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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

On Friday, September 25, 2015, in the city of New York, the 193 member states of the United Nations approved the document titled "Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" in their General Assembly. This document establishes a roadmap towards a more equitable, sustainable, prosperous, and peaceful world. At its core, it presents a set of 17 goals and 169 targets known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Birth of Sustainable Development

On October 19, 1987, the United Nations (UN) presented an analysis of the current state of the planet. This report, known as "Our Common Future" or the Brundtland Report, bears this name because it was led by the former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland. In this report, the concept of "Sustainable Development" was introduced, defining it as "development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

This analysis has undergone review and updating by the international community, involving leaders, scientists, academics, and other relevant stakeholders. These revisions have been carried out through the establishment of Agenda 21 (introduced in 1992), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, presented in the year 2000 [1]), and starting in 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as Agenda 2030.

Suforall Logo ODS, Javier Trespalacios
Image 1: Sustainable Development Goals Logo (United Nations, n.d.)

The Beginning of the SDGs

During the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, in June 2012 (held 20 years after the famous Rio Summit in 1992), the initiative "The Future We Want" was introduced. This planning document became the foundation for the development of the Agenda 2030. In this document, the importance of establishing a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) based on Agenda 21 [3], the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation [4], and the Principles of Rio [5] is emphasized. Additionally, it underscores the need for these goals to incorporate the three dimensions of sustainable development and their interrelationships in a balanced manner (Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Colombia). During this conference, several countries expressed concerns that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) would not be achieved and emphasized the need for a successor that would adequately address the identified limitations (Herrera-Cano, Uribe, Tamayo, Murcia, and Perez, 2016).

The Agenda that extends until the year 2030, also known as the "Post-2015 Development Agenda", emerged as a result of collaboration among representatives from 70 countries and global public consultations conducted by the United Nations. In these consultations, citizens were invited to select what they considered their priorities (World Vision, 2019).

The Agenda 2030 is presented as an action plan structured around five core areas, referred to as the "5Ps". These areas aim primarily to promote the well-being of people, preserve the health of the planet, foster economic prosperity, maintain peace, and strengthen international partnerships. This agenda encompasses a total of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which in turn include a set of 169 specific targets. These targets are designed with the purpose of balancing the three essential dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social, and environmental dimensions.

Suforall Asamblea Naciones Unidas, Javier Trespalacios
Image 2: United Nations General Assembly in New York, approval of the SDGs, September 25, 2015 (UN Photo, Cia park)

The proposed areas, new objectives, and targets came into effect on January 1, 2016, and will guide decisions aimed at addressing urgent global challenges over the next fifteen years. The Agenda 2030 is embodied in the document titled "Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" (UN-Habitat). This document is registered with the United Nations under resolution A/RES/70/1 [2], and it was approved by 193 states on September 25, 2015, during the United Nations Summit for Sustainable Development in New York (Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Colombia, n.d.).

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals or the 17 SDGs, which are:

Suforall ODS, Javier Trespalacios
Image 3: the 17 SDGs (United Nations, n.d.)

  • SDG 1: End Poverty

  • SDG 2: Zero Hunger

  • SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being

  • SDG 4: Quality Education

  • SDG 5: Gender Equality

  • SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

  • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

  • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

  • SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

  • SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

  • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

  • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

  • SDG 13: Climate Action

  • SDG 14: Life Below Water

  • SDG 15: Life on Land

  • SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

  • SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals

The 5 spheres of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are of vital importance for both humanity and the planet, and they include the following SDGs [6]:

  • People: They aim to end poverty and hunger in all their forms and dimensions, ensuring that all human beings can live with dignity and equality in a healthy environment. This encompasses SDGs 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

  • Planet: They focus on protecting the planet from environmental degradation, promoting sustainable consumption and production, responsible management of natural resources, and urgent measures to address climate change. The goal is to ensure that the planet can meet the needs of both current and future generations, involving SDGs 6, 12, 13, 14, and 15.

  • Prosperity: They aim to ensure that all people enjoy a prosperous and fulfilling life, and that economic, social, and technological progress develops in harmony with nature. This encompasses SDGs 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11.

