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United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals seek a balance between social, environmental and economic priorities, they are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the planet.

 United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Published on:

9 Mar 2023

The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals seek a balance between social, environmental and economic priorities, they are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the planet.


End Poverty in all its forms everywhere

Globally 6-700 million people live in extreme poverty. These are people who are dying from poverty.

In Poverty you become ill, you can’t think straight, you can’t work, so you’re trapped, it’s a vicious downward cycle.

But poverty exists in develop countries, people who are earning less than the minimum wage for example.

So addressing poverty is less about addressing low income as it is the causes of poverty, lack of education, peace, access to food and water, mental health, equality.

Other SDGS are help here, SDG2 Zero Hunger, SDG3 Health and Wellbeing, SDG6, Clean water and Sanitation

Three take aways

  1. 600-700 million people live in extreme poverty, a downward spiral you can’t escape.

  2. Solving poverty is less about income than the cause of poverty, other SDGs are there to help

  3. Charities like UNICEF and world Vision help to address the causes of poverty.

One big idea

Universal Basic Income or a living wage where everybody irrespective of income receives a basic minimum wage to ensure everybody canfeed and support themselves. It’s not means tested, nobody need feel ashamed in the receive it.


The global initiative of Zero Hunger aims to end hunger and malnutrition.

The Zero Hunger initiative aims to end hunger by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to the United Nations, nearly 690 million people were hungry in 2019, up by 10 million from 2018.

Food waste is a global problem that has significant economic, social, and environmental impacts. A staggering one-third of all food produced globally is wasted, resulting in approximately 1.3 billion tons of waste each year. This waste not only contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, but it also has social implications, as millions of people worldwide suffer from hunger and malnutrition. The biggest sources of food waste include households, food service, and retail sectors.

Three take aways

  1. Over 2 billion people lack regular access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food.

  2. Hunger and malnutrition are responsible for about 45% of deaths of children under five years old.

  3. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated hunger, with an additional 130 million people at risk of starvation.

One big idea

An excellent strategy to reduce food waste is establishing a “food-sharing” system, allowing individuals or organisations to donate excess food to those requiring it. This can be facilitated through a mobile app or website that connects individuals or businesses with surplus food to local food banks. 


Ensuring good health and well-being for everyone worldwide.

The SDG initiative promotes “Good Health and Wellbeing” for individuals of all ages, across the globe.

According to the World Health Organisation, in 2019, there were an estimated 7.8 million deaths due to air pollution, making it the leading environmental risk factor for premature death and disease.

Three take aways

  1. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on global health, with over 250 million confirmed cases and over 5 million deaths reported worldwide.

  2. Despite progress made in recent years, maternal mortality remains a significant challenge, particularly in developing countries. In 2019, an estimated 295,000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth, with most of these deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

  3. Non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes, are responsible for many deaths worldwide, accounting for 71% of all deaths in 2016.

One big idea

Understanding the importance of mental health and how to maintain it should be incorporated into school curriculums. By doing so, students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to take care of their mental health and support others who may be struggling. This is a necessary step towards achieving SDG 3 and ensuring “Good Health and Well-being” for individuals of all ages. 


Ensure that every single person has access to education of the highest quality.

According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, in 2020, around 258 million children and youth were out of school, of which around 64 million were of primary school age, 69 million were of lower secondary school age, and 125 million were of upper secondary school age.

Three take aways

  1. The global literacy rate for adults (aged 15 years and above) is estimated to be 86.3%, according to the United Nations. However, there are significant variations among regions and countries.

  2. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the education of over 1.6 billion learners globally, according to UNESCO. School closures and the shift to remote learning have widened the education gap and raised concerns about learning loss.

  3. Girls continue to face barriers to education in many parts of the world. According to UNESCO, around 132 million girls were out of school in 2020, and in some countries, girls are more likely than boys to drop out of school or not enroll in the first place.

One big idea

A global campaign is necessary to enable girls to achieve their full potential despite various obstacles they encounter, including societal expectations and stereotypes. By challenging these biases and promoting gender equality, we can empower girls to speak up and develop leadership skills. This campaign would strive to ensure that every girl has access to education and healthcare, regardless of their socioeconomic background or geographic location.


To empower women and girls to ensure gender equality around the world.

Globally, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report. This is a shocking figure and shows gender equality for women at work is still a significant challenge around the world.

