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A Breakdown Of The UN’s 17 New Goals To Improve The World

UN Goals 2015

This weekend, more than 150 world leaders gathered at UN headquarters to formally adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of benchmarks for the next 15 years that focus on the ambitious targets of ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality, and tackling climate change. The 17 newly-adopted SDGs will replace the list of eight Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, that were put in place in 2000 and are set to expire this year.

“The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms – an agenda for the planet, our common home, [and] an agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “It conveys the urgency of climate action. It is rooted in gender equality and respect for the rights of all.”

“The Global Goals are a blueprint for a better future,” he added. “Now we must use the goals to transform the world.”

Here’s a breakdown of the complete list of 17 goals and some of the key targets included in the 169 sub-goals:

1. End Extreme Poverty

This goal, which seeks to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, is a continuation of the previous MDG of “eradicating extreme hunger and poverty.” The UN currently defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1.25 a day. While extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990, an estimated 836 million people — one in five people in developing regions — still live on less than $1.25 a day, and millions more live on the brink of extreme poverty. Notably, this goal includes measures for the protection of those who have had to leave their homes and countries as a result of conflict. According to a June 2015 U.N. report, the number of people forcibly displaced reached a staggering all-time high of 60 million in 2014, and climate change is expected to greatly exacerbate the problem over the coming years.

2. End Hunger

The UN has now decided to tackle its twin goals of eliminating poverty and hunger separately. In this new goal, the UN seeks to both improve the access that the world’s poorest have to food, and the ways in which that food is produced. “A profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed if we are to nourish today’s 795 million hungry and the additional 2 billion people expected by 2050,” the UN says.

3. Good Health and Well-being

This goal broadens the UN’s focus beyond the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria, which were the targets of the previous version of this goal and remain a pressing concern. Among other goals, it sets a target of getting global maternal mortality (the number of women who die each year during childbirth) down from the current rate of more than 200 per 100,000 live births to 70. Many African nations would need to dramatically improve conditions for pregnant mothers to reach this target. In South Sudan, for instance, more than 2,000 of every 100,000 pregnant mothers die each year as a result of giving birth. The goal also focuses on combating vaccine-preventable and communicable diseases, improving the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, reducing the burden of pollution-related morbidity and mortality, and achieving universal health insurance coverage.

4. Quality Education

Improving worldwide access to education remains a top priority in the 2015 version of the list. In a change from the previous MDG, the new Sustainable Development Goals call for free education through high school, rather than limiting it to primary school only.

5. Gender Equality

This continues to be of pressing importance for the UN, and has become its own goal, advocating for the elimination of violence and discrimination against women. “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world,” the UN says. “Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.” Specific sub-goals include securing and upholding women’s reproductive rights, eliminating child marriage and female genital mutilation, putting an end to trafficking and other forms of exploitation, and undertaking reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources and social capital.

6. Clean Water and Sanitation

The UN reports that by 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water. This goal aims to improve sanitation and hygiene practices, including access to fresh water, in developing nations by 2030. It also calls for protecting and restoring natural water resources over the next five years.

7. Affordable and Clean Energy

A new goal for 2015, this goal seeks to broaden both the development and use of renewable energies by 2030, the next deadline date for achieving these goals. Heavy emitters like China are already stepping up to curb their emissions. The goal also seek to expand access to electricity for the 1 in 5 people who still live without it, setting a target of ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030. Additional targets include substantially increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, promoting investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology, and doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth

This is also a new goal on the 2015 list. The UN is interested in both the creation of new jobs, and the development of those jobs that are sustainable enough to lift employees out of poverty. According to UN estimates, “roughly 470 million jobs are needed globally for new entrants to the labor market between 2016 and 2030.” This item sets an ambitious annual economic growth target of 7 percent per year for the poorest nations. It also calls for equal pay, protecting the rights of vulnerable workers such as female migrant workers, ending abusive practices such as forced labor, modern slavery and human trafficking, and eliminating child labor by 2025.

9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Also a new goal, this item calls for increased technological assistance from developed countries to poorer nations to modernize roads, dams, electrical grids and other infrastructure. “It has long been recognized that growth in productivity and incomes, and improvements in health and education outcomes require investment in infrastructure,” the UN says. “Inclusive and sustainable industrial development is the primary source of income generation, allows for rapid and sustained increases in living standards for all people, and provides the technological solutions to environmentally sound industrialization.”

10. Reduce Inequalities

This target focuses on the growing gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” It seeks to reduce the inequalities in income distribution both within developed and developing nations, and particularly among the most marginalized populations. The UN estimates that “a significant majority of households in developing countries – more than 75 percent of the population – are living today in societies where income is more unequally distributed than it was in the 1990s.”

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities

Urban populations are on the rise, with half of the world’s population — about 3.5 billion people – living in cities today and 60 percent expected to live in urban areas by 2030. This burgeoning urban population has created major challenges for cities around the world, including “congestion, lack of funds to provide basic services, a shortage of adequate housing and declining infrastructure.” This goal seeks to help cities overcome these challenges “in ways that allow them to continue to thrive and grow, while improving resource use and reducing pollution and poverty.” Specific goals include reducing the number of people who live in slums, mitigating and adapting to climate change, increasing resilience to disasters, improving safety for women, and protecting the world’s cultural and natural heritage. “The future we want includes cities of opportunities for all, with access to basic services, energy, housing, transportation and more,” the UN says.

12. Responsible Consumption and Production

This goal, a continuation of Goal 6, seeks to improve the access that people in developing countries have to food and clean water, while at the same time improving how food is produced on a global scale. It sets bold targets for cutting in half food waste by the year 2030 and over the next five years overhauling industrial waste streams. It also aims to address the global obesity crisis.

13. Climate Action

A new goal for the 2015 list, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals looks at quickly and efficiently reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in both developed and developing nations, which are now at their highest levels in history. “Without action, the world’s average surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century and is likely to surpass 3 degrees Celsius this century—with some areas of the world expected to warm even more. The poorest and most vulnerable people are being affected the most,” the UN says. While talks were held at the UN General Assembly, the real work on this issue is expected to come at the U.N. Conference on Climate Change later this year in Paris.

14. “Life Below Water”

Another new goal for 2015, the UN is interested in sustainable fishing practices and protecting marine life. They estimate that nearly “40 percent of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats.” Among other things, this goal calls for sustainable management of marine fisheries by 2020 and elimination of marine pollution by 2025.

15. Life on Land

The UN is also interested in protecting creatures on land, with an emphasis on reducing deforestation and desertification. This goal calls for the same protection of land that Goal 14 demands for the sea.

16. “Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions”

A goal that envisions fair and free elections, as well as governmental accountability at every level. The UN estimates that “corruption, bribery, theft, and tax evasion cost some US $1.26 trillion for developing countries per year.” The goal also calls for reducing violence-related injuries and deaths, stopping illegal firearms trafficking, and ending “abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.”

17. Partnerships For the Goals

In keeping with practices established with the 2000 Millennium Development Goals, the UN continues to envision a global framework of support to ensure that its goals are realized, calling for rich nations to give more assistance to poorer countries and to help less developed nations progress.


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