What Are the Sustainable Development Goals?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a framework of 17 global goals and 169 targets that aim to address the world’s environmental, social, economic, and security challenges.


These new goals are unprecedented in 3 ways

They are aspirational stretch goals challenging us to move past a business as usual mentality for seeking solutions

The SDGs provide an aspirational agenda that challenges humanity to move beyond business-as-usual and to pursue transformative change. Many critics would argue that it is unrealistic to try to end poverty in all its forms in just 15 years but these critics miss the point. The SDGs are a vision statement – not of what we can currently accomplish but what we must accomplish.Screen-Shot-2015-07-08-at-15.10.17

They are interconnected and indivisible recognizing that to truly be achieved, we cannot think of them as existing in isolation from each other.

The SDG agenda also presents an integrated and indivisible approach to the 17 goals recognizing that addressing climate change (Goal 13) will require achieving quality education (Goal 4) and sustainable consumption and production patterns (Goal 12) along with many other SDGs. In short, the agenda recognizes that each and all of the goals are interdependent and that no one goal can be fully realized without achieving the others.

They are universal: asserting that global issues transcend borders existing within all countries. We are all developing countries now.

The product of over three years of negotiations involving all United Nations members and the active participation of global civil society, the SDGs are a truly universal agenda. The SDGs apply to all countries including Canada. This means that Goal 1’s objective of “ending poverty everywhere in all its forms for everyone” applies to those living in the shanty towns of Nigeria as well as those sleeping on the streets of Vancouver, while Goal 15’s aim of conserving terrestrial ecosystems applies to the rainforests of Brazil as well as biodiversity on Haida Gwaii.

Learn more about the goals and how they came to be:

The stats are in – this is what achieving the global goals looks like:

History and Ratification

The result of a multi-year grassroots process, the SDGs were ratified in September 2015 and provide concrete targets for realizing a healthy planet and viable future for all by target year 2030. The G77 countries, which include some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries to climate change voted as a block to retain the language and sense of urgency captured in the wording of the goals and in the official UN document “Transforming Our World”.

Why are the SDGs important?

The SDGs represent what we as a human species on a shared planet with shared resource need to accomplish in the next 15 years or our planet will become a very different and difficult place to live. There has been a colossal shift at the international level with world leaders unanimously agreeing to goals that will require transformative action to be achieved. To make these goals a reality, we will require a concerted planet wide effort like never before. There is no ‘Plan B’. There is no alternative agenda.

Unprecedented in scope and scale, the SDGs offer a common global language with which to tackle global issues between all tiers of government, all sectors, all countries, and all people. They are a framework, a tool with which to frame work that is already happening and expand ideas and efforts to be more holistic in their approaches to solutions. The SDGs allow for each of us to better understand how we fit into the bigger picture moving forward and they create a tangible link between what are perceived as local and global issues. 

These global goals give us a common set of targets and indicators, already agreed to by our federal government, to advocate for action toward. There is no need to reinvent the wheel or re-imagine where we are going,  the goals are a global mission and vision statement to guide the world over the next 15 years. All we need to do now is explore just how tackling these goals needs to look in the many corners of Canada and specifically within the province of British Columbia.

How can civil society get involved with the SDGs?

Why do the SDGs matter in BC?

Canada signed on to the SDGs in September 2015, but will need to coordinate with provinces and territories to address, measure, and work on making progress toward the international targets. Under a universal agenda many provincial jurisdiction areas are key to achieving the SDGs including natural resources, water, and education. Canada is required to report on our progress toward achieving these goals, BC will need to be responsible for the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of those goals which fall within provincial jurisdiction meaning that first first time, what have been considered local issues are also global issues. While they may have unique features and require different approaches to be solved, all issues are global issues and we are united as a human species in this way. 

The SDGs provide an opportunity to embed the SDG agenda framework into provincial political discourse and engagement. As a province, we need to figure out how we are going to better align ourselves to feed up into this new set of goals, including working to create provincial and municipal level indicators to measure our progress. The SDGs are critical to engaging local communities to address global challenges in their own backyards, with consideration to what work is currently being done and where changes can best be made. By connecting provincial political goals to capacity building for the SDGs will further integrate these goals into policy, programming, and public domains. This is where the BC 2030 campaign comes in. There is space for subnational leadership on the goals. There is room for BC to come forward as a province and use this as an opportunity to show provincial leadership on global issues.