Setting Sustainable Development Goals


The European Union and United Nations are working to establish Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a new framework to address global poverty and sustainable development for all in the years ahead.

Projections show the global population will exceed 9 billion by 2050. The challenge facing the world is how to reconcile economic development and improvements in people’s well-being with sustainability and the needs of the environment.

The UN post-2015 agenda should be universal, and provide a comprehensive response for all.

The Millennium Development Goals reach their deadline in 2015 and have seen progress and success on many fronts: child and maternal mortality rates have dropped, deaths from malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis have been cut, and the target of halving the percentage of people going hungry is reachable.

Setting the agenda

As the world’s largest aid donor, the EU has a key role to play in setting the international development agenda. ‘A Decent Life for All: from vision to collective action’ – a paper adopted by the Commission in June this year – sets out a framework that covers poverty, inequality, health, food security, education, gender equality, access to water, sanitation and sustainable energy. It goes notably further than the MDGs in areas such as decent work, inclusive and sustainable growth, sustainable consumption and production, biodiversity, land degradation and protecting the seas and oceans.

The paper puts particular emphasis on the importance of good governance, peaceful societies and the rule of law, proposing a “rights-based approach” that promotes justice, equality, democracy, the empowerment of women and gender equality.

In terms of implementation, it insists on accountability, transparency and effective review of progress towards the SDGs. And these new goals should be evidence-based, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and ‘time bound’.

Summing it up, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik noted that a new framework was needed to rally the international community, "to tackle the intertwined challenges of eliminating poverty and improving well-being, while ensuring that progress is sustainable within planetary boundaries". The UN post-2015 agenda should be universal and provide a comprehensive response for all, he said.

The road beyond 2015

The Commission continues to contribute to the UN’s Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, whose July conclusions were discussed at the UN General Assembly in September. Many of the conclusions are in line with the approach recommended by the Commission, with a similar range of policy areas and targets.

A synthesis report by the UN Secretary General, expected in November 2014, is likely to form the basis of intergovernmental negotiations on the SDGs during 2015.


International issues