It’s been ten years since all United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a significant component of the agenda. These urgent actions require all countries to work together to improve health and education, reduce inequality, drive economic growth, and address climate change.

For many people, this topic can be pretty complex. It is one of the many reasons why we created a children’s book, Ally & Bibi, to help educate families on the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs.

You might also want to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals progress reports as part of this conversation. It highlights how close the world is getting to achieving these global sustainability goals. Here’s what you need to know about the latest update.

progress on the SDGs targets at the United Nations
What are the 17 SDGs? And why do they matter?

What Are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals

The SDGs are a set of 17 interconnected goals that address the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues facing the world today. Each one represents a distinct area of focus, ranging from eliminating poverty and hunger to promoting quality education, gender equality, and sustainable cities. 

By addressing these challenges collectively, the goals of United Nations can create a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable world. If you’re not familiar with them, these are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals:

  1. No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
  2. Zero Hunger: Achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
  3. Good Health and Well-being: Promote healthy lives and well-being for people of all ages.
  4. Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
  5. Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women.
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy: Provide access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation.
  10. Reduced Inequalities: Reduce inequality within and among countries.
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  13. Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
  14. Life Below Water: Conserve and use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.
  15. Life on Land: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, responsibly manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss.
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  17. Partnerships for the Goals: Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

Why Were the Sustainable Development Goals Created?

The SDGs were designed to provide a more comprehensive and ambitious framework for sustainable development. The primary motivation was to address the pressing challenges facing humanity and the planet, including poverty, hunger, climate change, inequality, and environmental degradation. 

 The 17 goals were crafted to encompass a wide range of interconnected issues, acknowledging that progress in one area is closely linked to several others. The SDGs aim to ensure a holistic and balanced approach to sustainable development by integrating social, economic, and environmental dimensions.

The Sustainable Development Goals also recognise the need for both developed and developing countries to take action and collaborate in pursuit of a shared vision. They emphasise the importance of global partnerships, knowledge-sharing, and capacity-building to achieve sustainable development for all.  

One of the core principles of the global sustainability goals is leaving no one behind. They aim to address the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised populations while representing a collective global commitment to transform our world and ensure a more sustainable and inclusive future.

imagining greener cities and ways of living with nature
Imagining greener cities and ways of living with nature

The 2023 Sustainable Development Goals Progress Update

The mid-way point towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 brings encouraging and concerning news. 

In the early years after the SDGs were established, positive trends had emerged. There was a decline in extreme poverty and child mortality rates, progress in combating diseases like HIV and hepatitis, and advancements in gender equality targets.

In addition, access to electricity in the poorest nations improved, and the share of renewable energy sources in the global energy mix increased. Another promising sign was that unemployment rates had reached pre-financial crisis levels. The coverage of marine protected areas had even doubled. 

Unfortunately, as of 2023, this progress has slowed down.

In the past three years, the world has faced multiple significant events. Some of the most prominent include the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, as well as several climate-related disasters. These have hindered the progress required to achieve the SDGs. Now urgent action is needed to address the challenges at hand and get things back on track.

Currently, about 12% of the targets are on target. But unfortunately, nearly half of them show moderate to severe deviations from the intended path. Around 30% have experienced no movement or have regressed below the 2015 baseline. These statistics sound an alarm, indicating that the SDGs are facing deep trouble at this critical juncture. These are just some of the figures that are the most concerning.

  • If current trends continue, an estimated 575 million people will still live in extreme poverty by 2030, with only one-third of countries meeting the target of halving national poverty levels. 
  • Hunger levels have returned to levels not seen since 2005, and food prices remain high in many countries. 
  • Gender gaps in legal protection are projected to take 286 years to close. 
  • The education sector faces significant challenges, with an estimated 84 million children out of school by 2030 and 300 million leaving schools without basic literacy skills.
  • The opportunity to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius is rapidly closing, with carbon dioxide levels rising to levels unseen in two million years. 
  • At the current pace, renewable energy will only make up a fraction of our energy supplies by 2030, leaving 660 million people without access to electricity and nearly two billion relying on polluting fuels for cooking. 
  • Deforestation remains unchecked, and countless species worldwide face the threat of extinction.

The lack of progress demonstrates that the problems with Sustainable Development Goals are challenging for everyone involved. However, it disproportionately affects developing countries with the most vulnerable populations. It is driven by historical global injustices as well as the compounding impacts of climate change, COVID-19, and economic inequities. As a result, developing countries with limited resources and options are struggling to make the SDGs a reality.

What Are the Next Steps?

The Sustainable Development Goals progress update has identified that urgent and transformative action is required on a global scale. Governments, organisations, and individuals must redouble their efforts to address the pressing challenges hindering the achievement of the SDGs. By fostering inclusive and sustainable development, we can strive to create a more equitable and resilient world, leaving no one behind in our pursuit of a sustainable future.

The path to this type of future lies before us, and it is our collective responsibility to chart a course that leads us to success. One of the ways you can help is by learning more about the SDGs. Our children’s book, Ally & Bibi, highlights Sustainable Development Goals implementation and even provides actions for children and adults that can support the achievement of the SDGs.

Ally & Bibi is available now on multiple Amazon retailers, Barnes & Noble and Tertulia.