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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by Sezen ÖZKALP

Hello everyone! While you are reading this article, you will learn about the Sustainable Development Goals and their importance, what the United Nations does to achieve them, and the results of their efforts.


Sustainable itself means “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.” according to the Oxford Dictionary and also “Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.” The development itself means “improvement ”. When these two words merge as “sustainable development” they mean “economical development that is conducted without depletion of natural resources” according to the Oxford Dictionary. The United Nations define Sustainable Development Goals as “17 goals to transform the world”.


All member states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 and recognized them as a global call to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.



There are still lots of people who are struggling with poverty and unable to fulfill their vital needs all around the world, especially in LEDCs(Less Economically Developed Countries) such as sub-Saharan African and South Asian countries. 1 person in every 10 is living in extremely poor conditions and half of them are young people in need of qualified life standards for their future. These are just a few basic reasons why ending poverty and all its forms are very important. Fortunately, people living in extreme poverty rates decreased from 36 percent to 10 percent from 1990 to 2015. However, COVID-19 is an obstacle that may cause poverty rates to peak once again.

The UN aims;
to improve access to sustainable livelihoods, entrepreneurial opportunities and productive resources;
to provide universal access to basic social services;
to progressively develop social protection systems to support those who cannot support themselves;
to empower people living in poverty and their organizations;
to address the disproportionate impact of poverty on women;
to work with interested donors and recipients to allocate increased shares of ODA to poverty eradication; and
to intensify international cooperation for poverty eradication.


Approximately 821 million people were suffering from hunger in 2017. Even though
the number of people who are aggrieved because of undernourishment was declining constantly, it started to increase in 2015 once more. Goal number 2 determines to end hunger, provide food security, promote sustainable agriculture, and improve nutrition in care of the World Food Programme.
WFP has very helpful projects to achieve zero hunger. For example in Jordan, Syrian refugees have access to food in local shops only by using iris scans instead of money.


Goal number 3 is a very crucial one among the SDGs since children are dying before they turn five because of health problems, nearly 36 million people suffering from HIV, a million people who have AIDS-related diseases, and citizens who cannot benefit from the health-care system. Furthermore, there is always the risk of a new pandemic just like COVID-19 coming into view.

Some main Goal 3 targets are to;
· achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all;
· end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births;
· end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases;
· Substantially increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training, and retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in the least developed countries and small island developing states;
· Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks;
· halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents;
· substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination.
Achievement of this goal particularly concerns the World Health Organization.


The United Nations specifies education as the very first step to end poverty. Unfortunately, 260 million children were still unable to go to school in 2018. More than half of these children out of school are living in sub-Saharan Africa. Kids living in conflict zones unluckily have very few chances of getting an education. Moreover, the problem is not only about being enrolled in a school. 617 million young people lack skills in mathematics and literacy as a result of inferior and unqualified education systems.
The principal UN target is as follows;
· to ensure all children, no matter what their gender, have access to quality education, early childhood development, free primary and secondary education, vocational and technical education including university.
UNESCO is closely dealing with SDG 4.


It is a matter of fact that gender equality is a fundamental human right however violence against women, forced marriage of girls under the age of 18, gender discrimination, and other lots of unequal attitudes towards women still exist only because of their gender. 18 countries entitled husbands a legal right to prevent their wives from working. The participation of women in political affairs still needs to be improved. Moreover, the wage gap between genders remains a global problem. There are thousands of women exposed to physical or sexual violence yet there is no law to protect women from such violence in 49 countries. Since the situation is highly crucial and needs to be resolved as soon as possible the UN has several targets upon it.

For instance;
· eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and girls all around the world;
· supporting and adopting gender equality related legislation;
· ensure women’s full and effective participation in all fields of life and especially political, administration and economical areas;
· prevent female genital mutilation, child or forced marriage and more;
· end all kinds of physical and mental violence including trafficking, sexual, and all kinds of abuse.
The role of UN Women upon SDG 5 is remarkable and essential.