Women are underrepresented in the labour force, with a global labour force participation rate of 47.2% compared to 74.2% for men, according to the International Labour Organisation.

Additionally, gender inequality can have broader societal impacts, such as reduced economic growth, increased poverty, and decreased social cohesion.

Three take aways

  1. As of 2020, only 25% of parliamentarians worldwide were women, and women held only 22% of ministerial-level positions.

  2. Approximately 12 million girls are married each year before the age of 18, according to UNICEF.

  3. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women worldwide experiences physical or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.

One big idea

To allow women to earn the same as men is to implement pay transparency policies, which require companies to disclose the salaries of all employees, including their gender and race. This can help to identify, and address pay disparities and ensure that women are being paid fairly for their work. 


To ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030

Globally, 2.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 4.2 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation services.

The UN have ascertained that Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the lack of clean water and sanitation, as they are often responsible for collecting water and are at risk of harassment and sexual violence while doing so. Imagine undertaking a long, and often arduous journey, and not being safe while collecting basic resources.

Three take aways

  1. Every year, 361,000 children under the age of five die due to diarrhoea, which is largely caused by poor sanitation and hygiene.

  2. In developing regions, 80% of wastewater is discharged untreated into the environment, polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans.

  3. By 2050, at least one in four people are projected to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water.

One big idea

We need to enable local communities to take charge of their own water and sanitation needs by providing them with the necessary resources and training.

Community-based solutions could include building rainwater harvesting systems, constructing wells, installing water filters, and promoting hygiene education. Decentralised solutions can also help to ensure that water and sanitation services are tailored to local needs, are cost-effective, and can be easily maintained over the long term. 


This goal is focused on ensuring that everyone has access to energy services that are affordable, dependable, and sustainable by 2030.

Access to modern and affordable energy services is critical for achieving sustainable development and improving the lives of people around the world. However, despite significant progress in recent years, there are still many disparities in access to energy services between developed and developing countries. Around 789 million people worldwide still lack access to electricity, and 2.8 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating purposes. 

Three take aways

  1. Around 2.8 billion people still rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating, which is associated with indoor air pollution and negative health impacts.

  2. Despite significant progress in the deployment of renewable energy technologies, fossil fuels still make up much of the world’s energy mix, with coal being the most significant contributor to global CO2 emissions.

  3. The renewable energy sector has seen substantial growth in recent years, with global renewable energy capacity reaching 2,799 GW by the end of 2020. Investing in renewable energy infrastructure is a key strategy for achieving SDG 7. Aim to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Achieved by investing in renewable energy infrastructure, governments and private sector organisations can promote the use of clean and sustainable energy sources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate the impact of climate change.


Sustained and inclusive economic growth is necessary for achieving sustainable development.

Global unemployment increased by 33 million people between 2019 and 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused widespread business closures, disrupted global supply chains, and reduced consumer demand, leading to job losses and increased unemployment rates around the world. 

Three take aways

  1. In 2020, an estimated 8.8% of the global working hours were lost, which is equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs.

  2. The global youth unemployment rate was 13.1% in 2020, which is three times higher than the adult unemployment rate.

  3. In 2020, an estimated 71% of the world’s workers were employed in the informal economy, which is characterised by low wages, poor working conditions, and limited social protections.

One big idea

Providing education and skills training programs can help individuals develop the skills and knowledge needed to access better paying jobs and improve their economic opportunities. This can also benefit businesses by providing them with a more skilled and productive workforce.

Governments, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector can all play a role in investing in education and skills training programs, such as vocational training, apprenticeships, and adult education programs. These programs can be tailored to meet the specific needs of different populations, including women, youth, and vulnerable groups, and can also be integrated with other initiatives to promote entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation. 


Encompasses three important aspects of sustainable development: infrastructure, industrialisation, and innovation.

This goal recognises the importance of industrialisation and innovation in achieving sustainable development and the need for resilient, adaptable, and sustainable infrastructure. Increasing access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services and enhancing industrialisation while promoting innovation in all sectors. The achievement of this goal is critical in ensuring that everyone has access to decent work and economic opportunities, which are essential for achieving sustainable development. 

Three take aways

  1. As of 2018, only 42% of the global population had access to the internet. (Source: International Telecommunication Union)

  2. In 2019, the global renewable energy sector employed over 11 million people, an increase of 1.5 million from the previous year.

  3. In 2019, only 30% of developing countries had access to digital payments, which can help promote financial inclusion and economic growth. 

