Week 2

Introduction to the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda

Week 1 Review

In the previous lecture we learned about sustainability, sustainable development, and the sustainable development goals and how currently, all countries are working on the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda, serving as the basis for better economic development that is environmentally low impact, socially just, and economically efficient and fair.

In this 11-minute video made available from the SDG Academy, Jeffrey Sachs (Director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network), provides an overview of sustainable development.

Week 1 Review Continued

In the previous lecture we also learned about the pathway to the Sustainable Development Goals. As you will recall in 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by 193 United Nations (UN) Member States. The 2030 Agenda is centred on the 17 SDGs which are underpinned by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  You will recall the 17 SD goals, with their 169 targets, and over 230 indicators work together at the local and international level to help promote a shared global framework to achieve a fair, equitable, and sustainable future for all. We also learned that each country has set their own goals and priorities for achieving the SDGs, with international collaboration to advance the SDGs as a critical component.

In this 11-minute video made available from the SDG Academy, Jeffrey Sachs provides an overview and history of the SDGs.

Week 2

We learned that currently 193 countries (known as Member States) are signatories to the United Nations. This means almost every country on the planet has adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the organizing framework for global cooperation on sustainable development. It also means that 193 countries have agreed to work together for the period 2015 (when the SDGs were adopted) until at least to 2030. This level of global cooperation is unprecedented. Think about your own experiences and how hard it can be to get people to agree on something. Now imagine a whole country, and multiple that by 193 countries.

So why have some many countries committed to the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda?

To start, all Member States know that great things that can be achieved when people pool their resources, including human (intellectual capital – think innovation and modern technology know how) and financial (think investments into research and discovery).

All these countries also came together out of profound worry about the world’s current and future environmental, economic, and societal state. All 193 countries agreed, the path is not sustainable, and the choices of the next 8 to 10 years are going to determine the quality of life of people for the next 100 to 200 years.

Collectively, it is understood that we have significant environmental threats, such as global warming and the loss of biodiversity. We have widening inequalities between the rich and the poor. Therefore, the UN Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals precisely to help reset the direction of the world economy, from one of widening inequalities and social exclusion and great environmental threats to a trajectory of sustainable development. Meaning a path for the world in which prosperity is shared, in which societies are inclusive, and in which the environment is kept safe because we have changed the ways that our industries and technologies are impinging on the physical earth processes.[1]

The Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted on September 25th, 2015, span a remarkable range of aspirations. View the slide show below for more information.

As you recall, the Sustainable Development Goals are part of an overall agenda, a universal agenda called Transforming the World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As mentioned, it has a 15 year forward framework with the following statement of purpose.

“This agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. People, planet, and prosperity, social inclusion planet meaning environmental sustainability and prosperity meaning a shared, economic benefit across the world. Agenda 2030 also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. Eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. All countries and all stakeholders acting in collaborative partnership will implement this plan”.[2]

Bold and transformative steps are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. The pledge is that no one will be left behind. Bold statements, bold ambitions. And as the title of Agenda 2030 says, requiring transforming the world. The agenda does not just call for change, it calls for deep and radical change all over the world.1

The remainder of this course will focus on the components of the 17 specific goals, including the 169 specific targets each goal has. And because you cannot effectively manage what you do not measure, there are also 230 indicators for the 17 goals.

The SDGS are complex. That is why it involves all parts of government, business, and civil society around the world. And it involves all of us, because successfully implementing the SDGs will have a profound positive effect for all human and non-human well-being.

At the core of the 2030 agenda is improving the quality of life and well-being for today’s generation and for all the generations to come.

In this 11-minute video made available from the SDG Academy, Jeffrey Sachs helps us get to know the SDGs.

Over the next weeks we will look at all the 17 SDGs individually to get a deeper undertaking of the issues, and solutions.


Comprehension Questions

Discussion Question

  • From the 17 SDGs, do you think anything is missing, if so, what? For example, do you think there should be more than 17 SDGs? What one(s) are missing?

Recommended Reading

  1. SDG Academy. (2021). How to achieve the SDGs course. Adapted from module one, chapter one.
  2. United Nations. (2021). Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


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Introduction to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Copyright © by Jocelyn Baker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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