By Faye Murphy
All 193 UN member states signed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September of 2015. The SDGs aim to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. These goals replaced the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which emphasised helping those in developing countries. The SDGs are different to the preceding MDGs as it is a global call to action, rather than just assisting the developing world. While the MDGs have a valuable legacy, the SDGs must carry on this legacy while improving and expanding upon it. Furthermore, as SDGs are for all countries regardless of their developmental or economic status, if all the SDGs are achieved by 2030, the entire planet would be better for all.
In the SDG “Wedding Cake” that Carl Folke proposed at the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Stockholm University, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are split into three categories: economic growth, social equity and justice, and those goals related to the biosphere. The 17 goals feature 169 targets and 232 indicators, which are all interconnected. The targets for these goals have a wide variety. For example, for SDG 5 (Gender Equality) alone, the targets range from universal access to sexual and reproductive health to ending female genital mutilation and ensuring women have equal opportunities to leadership roles at all levels. We can see from this single example that the targets are well intertwined with other goals such as quality education, good health and wellbeing, to name a few. Targets and objectives allow us to see how each SDG is crucial and interdependent on another.
An example of how these individual goals as a whole are all interconnected can be seen if there is a rise in sea temperature (Climate Action), leading to the loss of crucial biodiversity (Life Under Water). This loss of biodiversity can cause a buildup of pathogens, acidity, and pests in the water (Clean Water and Sanitation). This buildup can cause health problems in those drinking the unsafe water from the source, which is especially prevalent in developing countries where hospitals are few and far between (Good Health and Wellbeing).
In order for the goals to be achieved, the SDGs require policies to be put into place. These policies must include everybody, including subpopulations or minority communities, as these minority communities are usually the most vulnerable and at risk. Furthermore, as the SDGs emphasise no individual being left behind, inclusivity and intersectionality are vital in achieving these goals. This emphasis can be seen in the transformative goals of zero hunger, no poverty, good health and wellbeing, quality education and gender equality.
As the SDGs are a Global Agenda, we must think about them in our individual lives, communities, countries, continents and global roles. Achieving these goals by putting in policies requires partnerships and interconnections between governments, all sectors of society and communities to ensure that there can be a future for the next generations.