One big idea

Promote sustainable and resilient infrastructure development. This can be done by investing in the development of sustainable infrastructure, such as renewable energy systems, energy-efficient buildings, and sustainable transportation networks. It needs to be inclusive and accessible to all. This means considering the needs of marginalised and vulnerable communities, such as those living in poverty or in remote areas and providing access to essential services such as healthcare and education.

SDG 10

Goal adopted in 2015 to reduce inequality within and among countries by addressing discrimination, exclusion, and economic disparities through policies and actions.

In 2020, income inequality was at a decades-long high, with the top 1% owning 43% of global wealth. Despite progress, people with disabilities face significant barriers to full societal participation, such as limited access to education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.

Three take aways

  1. As of 2021, an estimated 8.6% of the world’s population (or around 700 million people) lived in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day.

  2. In many countries, women and girls continue to face significant barriers to accessing education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. For example, globally, women earn on average 23% less than men, and they are also more likely to work in low-paying jobs and in the informal sector.

  3. Racial and ethnic inequalities also persist in many countries. For example, in the United States, Black and Hispanic workers earn on average around 30% less than White workers, and they are also more likely to be unemployed or underemployed. 

One big idea

Implement progressive tax policies. An advanced tax system is designed to ensure that those who earn more pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than those who earn less. This can help reduce income inequality by redistributing wealth from the wealthiest individuals to those less well off.

SDG 11

Aims to create Sustainable Cities and Communities that are safe, resilient, and inclusive.

Over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and this number is projected to increase to two-thirds by 2050. This emphasises the need to develop sustainable and resilient cities.

Three take aways

  1. Most of the world’s population does not have access to adequate housing. In 2020, around 1.8 billion people were estimated to be living in inadequate housing.

  2. Air pollution in cities is a significant health risk, with over 90% of the world’s urban population breathing polluted air.

  3. In 2018, 2 billion people did not have access to safe drinking water, with many living in urban areas.

One big idea

Invest in sustainable transportation systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ease traffic congestion, and promote safer and more efficient mobility. This can include building bike lanes, pedestrian walkways, and public transportation systems that are affordable, accessible, and powered by clean energy.

By prioritising sustainable transportation, cities can not only reduce their environmental footprint but also improve the quality of life for their residents by providing them with safer, more efficient, and affordable transportation options.

SDG 12

To enhance economic and social well-being while reducing the environmental impact of economic activities.

In addition to the environmental and social impacts of food waste, it also represents a significant economic loss. The economic cost of food waste is estimated to be around $1 trillion per year globally, with losses occurring at every stage of the food supply chain, from production to consumption. This loss affects not only the food industry but also the wider economy, including governments, businesses, and consumers.

Three take aways

  1. E-waste is the fastest-growing waste stream globally, with an estimated 50 million metric tons generated in 2019 alone.

  2. In 2019, global greenhouse gas emissions from the consumption of energy, including from the production of goods, reached a record high of 38.0 GtCO2, with industry accounting for approximately 40% of these emissions.

  3. Over 80% of the world’s wastewater is discharged back into the environment without being treated or reused, leading to water scarcity and pollution.

One big idea

One idea for SDG 12 is to promote the circular economy. This is a regenerative system aimed at minimising waste and maximising resource use. This can be achieved through initiatives such as reducing packaging waste, promoting reuse, and recycling, and encouraging the use of sustainable and biodegradable materials.

SDG 13

To take urgent and significant action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have increased by over 50% since 1990, with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions accounting for around 80% of total GHG emissions. This increase in emissions is mainly due to human activities, such as burning fossil fuels for energy, deforestation, and intensive agriculture. It is a major contributor to climate change and is the focus of SDG 13’s efforts to combat climate change and its impacts.

Three take aways

  1. In 2019, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 410 parts per million (ppm), the highest level in over three million years.

  2. 2020 was one of the three hottest years on record, and the past six years (2015-2020) have been the hottest six-year period on record.

  3. Climate change is affecting weather patterns, leading to more frequent and severe natural disasters. In 2020, there were 110 disasters related to weather and climate, resulting in 8,200 deaths and $210 billion in economic losses.

One big idea

A strategy could be to promote renewable energy sources and energy efficiency through policies that encourage the adoption of technologies such as solar and wind power and incentivise the development of new efficient technologies. Additionally, reducing emissions from transportation, industry, and buildings can also contribute to achieving SDG 13, by promoting public transportation, electric vehicles, and energy-efficient building designs and technologies. 

