Global leaders set to adopt UN goals tackling world's ills

Broad effort to fight poverty, inequality and climate change offers road map for change

UNITED NATIONS • Leaders from nearly 200 nations were poised yesterday to adopt a sweeping plank of global goals to combat poverty, inequality and climate change in the broadest and most comprehensive effort ever by the United Nations to tackle the world's ills.

The adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, caps three years of brainstorming and negotiations with input from nearly every corner of the world, organisers say, and provides a road map for countries to finance and create change.

The 15-year objectives aim to end poverty, combat inequality, protect human rights, promote gender equality, protect the planet and create conditions for sustainable growth and shared peace and prosperity. They replace the previous UN action plan, the Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000.


Now, implementation is everything. These goals will or won't happen depending on whether governments decide to take them seriously.

MS HELEN CLARK, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

Supporters say the SDGs go much further by addressing the root causes of such issues as poverty, and by looking at means as well as ends.

They are also intended to be universal rather than applied only to the developing world. The 193 member nations were scheduled to adopt the SDGs yesterday, after a morning address by Pope Francis and a performance by Colombian singer Shakira singing Imagine.

The adoption of the goals is far from a rubber-stamp event, said Ms Amina Mohammed, assistant secretary-general and special advisor on the UN's Post-2015 Development Planning. Rather, she and other UN officials will be listening intently to world leaders speaking during the three-day SDG summit, which wraps up tomorrow.

"My greatest worry is that we don't get clarity in terms of the commitments from leaders to this agenda," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "The problems are huge so the response has got to be huge."

Once the summit ends, the task is getting the goals, along with their 169 accompanying targets, incorporated into programmes, policies and Parliaments in member nations.

"Now, implementation is everything," said Ms Helen Clark, administrator of the UN Development Programme and former prime minister of New Zealand. "These goals will or won't happen depending on whether governments decide to take them seriously."

But Ms Clark added that she sees the goals as "a sign of hope for the world".

Much is riding on the SDGs, said Ms Mohammed. "If we miss this opportunity, it's not the end of the world but it's going to be a far more miserable world, and nobody's going to be very happy with that."

Implementation of the new goals, requiring trillions of dollars in investment, will be monitored and reviewed using a set of global indicators to be agreed on by March next year.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'Global leaders set to adopt UN goals tackling world's ills'. Print Edition | Subscribe