UN Day: Sustaining development

It was a wonderful moment in the year 2000 when 189 of the world's leaders joined in signing up to the UN's millennium development goals. There were eight goals:

  1. to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. to achieve universal primary education
  3. to promote gender equality
  4. to reduce child mortality
  5. to improve maternal health
  6. to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. to ensure environmental sustainability
  8. to develop a global partnership for development

Women by roadside in IndiaGlobally, the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015
© 2011, Gonzalo Bell for International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)

With millennium enthusiasm running high, many of us hoped for enormous progress by 2015, the deadline for the goals; and indeed, much has been achieved.

Last month the United Nations convened another summit and adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 year period. This time there are 17 goals and 169 specific targets.

As I read the document, I felt that the euphoric optimism of the millennium milestone had been replaced by some fairly sober realism.

The single goal regarding environmental sustainability is now two goals on climate change – six if you count biodiversity and the health of farming and fishing practices. There is less an air of 'we can do this together!' and more recognition that change will lie with the 193 separate governments which make up the UN.

I confess that this change is depressing to me. In every target I can imagine the governments that will implement new policies and those that will resist. Our poor, broken global economic system is treated as inevitable, with debt structures assumed and trade justice left to the World Trade Organization.

But what is encouraging is the overt acknowledgment of the link between development and climate, with energy right there, as well as gender equality and poverty. Yes, they are absolutely linked, and if we are wise enough to recognise this as a world community, perhaps (just maybe) there is ground for hope.

Pray for the United Nations as preparations now intensify for the climate change conference in Paris this December.

Nothing is more important.

Roberta Rominger

The sustainable development goals for 2030 are:

  1. end poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  9. build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
  10. reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development