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What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals

The Global Goals: Economic transformation in an interconnected world

Paul McClure's picture
Men at work pouring concrete in Timor-Leste. © Alex Baluyut/World Bank


This week, the world’s countries are coming together at UN headquarters in New York to affirm the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will guide global development efforts through 2030. While the SDGs have had plenty of active involvement and support from the World Bank Group and our multilateral counterparts, the countries themselves have set this agenda.

The agenda is both ambitious — more than doubling the eight Millennium Development Goals that will officially expire at the end of 2015 — and more comprehensive. For example, where the first MDG set out to “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger,” its successor SDGs take on these challenges in their entirety: “End poverty in all its forms everywhere” (Goal 1) and “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” (Goal 2).  And in a world whose “emerging markets” now include larger economies than many members of the European Union, countries have chosen to make these goals universal, equally applicable to the globe’s richer and poorer nations.

Billions to trillions: Financing the Global Goals

Gavin E.R. Wilson's picture
The Penonomé project in Panama will be the largest wind farm in Central America. © Penonomé


Tomorrow morning, Pope Francis will kick off the UN General Assembly’s session on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and by the end of the day, the world’s leaders will have affirmed the 17 goals. This is a momentous occasion, worth celebrating, but the hard work begins Monday morning. That’s when the focus shifts from what to how.
 
The first 16 goals cover a range of critical development needs, expanding on the Millennium Development Goals that have guided development efforts since 2000. The final SDG is qualitatively different. Rather than expound on what we want to achieve, it addresses how we will achieve the goals. It focuses on the means of implementation.

The right of everyone to be recognized

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture

 Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

In 1996, when Jim Wolfensohn was the president of the World Bank Group, he declared that the "cancer of corruption" must be fought very much as we fight poverty, hunger, and disease. Despite emerging research that showed that weak public institutions and distorted economic policies incubate corrupt practices, many felt that corruption wasn't an economic but a political issue. It was better left to governments, not to development experts.

There is no planet B

Paula Caballero's picture
Zanizbar, Tanzania. Photo by Sonu Jani / World Bank

At this week's UN Sustainable Development Summit, the world's oceans will be getting the attention they have long deserved -- but not always received. They are the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 14: "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development."

The inclusion of oceans for the first time in the international-development agenda illustrates the ambitious and holistic view of challenges and solutions that nations are embracing. With the SDGs, nations are calling for a future in which nature is managed to drive economies, enhance well-being and sustain lives -- whether in Washington or Nairobi, on land or sea.

Fifteen years ago, nations convened at the UN and created an unprecedented set of guideposts, the Millennium Development Goals. In that timespan, the number of people living in extreme poverty was more than halved. But the oceans were not part of those goals. We now have the opportunity to focus minds globally on restoring healthy oceans for resilient economies and thriving communities. 

This attention comes not a moment too soon.

Climate action does not require economic sacrifice

Rachel Kyte's picture

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Harvesting rice-fields in a White Thai village in Mai Chau, Hoa Binh province, northern Vietnam.
Harvesting rice-fields in a White Thai village in Mai Chau, Hoa Binh province, northern Vietnam.

More than two decades ago, the world agreed on the need to confront climate change.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) emerged in 1992, spawning a variety of negotiating forums with the goal of preventing catastrophic impacts from planetary warming caused mostly by polluting societies.

It's easy to overlook the progress that has occurred since, because we still have so far to go. Droughts, flooding and cyclones that already seem to be the norm are just the latest warnings of what is coming, and preventing much worse requires immediate and aggressive action to drastically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Build it and growth will come

Dimitris Tsitsiragos's picture
Solar panels in Morocco. © Dana Smillie/World Bank


By encouraging private investment in infrastructure, we can spur growth in the developing world

Later this month the United Nations is expected to finalize its Sustainable Development Goals, a global action plan designed to end poverty and support long-term growth. One of the goals states, “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.” 
 
In many parts of the developing world, from Asia to Latin America, a massive infrastructure shortfall may be the single most significant obstacle to human and economic development. Addressing it will underpin progress on many of the SDGs.

Bridging the energy divide

Anita Marangoly George's picture
Haiti. Dominic Chavez / World Bank

Energy is fundamental to economic growth and environmental sustainability. Sustainable Development Goal 7 -- "Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all" -- recognizes that energy underpins progress in all areas of development. But 1.1 billion people still live without electricity, and another 2.9 billion live without modern fuels for cooking and heating.

Recognizing this gap is one thing. But having the working partnerships, monitoring tools and financing to move forward is another matter. The great news about the Energy SDG is that these pieces are finally falling into place.

A major factor in this momentum is Sustainable Energy for All, an initiative set up after Rio+20, the UN's 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. The SE4All initiative has high-level leadership and strong political support. Co-led and chaired by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, it has quickly brought together the public sector, private sector and civil society around three ambitious goals: ensuring universal access to modern-energy services; doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global-energy mix.

A tipping point for water

Junaid Kamal Ahmad's picture

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This blog originally appeared on The Huffington Post as part of a series, "What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals." 

As a sector in world affairs, water is reaching a tipping point. Over the next two decades, the global push for food and energy security and for sustaining urbanization will place unprecedented demands on water.

Ours is a "thirsty" world, in which agriculture and energy compete with the needs of cities. At the same time, climate change may worsen the situation by increasing water stress and extreme-weather events. Hence, the water and climate nexus can no longer be a side event at global-climate talks. All of this is happening while the important push for universal access to water and sanitation services -- despite the impressive gains over the past several decades -- remains an unfinished agenda.

Pilot programs in Central, South America find new ways to reduce extreme poverty

Ana Revenga's picture
Pilot Programs in Central, South America Find New Ways To Reduce Extreme Poverty


This fall is a pivotal time for the international development community. We are shifting from a Millennium Development Goal that challenged the world to halve the global extreme poverty rate, to a Sustainable Development Goal that asks us to build on that momentum and work toward a true end to extreme poverty.

Make no mistake; this will not be easy. We will need sustained, shared growth, with a special emphasis on agricultural growth in the poorest countries. We will need programs and policies that are equitable, ensuring that every child has the same opportunities to succeed in life, and that all citizens are able to benefit from fiscal and social systems and representative institutions. And we will need to ensure that those who live in extreme poverty, and those who are vulnerable to falling back in, are protected when global or local markets fail, and when disease and drought persist in their communities.