Ever since climate change became a threat to humanity, the notion of sustainability and sustainable development has once again become the forefront of many global discussions. To be more precise, these discussions on sustainability are synonymously addressed in relation to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs have become the modern-day mantra for many people when it comes to sustainability. Most businesses, municipalities and non-governmental organizations are trying to align their targets with the SDGs.
Watch – SLX Davos Diaries
Since there is so much buzz around the SDGs, I thought we’d take a moment to understand how did it all start. To learn about the origins of the SDGs, we will need to use the power of hindsight. We will use this power to study SDGs’ predecessor, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and how it eventually led to the evolution of SDGs.
UN’s Biggest New Year’s Resolution
The 21st century had finally arrived, and the United Nations was going to make the world’s biggest resolution – a global promise to reduce poverty and human deprivation at historically unprecedented rates, using different nations’ collaborative action. The world would come to know this global commitment as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 191 United Nations member countries and 22 international organizations came together on 8th September 2000 in New York, USA, pledging to achieve 8 MDGs by 2015.
- to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;
- to achieve universal primary education;
- to promote gender equality and empower women;
- to reduce child mortality;
- to improve maternal health;
- to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
- to ensure environmental sustainability; and
- to develop a global partnership for development.
Between the year 2000 and 2015, the MDGs were able to make some significant strides towards making progress in few of the above 8 goals it set out to achieve –
- The MDG target of reducing poverty rates (people living on $1.25 a day) was achieved, with extreme poverty rates falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 736 million in 2015.
- Globally, primary school enrollment of girls went from 74 girls enrolled for every 100 boys in 1990 to 104 girls enrolled for every 100 boys in 2015.
- The world’s under-5 mortality rate decreased from 90% in 1990 to 43% in 2015.
- The number of new HIV infections decreased by 40% between the years 2000 and 2015.
- 2 million malaria deaths were prevented between 2000 and 2015.
- Between 1990 and 2015, globally, 2.1 billion people gained access to improved sanitation and 2.6 billion people gained access to drinking water.
The MDGs received a mixed reception, people either viewed it as an optimistic blueprint for global equality or believed that it did not have any meaningful targets, policies, and actions. Despite its mixed reception, the MDGs have since become the world’s central reference point for development cooperation. It packaged global critical issues on poverty, hunger, disease, inequality and environmental degradation into easily understandable goals, which in turn promoted global awareness. In 2015, during its final year, MDG became the basis of what we now call the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Know more about MDGs and their challenges by signing up for our online courses.
We Now Welcome to the Stage, UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
As 2015 was approaching, it was very clear that the UN desperately needed a successor for the MDGs, one which was going to overcome the challenges that plagued it. As the first step, in 2012, during the Rio+20 conference, the UN formed two teams to build an elaborate agenda to replace the MDG for the upcoming UN’s 2015 conference in New York. The two teams were the “UN Task Team” chaired by the Prime Minister of the UK and Presidents of Liberia and Indonesia and the “Open Working Group” managed by inter-governmental groups. Both groups worked in parallel and combined their knowledge over this 3-year period (2012 to 2015), which is known as the “Post-2015 Development Agenda”.
In September 2015, during their conference in New York, the UN showcased the “blueprint to achieve a better and sustainable future for all” known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 193 countries of the UN assembly committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The SDGs consisted of 17 goals and 169 targets.
- GOAL 1: No Poverty
- GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
- GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
- GOAL 4: Quality Education
- GOAL 5: Gender Equality
- GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
- GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
- GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
- GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
- GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
- GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
- GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
- GOAL 13: Climate Action
- GOAL 14: Life Below Water
- GOAL 15: Life on Land
- GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
- GOAL 17: Partnerships to Achieve the Goal
The core framework for the SDGs was expanding on the previous MDGs by seeking to link the social, economic and environmental aspects of its goals. The SDGs addressed all the shortcomings of the MDGs by incorporating a broader and transformative agenda that accurately reflects the complex challenges of the 21st century. However, the question remains, are the SDGs going to be successful. Will they be plagued by new challenges that prevent them from making any meaningful impact?
Get more insight on the SDGs in our upcoming course “The Origin Story of the SDGs”.