What are 17 sustainable development goals?

Today, we live in a world where we are on the brink of catastrophic climate change, water crisis, food crisis, poverty, overexploitation of resources, wars. In simple words, we are staring at a massive collapse of society. To prevent this collapse, we all need to come together and work towards sustainable development. Keeping this in mind in 2015, UNDP adopted 17 global goals known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). These goals were designed as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

What are these 17 SDGs?

The 17 SDGs are integrated goals that are adopted by UNDP with each targeting a particular aspect that needs to be considered if we want to develop into a society in which all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These 17 SDG are created with a very specific outcome and have specific targets based on scientific data. UNDP has in total set 179 targets to achieve these 17 goals. Below is a list focusing on some of those targets:

No Poverty

Poverty is one of the biggest challenges faced by a large population around the globe. As of 2015, about 736 million people still lived on less than US$1.90 a day; many lack food, clean drinking water, and sanitation. While almost 1.3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty. As a result, eradicating poverty is the 1st SDG.

UNDP has set the target to uplift at least half the proportion of men, women, and children of all ages living in poverty out of poverty and ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services by 2030.

Zero Hunger

Extreme hunger and malnutrition remain huge barriers to development in many countries. There are 821 million people estimated to be chronically undernourished as of 2017, almost 22% of children under age 5 had stunted growth due to malnutrition. There are villages in Haiti where people eat chalk because they don’t have food. The situation is bad, and UNDP 2nd SDG is dedicated to reducing world hunger to zero. The target is to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

To achieve this goal UNDP has set the target to double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers by ensuring sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production. And they have set the target of 2030 to achieve it all.

Good health and wellbeing

Covid-19 pandemic recently proved to us just how important it is to have a robust healthcare system. We saw how the mortality rate increased as our healthcare system was stretched to its limit. Even before Covid-19, the situation was alarming. As per the UN, every 2 seconds a person dies prematurely due to lack of adequate treatment. And it is just not limited to health, but people are also struggling with their mental wellbeing. The situation is worse for females.

To address this, UNDP has set the target to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births, as well as make people aware of mental stress, and promote wellbeing by 2030

Quality education

Illiteracy is a bane of society. An illiterate society can never become sustainable. On the other hand, quality education is one most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys complete free primary and secondary schooling by 2030. It also aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to quality higher education.

To achieve this, the target has been set to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries which will ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men, and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.

Gender Equality

Ending all discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right, it’s crucial for a sustainable future; it’s proven that empowering women and girls helps economic growth and development.

And to achieve this goal by 2030, UNDP has set the following targets

  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation

Clean water and sanitation

Water is an essential commodity, even more, essential than food yet scarcity affects more than 40 percent of people, an alarming figure that is projected to rise as temperatures do. We are staring at a water crisis, and there is no denying it, we have polluted most of our surface water resources making them unfit to drink. To achieve sustainability we must manage our water better

To achieve this goal, UNDP has focused on improving water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally as well as promoting water-efficient practices by 2030.

Affordable and Clean energy

We need energy; we need the energy to develop, to work, to travel. And the energy demand is going to increase. We can become more and more energy-efficient still, our energy demand will increase. Traditionally, energy generation releases a lot of GHG and other pollutants, but by switching to affordable and clean energy we can continue our growth towards a sustainable society

To achieve this goal, UNDP has set a target to increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix and double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030

Decent work and Economic growth

As we mentioned earlier, poverty is a big problem. And one of the main reasons is unemployment. Humans spend the majority of their life working, so having decent work conditions is important to achieve the goal of prosperity. To achieve this UNDP promote sustained economic growth, higher levels of productivity, and technological innovation. Encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation are key to this, as are effective measures to eradicate forced labor, slavery, and human trafficking. With these targets in mind, the goal is to achieve full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030.

Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Industries and infrastructure are vital for the development of a country. Investment in infrastructure and innovation are crucial drivers of economic growth and development. With over half the world population now living in cities, mass transport and renewable energy are becoming ever more important.

