Image via Wikipedia

From now until September, you are going to be hearing a lot of dialogue about the “SDGs” (aka: the Sustainable Development Goals) and how they will be dictating the roadmap of development for the next 15 years. You may be asking yourself..wait, what are those?? Good question.

Long story short, the SDGs (think of them as phase II of the Millennium Development Goals, except even better...we hope) are a universal set of goals and targets that UN member states will be expected to use in framing their political policies and development agendas from now until 2030. These goals are going to be essential in ending extreme poverty and creating a future free from inequality and dangerous climate change. Super important stuff!

Because I’m sure you’re as excited as I am about these SDGs, I figured it would be helpful to break them down for you and explain why you should care. And most importantly, how you, global citizens, can get involved.

So, back in June 2012 at Rio 20 (the UN Conference on Sustainable Development that took place in Brazil) countries agreed to establish an intergovernmental process to develop a set of "action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate" sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The main objective? To help drive the implementation of sustainable development. In September of this year, these goals will be made official. Let the countdown begin!

After Rio, a 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) of the General Assembly was tasked with creating a proposal on the SDGs. It was agreed that they must be: action-oriented, concise, easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries (while taking into account different national realities, capacities, and levels of development as well as respecting national politics and priorities).

Here is what they have come up with so far: 

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere


As global citizens we can all get behind this one!

2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture


It’s not just about getting food on the table. We need to make sure that everyone has access to healthy, nutritious and affordable food!

3. Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages


As my girl Michelle likes to say, let’s move!

4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all


In other words, we have to make sure that people from all backgrounds, regardless of their socio-economic status, age, or geography have access to quality education. Like this awesome lady!

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls


My bff Emma Watson is all about this.

6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all


Let Raya from Sesame Street break this one down for you in this helpful intro.

7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all


Yup. Sounds good to me!

8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all


All too often people are forced to work under grueling, dangerous conditions for very little pay... this needs to change.

9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation


If you don’t have safe roads, you can’t get essential things (like vaccines) to the people who need it most! Right?

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries


Talk about a no-brainer.

11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable


Who doesn’t want clean streets?

12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns


This year let’s commit to the mantra of reduce, reuse, and recycle.

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (taking note of agreements made by the UNFCCC forum)



14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development



15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss!


It's time for global leaders to show off their green thumb.

16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels


Peace, inclusivity, and justice for all. Triple win.

17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development


It’s time we all start working together!

Okay, so now you’re probably asking yourself why should I care about all of this?? As I mentioned before, 2015 is going to be a pivotal year in refining and establishing the SDGs. Once they are put into place, this will be THE framework that determines what sustainable development will look like for the next 15 years. Everything listed above is still tentative.  

From now until September, global citizens have a chance to stand up and collectively raise their voices to make sure that this development agenda represents the needs of those who are most vulnerable. Over the next eight months we will provide plenty of information to educate you on these issues and offer concrete actions that you can take to play a part in making history. We’re all in this together, and with such ambitious goals it's our responsibility to stay informed and do our part! Stay tuned!


Natalie Prolman


Demand Equity

Everything You Need to Know About the SDGs

By Natalie Prolman