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The aim of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which had been a major influence on international development policy before their expiry in 2015. The SDGs (also known as the Global Goals) are as follows:

 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 and 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 income 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 by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy;
  • 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.

 The process by which the Goals were developed was a complex one. In 2013, the UN General Assembly established an Open Working Group to begin to process of developing the SDGs. The Open Working Group reported in 2014, and suggested 17 new goals with 169 underlying targets. The Open Working Group’s draft goals were based partly on an earlier report from the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which was co-chaired by then Prime Minister David Cameron. Following the Open Working Group’s report, the goals and targets were adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015. Subsequently, in March 2016, the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) agreed on a framework of 230 indicators which will be used to measure progress towards the goals and targets.

 In June 2016, the International Development Committee produced a report on “UK implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals,” to which the Government responded in September. The Government accepted a number of the Committee’s recommendations, including the following:

  • Following the forthcoming Multilateral Aid Review, DFID should lay out exactly how its engagement with multilaterals will help it support the achievement of the SDGs, either within the MAR document itself or an alternative strategy document.
  • DFID should look closely at its civil society funding mechanisms to ensure small NGOs, particularly in the Global South, are not being discriminated against because of difficulties in disbursing and managing small amounts of money, and that they are not restricted due to levels of funding sources being external to the countries in which they operate.

 However, recommendations rejected by the Government included the following:

  • The Government should identify a formal mechanism for relevant Secretaries of State or responsible Ministers to come together regularly to discuss the implementation of the SDGs across Government. It should be used initially to discuss how the SDGs can be implemented coherently across Government, but could develop into a forum for discussion of particular areas of the agenda at regular, and defined, intervals. This would enable areas of policy incoherence to be flagged at an early stage, and dealt with at the highest level.
  • The Government should use this critical juncture to consolidate and update the four International Development Acts (2002, 2006, 2014, and 2015) into one single Act, and update the provisions to include a legal requirement that poverty reduction (including through the provision of global public goods) in the primary purpose of all ODA spending (including by other Government Departments).

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