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  • Priyanka Maheshwari

What Really are the Sustainable Development Goals?

Updated: Nov 23, 2019



In September of 2015, the UN adopted the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development that included 17 goals. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) include all areas of sustainable growth that the world should aim towards, building on the idea of ‘Leave No One Behind’.


1) No poverty:

As of 2015, 736 million people still live on less than $1.50 a day. Eradicating poverty in all its forms is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. This involved targeting the most vulnerable, increasing basic resources and services and supporting communities affected by conflict and climate-related disasters.


2) Zero hunger:

Even though the number of undernourished people has dropped by almost half in the past two decades, there are still 821 million people estimated to be chronically undernourished in 2017. This SDG aims to end all hunger and malnutrition by 2030 by promoting sustainable agriculture, giving support to small-scale farmers, including equal access to land, technology and markets.


3) Good health and well-being:

Life expectancy in the world on average has increased drastically, still, there is a 31-year age gap between the life expectancy between the countries with the shortest and longest life expectancies. Multi-cultural, gender-based and rights-based approaches are essential to close this gap.


4) Quality education:

Since 200, there has been an enormous growth in literacy rates and fall in drop-out rates in students over the world. Even so, worrying disparities remain –developing and under-developed regions still have a while to go before reaching more satisfactory education rates. This SDG ensures that all children will have free primary and secondary education, and also aims to create access to vocational training, eliminate gender and wealth disparities and universally high-quality education.


5) Gender equality:

Although there are more women than ever in the labour market, and more gift students than before, disparities still remain. Unequal pay, sexual violence and exploitation, discrimination in public office and unequal division of unpaid care roles still remain troubling. This SDG aims to give women equal access to rights, land and property, sexual and reproductive health and to technology.


6) Clean water and sanitation:

Water scarcity affects more than 40% of people. In 2015, 4.5 billion people lacked safe sanitation and 2.3 billion lacked even basic sanitation. This SDG requires investment in sustainable infrastructure, sanitation facilities and hygiene education. Additionally, it stresses the protection of water-related ecosystems.


7) Affordable and clean energy:

In relative terms, the number of people with energy increased from 78% to 87%, but the world’s population continues to grow. Investing in clean energy – solar, wind, and thermal – is the only way to sustainably meet this demand, while also protecting the environment.


8) Decent work and economic growth:

Though the number of workers living in extreme poverty is declining dramatically, the world is seeing slower growths, widening inequalities, and not enough jobs to sustain the population. More than 204 million people were unemployed in 2015. This SDG aims to encourage entrepreneurship and job creation as a means to combat this. It also concentrates on eradicating forced labour, slavery and human trafficking.


9) Industry, innovation and infrastructure:

With over half the world’s population now living in cities, mass transport and renewable energy are becoming all the more important, as are the growth of new industries and information and communication technologies. Technological progress, promoting sustainable industries, and investing in scientific research and are key ways to achieve this SDG.




10) Reduced inequalities:

Income inequalities are on the rise – the richest 10% have 40% of global income. These inequalities have increased everywhere in recent years in varying spreads. This SDG involved improving regulation and monitoring of financial markets and institutions, encouraging developmental assistance and foreign direct investment to regions where needs are the greatest and facilitating safe migration and mobility to bridge this gap.


11) Sustainable cities and communities:

By 2050, it is predicted that two-thirds of all humanity – 6.5 billion people – will be urban dwellers. This phenomenon has led to rapid growth in the number of mega-cities. Making cities sustainable involves creating career and business opportunities, safe and affordable housing, building resilient societies and investments in public transport, urban planning and public spaces.


12) Responsible consumption and production:

A large share of the world’s population is consuming way too little to meet their basic needs. Halving the per capita of global food waste at the retailer and consumer level is important for creating more efficient production and supply chains. This goal also concentrates on efficient management of shared natural resources, disposal of toxic waste, and encouraging businesses and consumers to recycle and reduce waste.


13) Climate action:

Every country in the world is experiencing the effects of climate change. Greenhouse emission levels are more than 50% higher than in 1990. This threatens to have irreversible consequences if not corrected. This SDG aims to mobilise US$100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries to adapt to climate change and also adapt to low-carbon development. This SDG will contribute to other goals as well. This SDG aims to limit the increase of global mean temperature from pre-industrial levels by between 1.5c- 2c. This will require strong political backing.


14) Life below water:

Over 3 billion people rely on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods, yet we see a 30% rise in overfishing and a 26% rise in ocean acidification. Over 13,000 pieces of plastic on average litter the ocean per square kilometre. This SDG aims to protect the world’s marine life by sustainable use of ocean-based resources and international law.


15) Life on land:

Every year, 13 million hectares of forests are lost, while degradation of dry land has led to 3.6 billion hectares of desertification. Nearly 7,000 species of animals have been illegally traded. Urgent action must be taken to protect life above land. This SDG aims to reduce the loss of natural habitats and biodiversity.


16) Peace justice and strong institutions:

We cannot hope of sustainable growth without peace, stability, human rights and effective governance, based on the rule of law. Yet, we see an increase in the division in the world, leading to violence and crime. This SDG aims to significantly reduce all forms of violence, and work with governments and communities to end conflict and insecurity. Promoting the rule of law, human rights, reducing the flow of illegal arms, and strengthening the participation of countries is vital to this.


17) Partnership for the goals:

These SDGs can only be achieved with strong partnerships. The world is more interconnected than ever, improving access to technology and communication is important to share ideas and innovation, coordinating policies to help countries manage their debt and promoting investment for the least developed. Many countries require Official Developmental Assistance to encourage growth and trade. This SDG aims to promote international trade and help developing countries to increase their exports.

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