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U.N. Dreams Big: 17 Huge New Goals To Build A Better World

United Nations

At the United Nations General Assembly this weekend in New York, U.N. member states are set to adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals. The goals are meant to guide development priorities around the globe over the next 15 years. Critics and supporters alike are declaring them to be highly ambitious — maybe even too ambitious.

The SDGs, as they've come to be called in humanitarian lingo, replace the Millennium Development Goals, which were adopted in 2000 and expire this year.

The MDGs dealt primarily with poverty, education and health in the poorest countries. The SDGs hit all of those topics but also tackle global inequality, environmental issues and access to technology.

Here's a rundown of the 17 goals and some of the key targets included in the 169 sub-goals. Here's where you'll find the complete list with all the sub-goals.

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

This is one of the most ambitious goals. It includes a target of having no one living in extreme poverty — less than $1.25 a day — anywhere in the world by the year 2030.

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

This goal calls for a doubling of agricultural production by small-scale farmers.

3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

This SDG sets a target of getting global maternal mortality (the number of women who die each year during childbirth) down from the current rate of more than 200 per 100,000 live births to 70. Many African nations would need to dramatically improve conditions for pregnant mothers to reach this target. In South Sudan, for instance, more than 2,000 of every 100,000 pregnant mothers die each year as a result of giving birth.

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

The expiring MDGs called for universal access to primary school. The SDGs say that students everywhere should have free access to education through high school.

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

This goal aims to end discrimination and violence toward women and girls. It also calls for the elimination of child marriage and female genital mutilation.

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

This goal calls for toilets and clean drinking water for everyone.

It also calls for protecting and restoring natural water resources over the next five years.

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

This goal calls for universal access to electricity and more renewable energy.

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

This item sets an ambitious annual economic growth target of 7 percent per year for the poorest nations.

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

This goal calls for increased technological assistance from developed countries to poorer nations to modernize roads, dams, electrical grids and other infrastructure.

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries.

This target tries to address the growing gap that's emerged globally between the "haves" and the "have-nots."

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

Say goodbye to slums. This goal envisions sustainable, livable urban centers with universal access to green spaces.

12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

This section sets bold targets for cutting in half food waste by the year 2030 and over the next five years overhauling industrial waste streams.

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

This goal acknowledges climate change and then notes that the real work on this issue will come at the U.N. Conference on Climate Change later this year in Paris.

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

This goal calls for sustainable management of marine fisheries by 2020 and elimination of marine pollution by 2025.

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.

This goal calls for the same protection of land that No. 14 demands for the sea.

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.

In other words: We should all live in harmony. The goal also calls for an end to violence and corruption.

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

This final goal calls for rich nations to give more assistance to poorer countries and to help less developed nations progress.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.
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