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A global contract for a sustainable future

Introducing the sustainable development goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the current global framework for development.

We have explored development and the impact of this development on our planet. Some of the challenges for a sustainable future include a growing population and the environmental impact of this population. Clearly, addressing these challenges requires action, at local and global levels.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the global agreement for what needs to be achieved by 2030 to realise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Image of the 17 UN SUstainable Development goals with sytlised icons numbered 1 through to seventeen

The SDGS were agreed in 2015 and came into force on the 1 January, 2016. They did not, of course, emerge from a vacuum. They were preceded by a number of milestones, including increasing recognition of and knowledge of environmental degradation, campaigns, policies, programs and legislation.

As a global contract, the SDGs are not mandatory targets. They represent a collective agreement, a consensus and, some would argue, a compromise.

Some critics question the thinking or ideology on which the SDGs are based. Others consider a goal/s poorly defined or see potential conflict between the numerous and varied goals. In addition some argue that the SDGs do not include issues of increasing concern such as climate change or focus on current realities such as growing economic and social inequalities. Jason Hickel in a 2015 The Conversation article, for example, argues a key system underpinning the framework is flawed.

As a new framework for action, however, they represent a future direction when we are at a critical point in history. The question is whether the SDGs are taken seriously by governments, and if not, what is the future for humanity?

SDG resources

Explore the SDGs through one or more resources:

Your task

At first glance, is there anything obviously missing or any potential issues with the SDGs? Now look more closely at what the SDGs say about population? Share anything you identified across the 17-goal framework.

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Sustainability and Development

Deakin University

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join:

  • Human development at odds with our environment
    Human development at odds with our environment

    Watch an animation to understand climate change and ocean acidification. Examine the ideas of planetary boundaries and planetary squeezes.

  • Wind turbines behind a modern farm with solar panels Group of wind turbines behind a modern farm with solar panels on the roofs, group of cows in the foreground; northern Germany.
    Tomorrow's world

    Investigate the contribution of new and innovative technology to possible futures. Share your research and learn from others via Padlet walls.