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UN: Sustainable Development Goals (by Moss )

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sometimes also referred to as the Global Goals or Agenda 2030, are a set of goals aimed at achieving “a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030”. The goals, 17 in total, were adopted unanimously by the United Nation's 193 member states during a General Assembly session held on the 25th of September 2015. The seventeen goals cover a broad range of problems and issues, such as poverty, gender equality and climate change, and were thus formulated through an understanding of sustainability as consisting of both social, economic and ecological aspects. Agenda 2030 can be seen as the more or less natural successor to the eight so called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted in 2000 (with 2015 as the end date) and encompassed aims such as eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, which are also part of the SDGs. Almost two years after the adoption of Agenda 2030, a resolution including specific targets and indicators for each goal was adopted by the General Assembly, in order to make it easier to monitor the progress made. These targets and indicators serve as a roadmap, outlining the areas that require improvement and providing concrete units of measurement to be used for every goal. In this article, we will take a closer look at each of the 17 goals, touching down on the important facts and figures in order to assess how far we have come, and what remains to be done. The coronavirus pandemic that swept over the world last year and continues to ravage has had a negative impact on the achievement of several of the goals, making it difficult to reach the designated targets. Since most goals have an end date somewhere between 2020 and 2030, there is at most nine years left to achieve them. While some targets may be within reach, others will require much more effort to accomplish.
The first goal is to “[e]nd poverty in all its forms everywhere”. This goal is divided into five target outcomes: the eradication of extreme poverty, usually defined as living on less than 1.25 USD per day, the reduction of poverty by half, the implementation of social protection systems, ensuring equal access to basic services, technology and economic resources, and the building of resilience to disasters. While progress is definitely being made, 10% of the world's population is still living in poverty. The coronavirus pandemic has had an especially negative impact on this goal, as measures to control the spread of the virus have affected the livelihoods of millions and millions of people, who now, more than ever, struggle to make ends meet. A study has shown that poverty has increased by 7% in just a few months, in spite of the steady decline observed during the past 20 years. This means, in more concrete terms, that 71 million people were pushed into extreme poverty last year. The second goal, which is to “[e]nd hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”, is of course intricately linked with the first. The outcome targets of this goal include increasing agricultural productivity and implementing resilient agricultural practices, in order to secure people's access to adequate nutrition. Today, 1 in 9 people are undernourished, with children being particularly vulnerable. Malnourishment contributes to almost half of the deaths in children under the age of five, amounting to more than three million every year. In spite of efforts to improve nutrition, children, especially in war-torn places like Yemen, are at high risk of stunting and wasting, affecting their health and well-being into adulthood.

The third goal, to “[e]nsure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, has the second-most comprehensive array of target outcomes and indicators among the 17 goals. It includes the reduction of maternal mortality, ending infant mortality, ending AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, strengthening the treatment and prevention of substance abuse, and ensuring universal healthcare coverage and access to affordable medicines and vaccines. As the pandemic has made blatantly clear, healthcare often suffers from a lack of resources even in so called developed countries, with the situation being even worse in countries without the necessary means to provide proper healthcare services to their citizens. The pandemic has also affected childhood immunisation programmes in 70 countries, which is likely to have an adverse impact on the prevention of diseases such as polio and measles, which are illnesses that have previously been eradicated thanks to intense efforts to vaccinate every single child around the planet. Access to vaccines is crucial in combatting diseases, but as of now, only certain countries, mostly in the Global North, have been able to start vaccinating against COVID-19. Estimates show that more than 85 countries will have to wait at least until 2023 before gaining access to vaccines. This unequal distribution of vaccines puts hundreds of millions of lives at risk, and shows how volatile efforts at cooperation can be when national interests take centre-stage. The fourth goal is to “[e]nsure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”, and includes target outcomes such as free primary and secondary education, affordable higher education, the elimination of discrimination in education, and universal literacy and numeracy. Education is usually considered key both to improving life chances for individuals and for a well-functioning society, yet tens of millions of children continue to grow up without ever having the chance to go to school. The closure of schools due to the pandemic has also laid bare the impact of socio-economic factors for the successful completion of education, which is clearly illustrated by the fact that at least 500 million students are unable to take part in remote learning due to a lack of access to the necessary means and resources.

The fifth goal, to “[a]chieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, includes target outcomes such as eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, eliminating harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and forced marriages, as well as acknowledging and valuing the unpaid care and domestic work that women perform the bulk of. Through the pledge to “Leave No One Behind”, countries have committed themselves to further progress in the countries that are furthest behind first. While improvements are being made, girls are still forced to drop out of school more often than boys, women are more likely to live in poverty and perform precarious labour without adequate pay than men, are at risk of being subjected to gender based violence and sexual exploitation during their lifetimes, and remain underrepresented in both local and national political bodies, thus lacking the possibility to influence decision-making that could improve their situation. The sixth goal, which is to “[e]nsure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”, includes ensuring the universal provision of safe drinking water and access to toilets, which over half of the world's population (4.2 billion people) still lacks. 2.2 billion people do not have access to clean water, and are thus forced to use contaminated water, facing the risk of contracting diseases such as cholera every day.