We are all aware that water is one of our most basic needs to maintain our lives. Despite it holds vital importance, 3 people in 10 do not have access to safe water and %60 people in the world cannot reach safely managed sanitation facilities. Two people in five lack of access to basic handwashing opportunities.

Some UN goals are;
· procuring universal clean and safe drinking water for all the people;
· improving water quality by eliminating pollution, reducing chemicals, etc.
· protecting water supplying areas such as mountains and forests;
· enhancing international cooperation and supporting sanitation programs.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has a major impact on SDG 6.


Access to clean, sustainable, and affordable energy is one of the most successful goals within the SDGs. However %13 people on earth especially locals of sub- Saharan still do not have access to modern electricity. 3 billion people use coal, wood, or animal waste which has a harmful influence on climate change and air pollution. Since they are one of the major problems of the planet, the

UN aims to;
· ensure accession of modern energy services for all;
· promote the usage of renewable energy and improve energy efficiency;
· develop sustainable energy-related technology and supplies;
· enhance global cooperation especially in clean energy generation and infrastructure.


Achieving sustained economic development would mean better job opportunities, quality living standards, and prosperity for all. Unemployment rates are decreasing however there is too much progress to be made. Moreover, the gender pay gap is still an issue in business life.
In 2018, 20 percent of young people on earth were neither working nor maintaining their education.
Sample UN purposes upon this issue;
· decrease the number of young people not in education or employment;
· eliminate discrimination, child labor, modern slavery, human trafficking, forced labor and ensure that worker rights are pursued;
· promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.
COVID-19 outbreak has an impact on each of these Sustainable Development Goals but since several occupations and job opportunities are at risk of perishment, it can be said that SDG 8 is the most affected one by the pandemic period.
International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) play an important role in the achievement of SDG 8.


Sustainable industrialization, innovation, and infrastructure are the fundamentals of retainable economies, new technologies, and efficient use of sources. In particular, less developed countries have a lot to achieve upon SDG 9.
UN goals to be achieved;
· develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all;
· promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and, by 2030, significantly raise the industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, in line with national circumstances, and double its share in the least developed countries;
· Increase the access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets;
· increase the access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets;
· by 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action following their respective capabilities;
· enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries, including, by 2030, encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending;
· facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing countries through enhanced financial, technological and technical support to African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States 18
· support domestic technology development, research, and innovation in developing countries, including by ensuring a conducive policy environment for, inter alia, industrial diversification, and value addition to commodities.


Transforming the world and accomplishing the SDGs means eliminating all types of discrimination and providing well conditions for all no matter what their gender, social status, nationality, religion, skin color, etc. is. As a matter of course personal differences between individuals need to be considered. Also, this SDG specifically focuses on reducing inequalities within and among countries. For example, ending the inequality between more developed and less developed countries is quite crucial to be able to offer the same quality living standards and prosperity for everyone all around the world.
UN in particular aims to;
· empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or another status;
· implement the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries, in particular, least developed countries, under World Trade Organization agreements;
· ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies, and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies, and action in this regard;
· progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average.


Urbanization level is steadily becoming very high and more than half of the world’s population lives in cities which will probably reach up to 60 percent in 2030. As the urbanization rate increases, the ratio of urban sprawl and slum dwellers are peaking alongside with it. As a result, it has a detrimental effect on air pollution, inequality, etc.

Here are a few UN targets to constitute sustainable cities and communities;
· assist less developed countries financially and technically upon the actions which will be taken to resolve the issue;
· ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums;
· provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons;
· provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities;
· support positive economic, social, and environmental links between urban, peri-urban, and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning.


Consumption and production are the principal sources of economic growth. However, rates of these two economic activities are way more than it should be and overconsumption and overproduction lead to the depletion of natural sources. To give some specific examples; we are running out of food, water, and energy. If the world population grows up to 9,6 billion people in 2050 which is very likely to happen, the human race will need the sources of three planets to maintain a habitable life and procure their requirements. We all are aware that we have just one planet and we still keep ignoring this fact. That is exactly the reason why responsible consumption and production is one of the UN goals to transform the world.
Main UN target regarding SDG 12;
· achieving the responsible, sustainable and efficient consumption and production rates of food, energy, water and especially of natural sources by increasing recycling and reuse levels, raising awareness among public and ensure they have the sufficient information about the importance of the issue, encouraging companies to embark on sustainable practices with the special help and leadership of developed countries who will be assisted about technological and scientific improvements regarding the issue.


