The Global Goals for Sustainable Development

On 25 September, leaders of the United Nations came together to finalize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – otherwise known as the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. These goals are the successors to the Millennium Developments Goals (MDGs), which ended in 2015.

Were the MDGs successful?

The MDGs encompassed 8 goals and 21 targets to be achieved by 2015. In the UN’s MDG 2014 report, the emphasis was on progress rather than achievement. Although the targets for the MDGs have not all been reached, the following highlights include:

  • Extreme poverty worldwide has been reduced by half
  • Access to an improved drinking water source became a reality for 2.3 billion people
  • 90% of all countries have more women in parliament
  • Infection rate of diseases such as HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis have all significantly reduced
  • Ozone-depleting substances have been virtually eliminated, and the ozone layer is expected to recover by the middle of this century

So, what are the new Sustainable Development Goals?

  • These ambitious goals have been agreed by 193 countries, aiming to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all
  • There are 17 goals, 9 more than the MDGs. These new goals have a wider scope in development, bringing new focus to economic growth and sustainability. They also break new ground in the areas of justice and prosperity
  • There are more targets within each goal – a huge 169 in total
  • The goals are global. Unlike the MDGs, which focused on the less developed countries of the world, these goals apply to every country

‘The more people who know about the Global Goals for sustainable development, the more successful they’ll be. If we all fight for them, our leaders will make them happen. So they need to be famous’

However, there has been some criticism of the new goals:

  • Expense – The Financial Times estimates that it will cost $2 – 3 trillion a year of public and private money to reach these goals
  • Confidence – Many backers believe that some countries will never reach these targets, which contradicts the principle of setting targets
  • Engagement – The UN has made a tremendous effort to market these goals, but little emphasis is made on how individuals can make a difference

For more information, resources, and suggestions on how you and your students can get involved, visit