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What are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?



A guide to understanding the 17 goals for global sustainable development by 2030

In 2015, leaders from all 193 member states of the United Nations came together for a historic Summit at the UN General Assembly in New York. The landmark event which took place from the 25th to the 27th of September was called the UN Sustainable Development Summit 2015. The aim of this summit was to adopt a historic agenda that calls for action by member states to engage all sectors of our society towards immediate change. This new agenda was called ¨Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development¨ and consists of 17 goals for global sustainable development with 169 targets and 232 indicators.

The 2030 Agenda went into effect on January 1, 2016, and it called on all countries to mobilize efforts over a 15-year period to increase prosperity while safeguarding the planet. These goals that universally apply to all, require countries to work towards several different objectives, with a final aim of ending all forms of poverty, fighting inequalities, sustainable economic growth, and tackling climate change.

There are also five essential areas of focus that these goals attempt to achieve, known as the 5P's of sustainable development. This includes People, Planet, Peace, Prosperity, and Partnership. The main significance of the 17 SDG´s is to recognize that, strategies for economic growth must be designed with a focus to end global poverty. Aside from that, the goals also address important social needs such as education, health care, and equality while working together to combat climate change.


HOW WERE THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS FORMED?

The journey of the UN SDG´s began three decades ago, in 1992, at a UN conference on Environment and Develop in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Also known as the Rio Earth Summit or Earth Summit, this was the 20th anniversary of the first-ever UN conference that took place in Stockholm in 1972 and the main aim was to discuss global environmental issues.

But the Rio Earth summit was the first time that the World leaders got together to discuss this new topic of sustainable development. The conclusion of this meeting of global leaders was to adopt ´Agenda 21´, which was a plan agreed upon by over 178 member states to build a global partnership for sustainable development with an aim to protect the environment and improve human lives. The aim was to achieve this goal by the year 2000 as the ¨21´in Agenda 21 refers to the original target of the 21st century.

Agenda 21 was a part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which was an agreement during this conference, which also included the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

Following this, the Millennium Summit was held at the UN headquarters in New York in September 2000. This conference at that time was the largest gathering of heads of states and governments and included over 189 member states. The summit concluded with the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals which was focused on the developing world and had eight broader goals. These included eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development.

But twenty years when all global leaders got together for the 20th anniversary of the Earth Rio Summit, they realized that the goals from 1992 had not been achieved and their plan had failed. They also understood that key accords on climate change, biodiversity conservation, and desertification were failing since things were becoming worse by the day. In the end, the 1992 promise of building a world of the sustainable world had not been fulfilled.

This is when they realized that time was running out and that there was an urgent need to focus the world's attention on this issue in order to put governments under pressure to strive for sustainable change. As this reflected on the original idea discussed in 1992, they decided that the goals should be put together by the end of 2015, at the end of the Millennium Development Goals period. The main aim of the sustainable goals is to put a holistic framework that is based on three basic pillars including economic development, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability. And as the Millennium Development Goals were aimed at the world's poorest countries, the Sustainable Development Goals are universally applicable to all.


WHAT ARE THE 17 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

  1. No poverty – ¨End poverty in all its form everywhere¨, is the main aim of SDG 1. It includes a total of seven targets, out of which five are outcome targets and two are means of achieving them by 2030.

  2. Zero hunger – ¨End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture¨, is the main aim of SDG 2. This goal includes a total of eight targets out of which five are outcome targets and three means of achieving them by 2030.

  3. Good health and well-being - ¨Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages¨, is the main aim of SDG 3. This goal includes 13 targets, out of which nine are the outcome targets and four are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  4. Quality education - ¨Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all¨, is the aim of SDG4. This goal has ten targets out of which seven are the outcome targets and three are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  5. Gender equality - ¨Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls¨, is the aim of SDG5. This goal has ten targets out of which six are the outcome targets and three are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  6. Clean water and sanitation - ¨Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all¨, is the aim of SDG6. This goal has eight targets out of which six are the outcome targets and two are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  7. Affordable and clean energy - ¨Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all¨, is the aim of SDG7. This goal has five targets out of which three are the outcome targets and two are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  8. Decent work and economic growth - ¨Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all¨, is the aim of SDG8. This goal has twelve targets out of which ten are the outcome targets and two are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure - ¨Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation¨, is the aim of SDG9. This goal has eight targets out of which five are the outcome targets and three are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  10. Reduce Inequality - ¨Reduce income inequality within and among countries¨, is the aim of SDG10. This goal has ten targets out of which seven are the outcome targets and three are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities - ¨Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable¨, is the aim of SDG11. This goal has ten targets out of which seven are the outcome targets and three are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  12. Responsible consumption and production - ¨Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns¨ is the aim of SDG12. This goal has five targets out of which three are the outcome targets and two are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  13. Climate action - ¨Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy¨, is the aim of SDG13. This goal has eight targets out of which six are the outcome targets and two are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  14. Life below water - ¨Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development¨, is the aim of SDG14. This goal has ten targets out of which seven are the outcome targets and three are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  15. Life on land - ¨Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss¨, is the aim of SDG15. This goal has twelve targets out of which nine are the outcome targets and three are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions - ¨Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels¨, is the aim of SDG16. This goal has twelve targets out of which ten are the outcome targets and two are the means of achieving them by 2030.

  17. Partnerships for the goals - ¨Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development¨, is the aim of SDG17. This goal has nineteen targets to be achieved by 2030.


FINLAND LEADS THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INDEX TWICE IN A ROW

In 2022, Finland set an example for the rest of the world by being the only country to be placed first for achieving the UN SDG´s index, two years in a row. The international assessment index is conducted annually by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Bertelsmann Foundation to compare the progress of all UN member states related to the implementation of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development goals. The result of the report suggested that out of all the 17 SDG´s, Finland had achieved or was on the road to achieving most of the ones related to social sustainability. The country is also close to achieving the goals of reducing inequality, decent work, economic growth, and peace. Although these goals, according to the report are close to achieving, gender equality challenges such as violence and the gender pay gap still remain. The country also achieved the goals of no poverty, clean water, and sanitation, affordable and clean energy as well as equal education for all.

Finland has also made positive gains in women's and girls' rights, supporting sexual and reproductive health and rights, improving the rights of people with disabilities, and assisting emerging economies to generate employment and livelihoods.

But one of the biggest challenges that the country still faces is related to ecological sustainability. This is due to the challenges the country faces due to climate change and the transition towards sustainable consumption and production patterns. The other issue is the increasing loss of biodiversity which needs to be addressed immediately.

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