What are the SDGs and how will they work?

In 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the very ambitious 2030 Agenda; a set of 17 SDGs and 169 Targets to be achieved by 2030, by both developed and developing countries covering the three pillars of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental).

As a package, the SDGs represent a major departure from the previous global goals: the Millennium Development Goals. The Goals represent the vision and ambition (e.g. eliminate hunger and poverty) but the detailed political agenda is represented by Targets. Countries’ commitments to achieve all Targets imply that progress on one Target cannot be achieved at the cost of progress on another. This should ensure that there will be progress on all three pillars of sustainable development.

A critical element underpinning the SDGs is the commitment to leave no one behind. This means that the SDGs should focus particularly on those most marginalised.

Given the complexity and the size of the 2030 Agenda it is critical for all actors to participate in measuring their progress. For this reason, a set of 230 indicators were developed to monitor progress on the SDGs. In 2017, the indicators were endorsed by ECOSOC after a long consultation that focused on finding ways to measure all Targets with the smallest possible number of indicators.