On 25 September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN, 2015). This new global framework to redirect humanity towards a sustainable path was developed following the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, in a three-year process involving UN Member States, national surveys engaging millions of people and thousands of actors from all over the world.
At the core of the 2030 Agenda are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The universal, transformational and inclusive SDGs describe major development challenges for humanity. The aim of the 17 SDGs (see box 1.1) is to secure a sustainable, peaceful, prosperous and equitable life on earth for everyone now and in the future. The goals cover global challenges that are crucial for the survival of humanity. They set environmental limits and set critical thresholds for the use of natural resources. The goals recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic development. They address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection and job opportunities while tackling climate change and environmental protection. The SDGs address key systemic barriers to sustainable development such as inequality, unsustainable consumption patterns, weak institutional capacity and environmental degradation.
For the goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society and every human being across the world. Governments are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks, policies and measures for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
A key feature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is its universality and indivisibility. It addresses all countries – from the Global South and the Global North – as target countries. All countries subscribing to the 2030 Agenda are to align their own development efforts with the aim of promoting prosperity while protecting the planet in order to achieve sustainable development. Thus, with respect to the SDGs, all countries can be considered as developing and all countries need to take urgent action.