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Why the Sustainable Development Goals Matter

The Sustainable Development Goals will continue the fight begun by the Millennium Development Goals against extreme poverty, and add targets relating to inclusiveness and environmental sustainability. But will a new set of goals actually be able to catalyze a shift from business as usual to true sustainable development?

ROME – Following the progress made under the Millennium Development Goals, which guided global development efforts in the years 2000-2015, the world’s governments are currently negotiating a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the period 2016-2030. The MDGs focused on ending extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease, and were the most important global development goals in the United Nations’ history. The SDGs will continue the fight against extreme poverty, but will add the challenges of ensuring more equitable development and environmental sustainability, especially the key goal of curbing the dangers of human-induced climate change.

But will a new set of goals help the world shift from a dangerous business-as-usual path to one of true sustainable development? Can UN goals actually make a difference?

The evidence from the MDGs is powerful and encouraging. In September 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted the “Millennium Declaration,” which included the MDGs. Those eight goals became the centerpiece of the development effort for poor countries around the world. Did they really make a difference? The answer seems to be yes.

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