The Development Goals Transforming Our World

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that generation. Let your greatness bloom.” - Nelson Mandela




At the start of this millennium, the world’s leaders assembled to cultivate a vision for a better world, and to set quantified and time-bound targets for addressing the many dimensions of poverty.  Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set to be the framework for global development over the ensuing 15 years.

As that period winds to an end, it’s clear that although poverty has not been eliminated, huge strides forward have been made.  Just one statistic: in 1990 nearly half the population of the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day - this figure is now 14%.

But despite the undeniable steps taken towards the MDGs, many of the poorest and most vulnerable people are still being left behind.  Gender inequality persists, conflict migrants are more numerous now than they have been since WWII, millions still live without access to basic services or sufficient food, and environmental degradation and climate change threaten the future of development.

And while the MDGs have provided a locus around which Governments can centre policies and programmes, they have been criticised for not being broad enough; they did not address economic development, human rights, or tackle the root causes of poverty.

Though the MDGs have proved a success, we cannot stop there.

In September, the UN adopted 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets to carry on the work of the MDGs and guide the global agenda until 2030.  The SDGs address key barriers to sustainable development, including those neglected by the MDGs like unsustainable consumption patterns.  The new agenda is broad and ambitious: end poverty, share prosperity and tackle the core drivers of climate change.  The SDGs will also apply to every country, not only those in the developing world.

You can read about the new SDGs on the UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.

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