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What are the Sustainable Development Goals?


The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 Goals which cover everything from gender equality and environmental sustainability to hunger and quality education. They were agreed by the world’s governments in 2015. Here’s a brief overview of each of the Goals and what they aim to do by 2030.

Goal 1: No Poverty

836 million people still live in extreme poverty. This Goal will make sure that everyone has access to food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education so they can fully participate in society.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

Globally, one in nine people in the world are undernourished, the majority of these living in low-income countries. This Goal focuses on addressing poor agricultural practices, food waste and environmental degradation to ensure no one goes hungry.

Malala Yousafzai supports Goal 4, Quality Education.

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being

Access to quality healthcare is very unequal with, for example, more than six million children dying before their fifth birthday each year. This Goal aims to ensure people of all ages lead healthy lives, focusing in particular on maternal and neonatal health and ending the epidemic of AIDS, TB, malaria and other tropical diseases.

Goal 4: Quality Education

57 million children remain out of school, with more than half of these children living in sub-Saharan Africa. This Goal is about ensuring everyone has access to quality education and life-long learning opportunities, no matter who they are or where they are.

Goal 5: Gender Equality

Women and girls still suffer discrimination and violence every day. Goal 5 focuses on achieving gender equality so that women and girls have equal access to education, health care and decent work, and reach their full potential.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the global population, and more than 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation, such as toilets or latrines. This Goal aims to achieve universal and equitable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for all by 2030.

Mr. Yuan Tao and Ms. Yan

Qiciao and Qixi, a pair of giant panda twins, inspect a flag to Goal 7 at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

One in five people still lack access to modern electricity and 3 billion people rely on inefficient fuel sources, like wood and coal, which contribute to climate change. This Goal works to ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and renewable energy sources.

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

470 million jobs are needed globally for new entrants to the labour market between now and 2030. This Goal calls for more jobs that not only provide decent pay but stimulate the economy and provide equal opportunities for men and women, with a particular focus on youth populations.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Billions of people around the world lack access to basic infrastructure, such as electricity, sanitation and reliable phone services. This Goal states that for a society to grow it should encourage industries that bring opportunities to everyone, while protecting the environment.

Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

Many famous people, including Stephen Hawkings, have endorsed the SDGs.

Inequality is visible throughout the Global North and South, increasing poverty and affecting individuals’ sense of fulfilment and self-worth.  This Goal seeks to make sure everyone everywhere has a chance to live a healthy and happy life.

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Rapid urbanisation is exerting pressure on fresh water supplies, sewerage, the living environment and public health. This Goal aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Households consume 29% of global energy, contributing to 21% of CO2 emissions. This Goal wants to make us think twice about the things we use, the waste we create, and how that impacts our planet.

Goal 13: Climate Action

Climate change is affecting every country on every continent, with the poorest and most vulnerable people suffering the most. This Goal is about finding solutions like renewable energy and strengthening resilience to climate-related hazards in all countries.

Goal 14: Life below Water

About 40% of the world’s oceans are affected by human activities causing pollution, depleted fisheries and the loss of coastal habitats. This Goal is about protecting the oceans, seas and all their species.

Goal 15: Life on Land

52% of land used for agriculture is affected by soil degradation and 22% of known animal breeds are at risk of extinction. This Goal is about making sure that we stop all the things that threaten our global home, including deforestation, land degradation, and loss of animal and plant species.

Free diving world champion Umberto Pelizzari, raised a flag to represent Goal 14, Life Below Water, off the coast of Formentera.

Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

At least one fifth of humanity lives in countries experiencing significant violence, political conflict and insecurity. This Goal is about finding ways to make sure everyone lives in a peaceful society, where they have access to justice and don’t have to live in fear.

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Making the Goals a reality requires participation of everyone, from governments and civil society organisations to the private sector and individuals, including volunteers. This Goal calls on people around the world to work together and deliver the real changes that are promised within the Goals.

If you’re interested in the SDGs, we’d love to hear from you. Tell us about which Goal you feel most passionate about by tagging @VSOIreland on Facebook and Twitter.