Over the next three days, world leaders will gather at the United Nations’ New York headquarters to formally adopt 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These targets, which build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), will set the agenda for international efforts to end extreme poverty and tackle injustice over the next 15 years.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been described by the UN as driving the “most successful anti-poverty movement in history”. Amazing things were achieved over the last decade and a half: the number of people living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25, has more than halved from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. The number of new HIV infections fell by around 40% between 2000 and 2013, and some 2.6 billion people can now celebrate having gained access to safe, clean drinking water.
But while more children are in school than ever before, and more adults are literate, millions of women still die unnecessarily in childbirth. The number of people without access to clean, safe water has more than halved, but more than two billion of our global neighbours don’t have a decent toilet. And climate change presents a significant threat to much that has been achieved. Progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go.
The seventeen new Sustainable Development Goals, also referred to simply as the Global Goals, seek to address some of the weaknesses of the MDGs and establish a programme for further action. They are the result of several years of review and consultation around the world, and are certainly not short on aspiration, with the first two goals setting out the brave aims of completely ending hunger and poverty. UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki Moon, describes the new goals as “the People’s Agenda, a plan for ending poverty in all its dimensions, irreversibly, everywhere and leaving no one behind.”
The SDGs have been promoted as going much further than the MDGs in challenging some of the causes of poverty, identifying specific systemic barriers to sustainable development, such as inequality and a lack of decent jobs, for action. They also more effectively incorporate critical environmental concerns including climate change.
Maurice Adams, Chief Executive of All We Can, commented: “The challenge now is to ensure these admirable goals become a focus for meaningful action. This is not the time to sit back and take stock, but rather to collectively and globally work together to complete an unfinished job. We, and our partners around the world, will be doing all we can to challenge the causes of poverty, inequality and injustice. We hope that the new goals will be a living agenda and that history is made in the next fifteen years.”
To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, urgent action is needed to tackle climate change.
In December, world leaders have an opportunity to agree a new global climate deal. We believe that a strong and fair agreement is needed, with appropriate support for developing countries.