Quick look: the new sustainable development goals and ICTs

An overview of the recently and globally adopted sustainable development goals, all of which will need ICT as a key catalyst.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), virtually everyone has heard about them and know what they are. Established in 2000, the MDGs were a formal commitment given by (at the time) all 189 United Nations (UN) member states to address eight critical social and societal and national development issues. For each goal, specific targets were set, all of which should be achieved by 2015.

To date, countries worldwide have experienced varying degrees of success in meeting the MDG targets. However, with the end of 2015 fast approaching, a new framework was needed. At the UN Sustainable Development Summit held last month, September, 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which specifies the following 17 the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7 Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
  • Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Goal 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
  • Goal 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
  • Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

These goals cover the three pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social inclusion and environmental protection. Additionally, similar to the MDGs, for each goal, targets have been proposed. In total, there approximately 169 targets, and 304 indicators have been proposed through which to measure compliance.

It ought to be noted that here has been and continues to be debate about the extent to which the MDGs, and now SDGs, are realistic and achievable, especially by developing countries. However, it has also been widely acknowledged, especially by the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development, that ICT will be a critical catalyst for all of the SDGs:

To succeed, the new Agenda will draw on all accelerators of inclusion, all multipliers of poverty eradication and sustainability, and our message is that broadband, and new technologies, are a transformational force, to build inclusive knowledge societies…

This goes beyond mere advocacy for networks and services. This is about opening new paths to create and share knowledge, about enhancing freedom of expression, about widening learning opportunities, especially for girls and women, about developing content that is relevant, local and multilingual – this message has never been so important.

(Source: International Telecommunications Union)

Image credit:  Impact 2030