At the Rio+20 closing ceremony in June 2012 (f.l.t.r.): Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the then President of the UN General Assembly; Ban Ki-moon; UN Secretary-General; Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil; and Muhammad Shaaban, UN Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management. This conference saw the official launching of the SDGs.
Photo: UN/E. Debebe


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In September 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be adopted in the context of the Post-2015 Agenda. In what way do the SDGs differ from the Millennium Development Goals? What does the community of states expect from their introduction? Our authors describe the background of the process and the latest developments in the debate.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were a game-changer because they channelled aid and developing countries’ revenues into a discrete package of priorities for eradicating extreme poverty. Undeniably, significant progress was made across peaceful developing countries against the eight MDGs (see box). According to the World Bank, absolute poverty has been halved (although not evenly in each country and region). In 1990, 43.1 per cent of the population in developing countries lived on less than 1.25 US dollars (USD) a day; by 2010, this rate dropped to 20.6 per cent. The world is close to attaining universal primary education too – 90 per cent of children in developing countries are completing primary education (although sub-Saharan Africa is behind at 70 %) (World Bank, 2014).

The Millennium Development Goals

1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2) Achieve universal primary education
3) Promote gender equality and empower women
4) Reduce child mortality
5) Improve maternal health
6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7) Ensure environmental sustainability
8) Global partnership for development

The MDGs, however, are tainted by serious criticisms.

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