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The UN SDGs: A clear brief

In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a global plan of action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure peace and prosperity for all. At the core of this agenda are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which address various issues ranging from poverty eradication to climate change and inequality. In this post, we will explore the UN SDGs in more detail, their importance, and how achieving them requires a collective effort from all of us.

UN member states flags

Quick FAQs

What are the UN SDGs?

The UN SDGs are a set of seventeen goals adopted in 2015 the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They are designed to be a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

What is the purpose of the SDGs?

The purpose of the SDGs is to provide a blueprint for sustainable development that addresses the world’s most pressing economic, social, and environmental challenges.

How are the SDGs different from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?

The SDGs are a successor to the MDGs, which were adopted in 2000 and focused on poverty reduction. The SDGs are broader in scope and include a wider range of economic, social, and environmental issues, such as climate change, gender equality, and sustainable consumption and production.

What is the role of the United Nations in the SDGs?

The United Nations plays a key role in promoting and monitoring the implementation of the SDGs. The UN provides a platform for countries to share experiences and best practices and supports the development of policies and initiatives to achieve the SDGs.

How can individuals contribute to the SDGs?

Individuals can contribute to the SDGs by adopting sustainable lifestyles, supporting sustainable businesses, engaging in civic activities, and advocating for policies and initiatives that promote sustainable development.

How are the SDGs funded?

The SDGs require significant funding to be implemented. Funding can come from a variety of sources, including government budgets, international aid, private sector investment, and philanthropic contributions.

How are the SDGs monitored and evaluated?

The SDGs are monitored and evaluated through a range of indicators and targets, which are measured using national and international data. Countries also conduct voluntary national reviews to assess progress towards the SDGs and share experiences and best practices.

How are the SDGs integrated into national policies and plans?

Countries are encouraged to integrate the SDGs into their national policies and plans, including development strategies, budgets, and monitoring and evaluation frameworks. This involves engaging with a range of stakeholders, including civil society, private sector, and academia, to ensure that the SDGs are owned and implemented by all sectors of society.

The UN Flag

What are the UN SDGs?

Each goal has specific targets to be achieved by 2030, and the SDGs are meant to be universally applicable to all countries and communities, including developing countries. The SDGs are based on the principle of sustainable development, which is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs“.

The 17 SDGs are as follows:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals
Off-shore widn turbines producing clean energy

Towards sustainable development

Sustainable development is a complex process that involves addressing a range of issues, from sustainable agriculture and food security to resilient infrastructure and strong institutions. To achieve sustainable development, it is essential to promote economic growth and development while protecting the natural environment and prioritising social well-being. The UN SDGs provide a framework for sustainable development, with each goal addressing specific areas that contribute to sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction, and environmental protection.

Food innovation in the lab

Importance of the UN SDGs

United Nations Headquarters in Geneva

Achieving the SDGs

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What is a Voluntary National Review?

Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) are a key mechanism for countries to report on their progress towards implementing the 2030 Agenda and achieving the SDGs. The VNRs are submitted by UN Member States to the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) and provide a platform for countries to share experiences and lessons learned, including successes, challenges, and best practices. The VNR process is voluntary, inclusive, and participatory. Countries are encouraged to engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including civil society, private sector, academia, and local communities, to ensure that the VNR is based on a comprehensive and inclusive consultation process.

How do VNRs work?

Countries present the VNRs themselves during the HLPF, which is held annually in July in New York. The presentation includes a statement by the country’s representative, a multimedia presentation, and a question-and-answer session. Following, the VNRs are published on the UN website and provide a valuable resource for other countries to learn from and replicate successful initiatives.

The VNRs are prepared according to a set of guidelines developed by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and cover the following topics:

  1. Overview of progress made towards the SDGs.
  2. National implementation mechanisms and strategies for the SDGs.
  3. Data and indicators for monitoring and reviewing progress towards the SDGs.
  4. Opportunities and challenges in implementing the SDGs.
  5. Ways forward and strategies to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.
Why do VNRs matter?

The VNRs are an important accountability mechanism and provide a platform for peer learning and review. They also facilitate the identification of gaps and challenges in implementing the SDGs and can help countries to mobilise resources, build partnerships, and accelerate progress towards sustainable development.

UN SDG implementation case study in Morocco

Case studies of SDG implementation

Sustainable agriculture and food security in Kenya

In Kenya, the Farm to Market Alliance (FtMA) is helping smallholder farmers increase their productivity and access to markets, while reducing post-harvest losses and food waste. FtMA aims to improve the livelihoods of one million smallholder farmers by 2026, thereby contributing to SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 2 (Zero Hunger).

Renewable energy and climate action in Morocco

In Morocco, the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex is the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, which generates clean electricity and reduces the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. The project has contributed to SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and SDG 13 (Climate Action).

Access to quality education in India

In India, the Teach for India program is working to address educational inequity by placing young professionals as full-time teachers in under-resourced schools. The program aims to provide a high-quality education to all children, regardless of their socio-economic background, thus contributing to SDG 4 (Quality Education).

Volunteer helping with reforestation

A global commitment

The UN SDGs represent a global commitment to sustainable development and creating a better world for all. Achieving the goals requires sustained and collective efforts from all of us stakeholders, including governments, civil society, the private sector, and the people. The Sustainable Development Goals are crucial in addressing global challenges and promoting sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction, and environmental preservation. And you can do contribute to their implementation.


1 | Educate yourself

Learn about the SDGs and what they mean for your community and the world at large. There are plenty of resources available online, including the official UN website for the SDGs [6].

2 | Spread awareness

Once you have a good understanding of the SDGs, spread the word. Talk to your friends, family, and colleagues about the goals and what they can do to help achieve them. Use social media to raise awareness and share information.

3 | Volunteer

There are many organisations working towards achieving the SDGs with which you can volunteer. Look for opportunities in your community or online and choose an organisation whose mission aligns with your values.

4 | Support sustainable practices

The SDGs are all about sustainability, so do your part to support sustainable practices in your daily life. This could mean reducing your carbon footprint, recycling, conserving water, or supporting businesses, brands or organisations that prioritise sustainability.

5 | Advocate for change

Use your vote wisely. And go a step beyond: contact your elected representatives and urge them to prioritise the SDGs in their policymaking. Attend town halls and public meetings to make your voice heard and advocate for change.

6 | Donate

If you are unable to volunteer your time, consider donating to organisations that are working towards achieving the SDGs. Every little bit helps.

7 | Take action locally

While the SDGs are a global initiative, they can only be achieved if action is taken at the local level. Get involved in your local community by attending events, joining organisations, and collaborating with local leaders to promote sustainable development.


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