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Five questions answered about the UN post-2015 summit

Last week, the UN adopted the SDGs – but what does that mean?
Last week, the UN adopted the SDGs – but what does that mean?

September was a historic month for the United Nations as almost 200 representatives from countries around the world met to discuss global targets to make the world a better place. Now that the summit and the general debate have wrapped up, we answer five questions you may have been asking about these significant UN events.

What happened at the UNGA?

2015 marked the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). What made the UNGA so historic this year was the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) between 25 to 28 September. These 17 targets span from eliminating extreme poverty to ensuring clean, safe drinking water for all, from reducing inequality to combating climate change.

In addition to the SDGs, the UNGA adopted a universal agreement on climate change, and had meetings on sustainable urbanisation and humanitarian issues including the current crisis in Syria. Pope Francis, President Barack Obama, various celebrities and the CEO of SOS Children’s Villages International, Richard Pichler, were present at the summit to show their support and urge the assembly to take global action.

The 17 SDGs that have been officially adopted by the UN are:

  • End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • End hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all
  • Ensure inclusive, equitable and quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • All in a day's work – manning the stalls at Canchungo market in Guinea-Bissau
    Sustainable employment opportunities are essential for
    economic growth and individual well-being
    Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of earth's ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

What was SOS Children’s role at the post-2015 summit?

SOS Children has actively advocated for vulnerable children to be at the heart of the SDGs. Together with other children’s organizations, SOS Children wrote an open letter to the United Nations urging world leaders to leave no child behind in the development framework.
Richard Pichler, CEO of SOS Children’s Villages International, was present at the UN post-2015 summit to confirm the commitment of the organization to help achieve the goals that can transform the lives of vulnerable children. Six of the 17 global goals directly relate to SOS Children’s work – goals 1, 3, 4, 8, 10 and 16.

“Never before has a global policy paved the way as the SDGs have done – giving equal opportunities to the world’s children. We will all be judged on whether we can turn these opportunities into real achievements,” said Mr. Pichler.

Former SOS child, Daniel Mijailoviski, was among the 194 young people who were selected to represent the world’s youth at the summit. Daniel, 24, gave a speech at a round table about employment for young people – a topic he is passionate about. Back home in Macedonia, Daniel has been working with the government to start an employment programme for young people coming from alternative care.

How did the SDGs come about?

Nadine from Austria at United Nations
In 2014, SOS children attended the UN to discuss the centrality of children in the post-2015 agenda

In 2000, the United Nations launched the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of time-specific targets to achieve by 2015. The goals were adopted to make global progress in human rights and to halve extreme poverty in 15 years. The MDGs were able to decrease extreme poverty by 50% from 1.9 billion people living on less than US $1.25 a day in 1990 to 836 million people in 2015.

Progress has been made but the UN realised that a lot of work still needs to be done. During the RIO+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, it was agreed that further goals need to be in place post-2015. Member states of the UN worked closely with major groups and civil society stakeholders to create the 17 SDGs. Over the past three years, the global goals have been widely discussed and formalized in meetings and open forums around the world. The UN also launched the world’s largest survey where 4.5 people gave their opinion on what the goals should include and how they should be achieved.

Are the global goals achievable?

The United Nations hopes to achieve the 17 SDGs by 2030. Their predecessor – the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – consist of only eight goals with 21 sub-targets, while the SDGs have 169 sub-targets.

While some argue that the SDGs targets are unrealistic, the goals are meant to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide and to do this, we need to achieve sustainable development which includes addressing inequality, unemployment, healthcare, armed conflicts and education. Trying to achieve all 17 goals in 15 years is ambitious, but what better way to drive change than to indicate that it is possible? We have the chance to eliminate extreme poverty and change the world in a generation!

Now that the goals have been adopted, what next?

Our next step is to work collectively towards change. Together, each one of us can contribute to a wider global initiative to make the world a better place by 2030. At SOS Children, we will continue to work closely with our partners to help ensure the successful implementation of the SDGs and that no child is left behind. How are you going to help change the world?

SOS Children has sought to shape the post-2015 plan so that young people are placed at the heart of the development agenda. Find out more...