  • Peace: They are oriented towards promoting peaceful, just, and inclusive societies free from fear and violence. It is recognized that there can be no sustainable development without peace, and no peace without sustainable development, and this goal includes SDG 16.

  • Partnerships: They aim to mobilize the necessary resources to implement this Agenda through a revitalized Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. This partnership is based on a spirit of increased global solidarity and focuses particularly on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable people. It involves the collaboration of all countries, stakeholders, and individuals and is realized through SDG 17.

Suforall las 5P, Javier Trespalacios
Image 4: The 17 SDGs and their 5 spheres (Suforall, Javier Trespalacios)


CNUR Spanish Committee. (June 28, 2019). Climate change and disasters are causing more displacement. (ACNUR Spanish Committee) Retrieved on February 12, 2020, from

ACNUR Spanish Committee. (February 02, 2019). Water scarcity in the world: causes and consequences. (ACNUR Spanish Committee) Retrieved on February 12, 2020, from

United Nations General Assembly. (September 25, 2015). Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on September 25, 2015. Retrieved from

Camacho, A. (November 11, 1984). 35 million people sentenced to death. (El Pais) Retrieved on February 12, 2020, from

Coutiño, R. D., & Castellanos, S. E. (n.d.). Sustainable development opportunity for all. Mexico City, Mexico: The McGraw-Hill.

El Tiempo. (February 12, 2020). We are now 50 million inhabitants in Colombia. El Tiempo, p. 1.

Emmott, S. (2013). Ten Billion. Spain: Anagrama.

FAO. (1996). 6. Lessons from the Green Revolution: towards a new Green Revolution. Retrieved on February 12, 2020, from

Government of Cundinamarca. (May 28, 2019). Cundinamarca's Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved from

Herrera-Cano, C., Uribe, M. A., Tamayo, C., Murcia, D. R., & Perez, J. G. (December 2016). AGENDA 2030 - Achieving sustainable development in a diverse world. Retrieved from ResearchGate:

Marechal, F. (n.d.). Energy Minor. (LENI-IGM-STI-EPFL, Ed.) Lausanne, Switzerland.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Colombia. (n.d.). Background of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Colombia:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Colombia. (n.d.). Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Retrieved in June 2019, from Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Colombia:

Näslund-Hadley, E., Ramos, M. C., Paredes, J., Bolívar, A., & Wilches-Chaux, G. (n.d.). Water to treasure. Join an initiative to confront climate change. Inter-American Development Bank.

United Nations. (May 25, 2009). Dangers of ocean acidification. (United Nations) Retrieved on February 12, 2020, from

United Nations. (n.d.). Population. (United Nations) Retrieved on February 12, 2020, from

United Nations. (n.d.). Accelerating the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is necessary. Retrieved in May 2019, from United Nations:

Smedley, T. (June 29, 2019). Climate change: the "carbon bomb," diseases, and poisons being exposed by Arctic ice melt. (BBC Future) Retrieved on February 12, 2020, from

UN-Habitat. (n.d.). Sustainable Development Goals & the Prosperous Cities Initiative. Retrieved in May 2019, from United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat):

UNICEF Spanish Committee. (n.d.). Climate change threatens the lives and future of more than 19 million children in Bangladesh. (UNICEF Spanish Committee) Retrieved on February 12, 2020, from


[1] MDGs: They were agreed upon by the United Nations in the year 2000 and consist of 8 goals, including 18 targets and 48 indicators; link: [2] A/RES/70/1: [3] Agenda 21: known at the United Nations as Program 21, lists 40 chapters; link: [4] Johannesburg Implementation Plan: A global summit on sustainable development held from August 26 to September 4, 2002, in Johannesburg, South Africa; link: - [5] The Rio Principles: There are 27 of them, and they were proclaimed in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Sustainable Development during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3 to June 14, 1992; link: [6] A/RES/70/1 :


Suforall, Javier Trespalacios

Javier Trespalacios

Bâle (Suisse), 01.06.2019


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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