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Introduction to the SDGs

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

Leaving development tongues wagging and anticipation at an all time high, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were finally released in August 2015. Comprising of 17 goals with 169 targets, these goals form the basis of what much development policy, foreign aid, and international development work will be targeting over the next 15 years. The SDGs are a United Nations (UN) sponsored initiative that aim to unify global development efforts and produce indicators with which to measure progress and success.

The sequel to the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs look to tackle the critiques of the MDGs by creating a set of goals which reflect the holistic nature of development and aim to tackle the root causes of poverty. One of the main points of difference between the MDGs and the SDGs is that while the MDGs were mostly directed at developing nations, the SDGs apply to all nations, holding the global community accountable for development endeavours. Discussion on the SDGs and the post 2015 framework for international development began at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, and the creation of an open working group to draw up a draft agenda followed shortly. The United Nations and the working group then committed to making the creation of the SDGs an inclusive and transparent process to which all 193 member states can be held accountable.

The 17 aspirational goals range from ‘Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere’ (Goal 1), and continue to address a wide range of social, environmental and structural challenges that currently impede sustainable development. Focusing on education, Goal 4 - ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ - forms an ambitious benchmark for the development community to strive for, and mainly focus on aspects of quality, access, and inclusivity. Furthermore, these targets aim not just for universal education, but for educational opportunities that will lead to meaningful employment and an increased realisation of individual rights. The development community look upon these aspirational goals with the hope that the tangible targets set can be reached by the year 2030.