At the beginning of the new millennium in 2000, world leaders gathered at the United Nations and formed a framework to combat poverty in its all dimensions and translated this vision into eight goals, named the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were to be achieved by the world within a period of 15 years. Nations were to use the MDGs as a basis for their policy formulations. Substantial progress has been made by 2015, where the world has been able to realize the first MDG of halving the extreme poverty rate, for instance.
However, the achievements have been uneven across regions and countries leaving behind the most vulnerable areas of focus such as the persistence of gender inequality and climate change affecting the poorest sect of the world population. The eight MDGs – reduce poverty and hunger; achieve universal education; promote gender equality; reduce child and maternal deaths; combat HIV, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; develop global partnerships – are criticized to have failed to consider the root causes of poverty and to have overlooked gender inequality as well as the holistic nature of development. The goals also did not consider human rights and specifically address economic development. The focus of the post 2015 agenda is now on building a sustainable world where environmental sustainability, social inclusion, and economic development are equally valued.
The Rio+20 conference held in Rio de Janeiro, 2012, galvanized a process to carry on the momentum generated by the MDGs and fit into a global development framework beyond 2015 using a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The document put forward by the UN General Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) in 2014 containing 17 goals set the ground for the new SDGs and the global development agenda spanning from 2015-2030.
It is widely agreed that though the MDGs provided a focal point for governments around which they could develop policies designed to end poverty and improve the lives of poor people, they were too narrow and hence the SDGs provided an elaborate extension of the 8 MDGs using 17 goals. Every country will be expected to work towards achieving the SDGs unlike the MDGs which in reality were considered targets for poor countries to achieve with the finance from wealthy nations.
The SDGs are as follows:
1) End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2) End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
3) Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
4) Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
5) Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6) Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7) Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8) Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
9) Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation
10) Reduce inequality within and among countries
11) Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
12) Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13) Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (taking note of agreements made by the UNFCCC forum)
14) Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
15) Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
16) Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17) Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
There is still ongoing debate as to the agenda set by the 17 goals of the SDGs to be too unwieldy to implement or to sell to the public whilst others argue that in order to capture all areas a comprehensive set of goals are required. The SDGs will become applicable from January 2016 with a deadline spanning to 2030.