Sustainable Development Goals

Ending Poverty, Transforming all Lives, and Protecting the Planet

Continuation of the MDGs success past 2015

The UN Panel came together with a sense of optimism and a deep respect for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The 13 years since the millennium have seen the fastest reduction in poverty in human history: there are half a billion fewer people living below an international poverty line of $1.25 a day. Child death rates have fallen by more than 30%, with about three million children’s lives saved each year compared to 2000. Deaths from malaria have fallen by one quarter. This unprecedented progress has been driven by a combination of economic growth, better policies, and the global commitment to the MDGs, which set out an inspirational rallying cry for the whole world. 

Given this remarkable success, it would be a mistake to simply tear up the MDGs and start from scratch. As world leaders agreed at Rio in 2012, new goals and targets need to be grounded in respect for universal human rights, and finish the job that the MDGs started. Central to this is eradicating extreme poverty from the face of the earth by 2030. This is something that leaders have promised time and again throughout history. Today, it can actually be done. 

So a new development agenda should carry forward the spirit of the Millennium Declaration and the best of the MDGs, with a practical focus on things like poverty, hunger, water, sanitation, education and healthcare. But to fulfil our vision of promoting sustainable development, we must go beyond the MDGs. They did not focus enough on reaching the very poorest and most excluded people. They were silent on the devastating effects of conflict and violence on development. The importance to development of good governance and institutions that guarantee the rule of law, free speech and open and accountable government was not included, nor the need for inclusive growth to provide jobs. Most seriously, the MDGs fell short by not integrating the economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainable development as envisaged in the Millennium Declaration, and by not addressing the need to promote sustainable patterns of consumption and production. The result was that environment and development were never properly brought together. People were working hard – but often separately – on interlinked problems. 

So the Panel asked some simple questions: starting with the current MDGs, what to keep, what to amend, and what to add. In trying to answer these questions, we listened to the views of women and men, young people, parliamentarians, civil society organisations, indigenous people and local communities, migrants, experts, business, trade unions and governments. Most important, we listened directly to the voices of hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world, in face-to-face meetings as well as through surveys, community interviews, and polling over mobile phones and the internet. 

Massive Changes Since 2000

We considered the massive changes in the world since the year 2000 and the changes that are likely to unfold by 2030. There are a billion more people today, with world population at seven billion, and another billion expected by 2030. More than half of us now live in cities. Private investment in developing countries now dwarfs aid flows. The number of mobile phone subscriptions has risen from fewer than one billion to more than six billion. Thanks to the internet, seeking business or information on the other side of the world is now routine for many. Yet inequality remains and opportunity is not open to all. The 1.2 billion poorest people account for only 1 per cent of world consumption while the billion richest consume 72 per cent.

Paradigm Shift from MDG to SDG

SDGs principles are based on economic progress, equitable prosperity and opportunity, a healthy and productive environment, and participatory governance. This new foundation will require a new way of approaching “development”. The following shows some of the paradigm shifts which will be necessary:

  • Development Assistance Universal Global Compact

  • Top-Down Decision Making Multi Stakeholder Decision Making Processes

  • Models Increasing Risk and Inequality Models to Decrease Inequality and Risk

  • Shareholder Value Business Models Stakeholder Value Business Models

  • Meeting “easy” Development Targets Tackling Systemic Barriers to Progress

  • Damage Control Investing in Resilience

  • Concepts and Testing Scaled Up Interventions

  • Multiple Discrete Actions Cross-Scale Coordination

  • Foundation of SDGs

While poverty has been diminished, the gulf between the haves and the have-nots has widened – not only on an individual scale, but also at a country level. The MDGs articulated a global vision of development around a common set of goals and priorities. The next era of international cooperation should focus action at local, national and global levels on the deeply entwined economic, social and environmental challenges that confront the next generation.

The necessary Foundation for this new paradigm include the following:

  • Economic Progress

  • Equitable Prosperity and Opportunity

  • Healthy and Productive Natural Systems

  • Stakeholder Engagement and Collaboration

Results of the Open Working Groups (OWGs)

Conceptual aspects of SDGs

• The MDGs are the point of departure for our work to develop SDGs, and completion of the unfinished business of the MDGs on poverty eradication and other important social objectives must figure centrally in the post-2015 agenda.

• MDGs alone are not however the destination. SDGs must be more ambitious, must address in an integrated and balanced way the three dimensions of sustainable development, must be at the centre of a transformational agenda.

• SDGs must be universal and applicable to all countries, which means that they must be flexible enough to have ownership of countries at different levels of development and with different national priorities. A global dashboard of goals and targets was proposed as a way of reflecting common but differentiated responsibilities.

• Like the MDGs, the SDGs will need to be concise, focused, few in number, easy to communicate, and measurable. While they cannot cover all aspects of sustainable development, they will need to emerge from a common agreement on global priorities. The SDGs will need to be supported by a narrative which brings out the interrelationships and some of the drivers, strategies and approaches to achieve sustainable development.

• That narrative could be one of transformative change needed to realize our vision of sustainable poverty eradication and universal human development, respecting human dignity and protecting our planet, mother Earth, living in harmony with nature for the well-being and happiness of present and future generations.

• SDGs will need strong bottom-up engagement through broad consultation in their formulation. The voices of the poor and vulnerable especially need to be heard.

• It is important to address the means of achieving any agreed goals, including what will be

needed by way of a strengthened global partnership among governments and effective and targeted partnerships involving all relevant stakeholders.

• We need to ask ourselves, as we define goals and targets: can we reasonably expect to collect reliable and timely data in a majority of countries to measure and assess progress?

The above was taken from the United Nations Sustainability web site:


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