SDG number 13 needs a very urgent solution. Our one and the only world get more and more heated as time passes and global warming is a very high level due to the emission of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide levels of the atmosphere. As a result, climate change became one of the most significant problems and it needs immediate action. Moreover, the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 has significant importance upon climate action.
The United Nations targets are as follows;
· integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning;
· implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible;
· promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in the least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities;
· strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.
United Nations Office on Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has a close interest upon the SDG number 13.


As we all know seas, oceans, rivers host lots of living creatures and are vital for them to survive and biodiversity. But their importance goes beyond that. Waters on earth are the providers of our food, water, and even the oxygen we breathe. But unfortunately, there is a huge amount of water pollution currently and it jeopardizes the whole world order including both lives of the human race and other living beings.
Main UN goals regarding SDG number 14;
· decrease water pollution and all of its derivatives by 2025;
· improve the protection of oceans and their resources, marine, and coastal areas.
Goal number 14 is a primary concern of the United Nations Environment Programme.


Even though nature holds enormous importance for all living-beings including humans and the world order, it is in grave danger of destruction. Approximately 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. Deforestation and desertification levels soar day by day. Between 2010 and 2015, nearly 3,3 million hectares of forest areas were annihilated and 74 percent of poor people directly get affected by land loss. As natural habitats get harmed constantly, biodiversity declines with its destruction.
Some main UN targets;
· promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally;
· ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains, and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements;
· combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought, and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world;
· integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies, and accounts.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) plays a crucial role in the accomplishment of SDG 15.


Goal number 16 specifically refers to international homicide, human trafficking, and sexual violence.
Some UN targets;
· reduce all forms of violence, abuse, trafficking against everyone with a special emphasis on children and related deaths all over the world;
· decrease bribery and corruption rates;
· ensure legal identity and birth registration for all;
· support non-discriminatory legislation;
· provide equal access to justice.


The UN aims to work with governments, the private sector, and civil society altogether to achieve the other 16 goals by providing technological, financial, trade-related, and systemic support to each other. There are countless partners of the UN but some very important ones are the United Nations Development Programme, World Bank, Millennium Campaign, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UN Children’s Fund, UN Environment Programme, UN Population Fund, World Health Organization, etc.
Goal number 17 is the fundamental constituent of the United Nations since global cooperation is the only way to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals.


The principal reason why I prepared this article is to acquaint you with the importance of the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals which determines the major problems the world is going through. I hope I could contribute to raising awareness among people, especially the youth. When you think broadly upon these targets, you can realize that the successful accomplishment of SDGs as a whole can bring an end to all of the social, environmental, economical, humanitarian, and political problems. On the other hand, by looking at the current situation of the world and the accomplishments of the UN, it is obvious that world leaders and the UN cannot do very much progress by themselves. Of course, the UN is making progress, however, it seems to be inadequate without the whole world acting in unison. I believe we all are aware of the world issues but are we caring about them or are we ignoring them by thinking “I cannot save the world by myself”? Every individual must play their role and we can achieve these goals altogether. For example, when all the people can have a shower for one minute less than they do, we can save tons of water.
Some UN suggestions for everyone;

  • Use your bag while shopping instead of taking a plastic bag every time you buy something;
  • prefer walking or riding a bicycle rather than driving;
  • buy local products;
  • recycle;
  • support zero-waste fashion;
  • refill and reuse;
  • try not to have a shower for more than five minutes;
  • switch the light off when there is no need to use them;
  • have meat-free meals.

There are a bunch of more suggestions to be listed but even if we all adjust these 9 very simple suggestions to our lives, the world will be a much better place. Do not wait, join the movement!

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Written by Sezen Özkalp

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