SDG 14

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

Marine and coastal ecosystems provide essential resources and services to people worldwide. These include food, tourism, transportation, and climate regulation. In addition, marine and coastal biodiversity supports the livelihoods of millions of small-scale fishers, indigenous peoples, and coastal communities. However, these ecosystems are under significant threat from human activities such as overfishing, pollution, coastal development, and climate change.

Three take aways

  1. More than 90% of global fish stocks are either overfished or fully fished, indicating the need for sustainable fishing practices.

  2. Every year, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans, causing harm to marine life and ecosystems.

  3. Ocean acidification, caused by the absorption of excess carbon dioxide by seawater, is occurring faster than at any time in the past 300 million years and negatively impacts marine life.

One big idea

One approach is to create Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to preserve and manage marine and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity sustainably. This can be achieved by implementing policies and regulations to limit damaging human activities in specific areas, such as overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction. Encouraging sustainable fishing practices and supporting small-scale fisheries can also contribute to ensuring the longevity of marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of those who rely on them.

SDG 15

Protect, restore, and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that around 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, with many facing extinction within decades if action is not taken.

Three take aways

  1. Deforestation continues at an alarming rate, with an estimated 10 million hectares of forest lost each year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

  2. Land degradation affects around one-third of the world’s total land area, leading to decreased productivity and loss of biodiversity, according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

  3. Illegal wildlife trade is a multi-billion-dollar industry that threatens the survival of many species, including elephants, rhinos, and tigers.

One big idea

SDG 15 can be realised by advocating sustainable land use and forest management practices. To do this, it is essential to establish policies and regulations that safeguard forests and other ecosystems and encourage community based forest management and restoration initiatives. Encouraging agroforestry and sustainable agricultural practices can reduce deforestation and land degradation and create economic opportunities for rural communities. Adopting a landscape approach to land use and forest management can contribute to achieving other sustainable development goals, including poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation. 

SDG 16

Promoting peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.

Violence and conflict have continued to be a significant challenge in many parts of the world, affecting both developed and developing countries. In addition to the loss of lives, these conflicts often lead to the displacement of millions of people, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. It is essential to address the root causes of these conflicts, including political, social, and economic factors, to prevent their recurrence. 

Three take aways

  1. Corruption: According to the World Economic Forum, corruption costs the global economy more than $2.6 trillion per year, and it is estimated that more than $1 trillion is paid in bribes annually.

  2. Access to justice: About 5 billion people (or 2/3 of the world’s population) do not have access to justice, with women, children, and vulnerable groups being the most affected.

  3. Freedom of expression: According to Reporters Without Borders, journalists are being subjected to growing censorship and repression, with more than 60 countries rated as “bad” or “very bad” in terms of press freedom.

One big idea

Encouraging transparency and accountability in governance can be achieved by implementing open data initiatives, protecting whistleblowers, and ensuring public reporting on government spending and decision-making processes.

This fosters better awareness among the public about government actions, allowing them to hold leaders accountable for their decisions. Ultimately, this helps to combat corruption, increase confidence in institutions, and ensure the efficient and effective use of resources.

SDG 17

Strengthen global partnerships and cooperation to support the achievement of all the other SDGs.

SDG 17 aims to enhance the implementation of sustainable development and revive the global partnership towards this goal. Despite some progress, there is still a significant amount of work that needs to be done to ensure sustainable development implementation.

Three take aways

  1. In 2020, foreign direct investment (FDI) flows fell by 35% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This decrease was particularly sharp in developing countries, where FDI flows declined by 30%.

  2. The global average tariff on agricultural products was 18.8% in 2019, which is more than three times higher than the average tariff on non-agricultural products (5.9%). This makes it difficult for small scale farmers in developing countries to access international markets.

  3. n 2020, the World Trade Organisation estimated that trade in goods and services would decline by 9.2% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One big idea

One potential solution to support SDG 17 is to create a worldwide platform that encourages and facilitates partnerships between multiple stakeholders for sustainable development. This platform would enable governments, civil society organisations, the private sector, and other interested parties to share their best practices, align their efforts, and pool resources to achieve the SDGs. It could offer a range of services, including matchmaking to pair organisations and individuals with complementary skills and expertise and provide training, mentorship, and other capacity-building support to help organisations develop the skills and knowledge necessary to participate effectively in partnerships.

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