Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's online course, Improving the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents: from Evidence to Action. Join the course to learn more.
Image of women's group in Rodradha village
Image: Women's group from Rodrodha village by Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade. CC BY 2.0

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) follow on from the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were defined in 2000 as a means to drive international policies and develop accountability for improving the lives of the poor.

The SDGs, launched in September 2015 and enacted at the start of 2016, are a universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states will be expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies until 2030.

How many SDGs are there?

Following an extensive consultation led by the UN, 17 SDGs have been defined, each with a sub-set of targets to be achieved world-wide. Within these 17 goals, a total of 169 targets have been proposed. Each of these targets also have a set of measurable indicators with which to monitor progress, although the process for agreeing on which indicators to include was challenging.

What is the difference between SDGs and MDGs?

While the SDGs are closely linked to the MDGs, they have three important differences:

  1. The SDGs were defined following extensive consultation with countries and leaders from around the world.
  2. The SDGs are designed to provoke action in every country around the world, not just in low and middle income countries.
  3. The SDGs will have a more intentional focus on the reduction of poverty through development, including action on human rights, sustainability, and tackling the root causes of poverty and gender inequality. As a result, the SDGs feature just one goal that directly targets health compared to three of the MDGs: Goal 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

While the SDGs have broad agreement across the world, some countries feel there are too many and that they may be unable to focus attention in the same way as the MDGs did. Despite this , many agree that it is necessary to include targets on women’s empowerment, good governance and security in order to ensure 2030 is a more sustainable, equitable, and developed world, while at the same time explicitly addressing economic development, poverty reduction, the environment and health.

A full list of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in addition to their 169 associated targets, is available on the Sustainable Development Goals Platform, and as a PDF in the Downloads section.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Improving the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents: from Evidence to Action

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine