousand households in over fifty villages obtained electricity. “We didn’t have any diplomas like students at a normal university. In India, we learnt using a practical approach. We brought back a lot of knowledge to benefit our communities and, in a sense, to help them to escape from poverty,” said Alnora Casy of her new solar technology skills.
Photo: UNDP Honduras
UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: How We Can Make a Difference
“Let us remind ourselves of our duty to preserve and sustainably use the vast variety of life on the planet. Let us push for a more caring, thoughtful and sustainable relationship with nature. A world of thriving biodiversity provides the foundation we need to achieve our Sustainable Development Goals of a world of dignity and opportunity for all people on a healthy planet.” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his message for World Wildlife Day.
To kick off our 2020 Professor Ron Johnston Humanitarian Innovation Awards program, the Warren Centre is spotlighting the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals as a succinct expression of mankind’s aspirations for economic development that is more balanced and fairer than the progress in the past century.
As a set of targets to guide human development, the UN SDGs are essentially all-inclusive. The SDGs tackle many aspects of sustainability: poverty, hunger, climate change, gender discrimination, water and sanitation, health, oceans, clean energy, and internet access. They guide the most highly technologically sophisticated economies in the world as transitions are undertaken in energy systems, social equity and continued digitisation. They also guide the lowest developed economies on what sustainable growth means so that governments, engineers and societies can imagine a future and aim efforts towards development that supports humanity. It might sound like a pipe dream, but these dreams truly can be achieved. Together, as one world of people, the SDGs aim to change the planet for the better. With the help of these global goals, engineers, technologists and innovators are guided towards a better world and a better future for all.
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