To ensure development while meeting all other goals, UNDP Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and, by 2030, significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, in line with national circumstances, and double its share in the least developed countries. The target also includes promoting investments in R&D as well as promoting small and medium scale industries

Reducing Inequality

Income inequality is on the rise—the richest 10 percent have up to 40 percent of global income whereas the poorest 10 percent earn only between 2 to 7 percent. If we take into account population growth inequality in developing countries, inequality has increased by 11 percent. The goal is to reduce the gap.

To achieve this, by 2030, countries are encouraged to progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average. Policies are also needed to be made to ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies, and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies, and action in this regard.

Sustainable cities and communities

Today, more than half of us live in cities. By 2050, two-thirds of all humanity—6.5 billion people—will be urban. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces.

To achieve this target has been set to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated, and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries. Concepts like green building are being promoted while sustainable urban planning is needed to be made an integral part of development.

Responsible consumption and production

One of the oldest definitions of sustainability is “to use our resource in a way that it meets our present needs without harming the need of the future generation.” We have limited resources on our planet. The food we grow is limited, the minerals are limited. So we must consume them responsibly.

To achieve this goal, UNDP has set targets to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses. As well as promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities, and substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse

Climate action

Climate is changing rapidly. There is no country that is not experiencing the drastic effects of climate change. We are witnessing global warming, change in rain cycles, rising sea levels. Greenhouse gas emissions are more than 50 percent higher than in 1990. It is imperative that we take action and prevent any further damage to our climate or we may witness the 6th mass extinction event in Earth’s history

To prevent this, the goal has been set to limit global warming to 1.5°C, and net emissions to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and to achieve net-zero by 2050.

Life below water

Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. However, today we are seeing 30 percent of the world’s fish stocks overexploited, reaching below the level at which they can produce sustainable yields. Ocean acidification due to excessive pollution is also becoming a global concern. The SDGs aim to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems from pollution, as well as address the impacts of ocean acidification.

To prevent this UNDP has set the target that to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution by 2025

Life on land

Just like the ocean, biodiversity on land is also facing a global crisis. Plantlife provides 80 percent of the human diet, and we rely on agriculture as an important economic resource. Forests cover 30 percent of the Earth’s surface and act as an important carbon sink. But today we are witnessing a rapid loss of biodiversity on land. Forests are being cut at an unprecedented pace. Urgent actions are required to preserve our fauna and flora.

UNDP has set various targets to prevent deforestation, promote afforestation, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought, and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.

Peace, Justice, and strong institution

A sustainable society is a fair society. We cannot hope for sustainable development without peace, stability, human rights, and effective governance, based on the rule of law. Peace and harmony are the two important pillars of a sustainable society. The SDGs aim to significantly reduce all forms of violence, and work with governments and communities to end conflict and insecurity. Promoting the rule of law and human rights are key to this process, as is reducing the flow of illicit arms and strengthening the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance.

To achieve this, the UN has developed various targets ranging from ending exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence against and torture of children, substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms as well as stopping illicit arms trade. And to provide legal identity for all, including birth registration by 2030

Partnerships for the goal

All these SDG targets are global. UNDP aims to create a global sustainable society, which required that all the countries come together, and partner up to achieve these goals. We have to understand that no single country can achieve all these goals on its own. Developing countries require the help of developed countries for technology and finance. Developed countries need to make sure that other countries don’t make the same mistake that they make keeping this mind UNDP, has set several targets to aim at promoting partnerships amongst various stakeholders.

In total UNDP has set up a total of 19 targets to achieve the partnerships. These 19 targets have been categorized into 5 categories namely Finance, Technology, Capacity building, Trade, and Systematic issues

The UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goals are very broad, wide-spectral, and interlinked. It has to be kept in mind that to achieve a sustainable society we need to address all of them, and also that no individual organization can achieve all the SDG on its own. It has to be a collective effort by all the countries. It is high time that we shed the ideology of ‘I’ and adopt the approach of ‘our’. It is time we stop thinking only about my country and start thinking about my planet because to be fair we have 195 countries to live in but only one planet.