At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.
What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
The Sustainable Development Goals build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which aimed at ending poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, and increasing access to water and sanitation. The new SDGs, and the broader Agenda for Sustainable Development, go much further than the MDGs, addressing the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people.
UNDP Administrator Helen Clark noted: "This agreement marks an important milestone in putting our world on an inclusive and sustainable course. If we all work together, we have a chance of meeting citizens’ aspirations for peace, prosperity, and wellbeing, and to preserve our planet."
What is UNDP's role with the Sustainable Development Goals?
UNDP is deeply involved in all processes around roll out of the Sustainable Development Goals and its work contributes to the SDGs by addressing the social, economic and environmental determinants of health, health-related inequalities and governance for health.
SDG 1 – End poverty in all its forms everywhere: includes specific targets on social protection and access to basic services. Poverty is a major contributor to poor health, leading to unhealthy living and working environments, poor nutrition and illiteracy, all of which increase vulnerability to disease and limit access to basic health and social services and affordable medicines. At the same time, acute and chronic diseases are one of the main factors that push households from deprivation to poverty. UNDP’s HIV Health and Development Strategy has a key focus on Reducing inequalities and social exclusion that drive HIV and poor health.
SDG 3 – Ensure healthy lives and wellbeing for all at all ages: encompasses a comprehensive range of health priorities, including both infectious and non-communicable diseases, substance use, sexual and reproductive health, universal coverage of essential health services and medicines, sustainable financing, the health workforce, and more. The target on universal health coverage aims to ensure that all people obtain needed health services – preventive, curative and rehabilitative – without financial hardship. UNDP’s commitment to HIV and other major health challenges is based on the principles that health is both a driver and outcome of development and that actions across a wide range of development sectors have a significant impact on health outcomes.
SDG 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls: includes targets on discrimination, gender-based violence and universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights. Gender inequality and gender-based violence, for example, are strong drivers of poor health and development outcomes for women and adolescent girls. Globally, HIV-related illnesses are the leading cause of death among women and girls of reproductive age and in sub-Saharan Africa adolescent girls and young women acquire HIV five to seven years earlier than men.
SDG 16 – Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions: is particularly relevant to the work of UNDP on HIV and health, which has a focus on Building resilient and sustainable systems for health. Conflicts, protracted crises and health shocks increase fragility and exacerbate the vulnerability of people in countries that lack resilient systems for health. As a result of the lengthy conflict in Syria, for example, nearly 60% of public hospitals in the country were either partially functional or had been completely destroyed by late 2015, highlighting the crucial need for close integration of health policies and programming with broader humanitarian responses and recovery efforts. People displaced during shocks and crises are particularly vulnerable due to lack of adequate access to health care and social protection: one of every 22 people living with HIV, for example, was affected by a humanitarian emergency in 2013. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-15 demonstrated how a major health crisis could result in severe economic impact due to lost livelihoods and declines in household incomes and GDP. The outbreak also highlighted the importance of strengthening core government functions – such as the ability to pay health workers - in order to build more resilient systems for health.
SDG 17 – Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development will also help to advance other health-related goals through attention to capacity building, rules-based trade, public-private and civil society partnerships and a human rights based approach.
Progress on many SDGs will only be possible by ensuring that policies and programmes pay attention to improving health outcomes. This is particularly important in the case of SDG 10 – Reduce inequality within and among countries and SDG 11 – Safe, resilient, inclusive and sustainable cities.