The seventh goal is to “[e]nsure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”, and focuses both on the universal access to energy and an increasing transition to renewable energy. Over 800 million people still lack access to electricity, with sub-Saharan Africa remaining the region with the largest access deficit. While the use of renewable energy is on the rise, much more concerted efforts need to be made in order to reduce the impact of fossil fuels on global warming and climate change. The eighth goal, which is to “[p]romote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”, is to be reached through focusing on the improvement of resource efficiency in production and consumption, ending modern slavery, trafficking and child labour, promoting youth employment, protecting labour rights, and promoting safe working conditions. Again, the coronavirus pandemic has had a highly negative impact, with many people losing their jobs and sources of income as sectors that employ many people, including tourism, have been badly hit by the pandemic. The ninth goal, to “[b]uild resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation”, is mainly focused on economic aspects, but also points to the importance of developing technological infrastructure and ensuring universal access to information and communications technology (ICT), such as the internet. Only 53% of the world's population currently has access to the internet, pointing to a severe gap when it comes to ICT distribution across the planet.

The tenth goal, which is to “[r]educe income inequality within and between countries”, is aimed at achieving a more even distribution of wealth both between individuals in each country and around the world. This is to be achieved by ensuring equal opportunities and ending discrimination, adopting fiscal and social policies that promote equality, improving regulation of global financial markets and institutions, as well as encouraging development assistance and investments in developing countries. Migration is also included here, with 54% of the world's countries having policies in place to facilitate the safe movement of people. The eleventh goal is to “[m]ake cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable”, and focuses on the provision of safe and affordable housing, affordable and sustainable transport systems, protecting cultural and natural heritage, and reducing the adverse effects of natural disasters. Over a billion people now live in slum areas, with poor access to proper sanitation and waste disposal, which increases the risk of diseases spreading. Air pollution is another major issue, causing millions of deaths every year. The twelfth goal, which is to “[e]nsure sustainable consumption and production patterns”, includes target outcomes such as reducing the per capita global food waste by half, reducing waste through recycling and reuse, and encouraging the adoption of sustainable production by companies. While awareness of the detrimental effects of climate change is increasing, not least among the general population, companies and corporations, as well as the agricultural sector, which are responsible for the majority of the world's carbon emissions, continue to pollute and emit on an increasing scale. Also governments are contributing negatively to climate change by subsidising fossil fuels on a large scale, while neglecting renewable energy sources.

The thirteenth goal is to “[t]ake urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy”, and includes target outcomes to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters and integrating climate change measures into policies and planning. As mentioned above, much remains to be done if we are to combat climate change. While carbon emissions in developed countries have declined in the past years, they continue to rise in developing countries. The increasing temperatures have led to more natural disasters such as wildfires, droughts, floods and hurricanes, affecting millions of people who have seen their homes destroyed and thus been forcibly displaced. Both the numbers of disasters and so called climate refugees are destined to increase as rising temperatures contribute to the rise in sea levels and extreme weather conditions. The fourteenth goal, which is to “[c]onserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”, contains targets such as reducing marine pollution, reducing ocean acidification, and working towards sustainable fishing. The oceans are forced to bear many of the negative impacts of climate change, which is evident not least when it comes to the death of coral reefs and the huge amounts of plastic found in marine environments.

The fifteenth goal is to “[p]rotect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”, and focuses on ending deforestation and desertification, protecting biodiversity, and eliminating poaching and trafficking of protected species. The area of land covered by forests continues to decrease every year, while croplands have increasingly turned into deserts, resulting in an increase of poverty. The sixteenth goal, which is to “[p]romote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”, includes target outcomes such as reducing all forms of violence, ending the abuse of children, combatting organised crime, reducing corruption and bribery, and protecting fundamental freedoms. While homicide rates have been slowly declining, 440000 people still fall victim to deadly violence every year. The seventeenth and last goal is to “[s]trengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnerships for sustainable development”, and has by far the highest number of target outcomes and indicators. This is not a goal in the same sense as the other ones, but rather, is intended to foster partnerships between countries through the sharing of knowledge, expertise, technology and financial support to encourage the implementation of the other goals.
While the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted through a widespread consensus between both UN member states and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the goals have also been criticised on several fronts. One of the main criticisms is the goals' focus on development, usually defined as economic growth, which does not challenge the capitalist framework that acts as the main catalyst for climate change. Another common point of critique is simply that they are not ambitious enough, especially in regards to climate change and environmental sustainability, and that much more needs to be done. In regards to the first goal of ending poverty, the 1.25$ threshold has been questioned, with a number of studies arguing that at least 5$ per day is needed to be able to sustain oneself. Using this unit of measurement, 60% of the world's population, or 4.3 billion people, are still living in poverty, compared to the 10% mentioned above. Yet another critique is that the goals ignore the fundamental inequalities between the world's countries, facilitated by international institutions such as the World Bank and unequal trade agreements, and that they ignore local context. Finally, the goals are just that: goals. The goals have been jointly decided upon by the UN's member states who have agreed to follow them, but they are not binding, and there are no sanctions for countries who fail to live up to them. These criticisms notwithstanding, the Sustainable Development Goals present a comprehensive agenda for global action, which, if implemented, can hopefully result in better living conditions and a better world for everyone.

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Private wrote on 21-02 21:06:
Nesta wrote:
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Tamako wrote on 20-02 11:57:
Tamako wrote:
very interesting and nice looking
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Private wrote on 19-02 19:08:
BloomCissi wrote:
What's this? A new article? 

Thank you to @Moss for making this layout! It's...goals. 

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