Insights into the UNSDGs: an introduction

Planning for a negotiation
Professor Douglas BOATENG

In 2015, the United Nations successfully adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a comprehensive plan designed to promote sustainable development and address the most pressing issues facing our planet and its inhabitants. This ambitious agenda aims to create a better future for all by addressing poverty, inequality, climate change, and environmental degradation. With a focus on collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity, the 2030 Agenda is a crucial step towards creating a more just, equitable, and sustainable world for future generations.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) is a comprehensive set of 17 interconnected objectives established to serve as a universal call to action for countries across the globe. These objectives are of utmost importance as they play a vital role in achieving the broader agenda of sustainable development while addressing the challenges that impact individual nations and the world. Implementing these goals and objectives is crucial as it lays the foundation for creating a sustainable world that can be passed down to future generations. Below are the 17 goals outlined to guide us towards a better tomorrow.

  1. No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End Hunger: Achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Good Health and Well-Being: Ensure healthy love and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
  10. Reduced Inequalities: Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, sea and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Life on Land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Partnerships for the Goals: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

These 17 Sustainable Development Goals emerged from decades of collaboration among UN Member States around the growing need for a global partnership focused on sustainable development and preserving the planet’s future.

Initial formal discussions around the need for a comprehensive plan began at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. In 2000 UN Member States signed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reduce extreme poverty by 2015.

At the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), members adopted the “Future We Want” document, which set out intentions to build upon the MDGs and develop sustainable development goals. An open working group to develop the SDGs proposal was set up in 2013.  Proposals from the group, including the 17 UNSDGs, were adopted in 2015, and implementation began in 2016.

In 2020, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, boldly called for a ‘Decade of Action’ worldwide, aiming to realise the UNSDGs by 2030.

Despite the diligent efforts to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), recent global crises and conflicts have unfortunately hindered progress. The COVID-19 pandemic, persistent food shortages, alarming inflation rates, the intensifying climate crisis, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine have collectively impinged upon the abilities of numerous nations to meet their respective goals.

In the latest Sustainable Development Goals Report (2022), Antonio Guterres notes, “The COVID-19 pandemic has directly or indirectly cost the lives of nearly 15 million people. Global health systems have been overwhelmed, and many essential health services have been disrupted, posing major threats to progress in fighting other deadly diseases. Many millions live in extreme poverty and suffer from increased hunger compared to pre-pandemic levels.”  Approximately 147 million children missed more than half of their in-person schooling during the pandemic, and women have been disproportionately affected by the socioeconomic fallout of the pandemic, struggling with lost jobs, increased burdens of unpaid care work and an intensifying silent epidemic of domestic violence,” he further stated.

The current state of the global economic recovery presents numerous challenges and inconsistencies, causing significant difficulties for many individuals and businesses worldwide. Inflation rates are also on the rise, which is causing financial difficulties for individuals and companies alike. This is particularly true for those on fixed incomes or on monthly salaries. In many cases, the rising cost of goods and services makes it difficult for people to make ends meet.

Another challenge facing the global economic recovery is the disruption in various supply chains. This leads to delays and difficulties in obtaining necessary goods and services, which has a ripple effect on many industries. This is particularly true for those involved in manufacturing and logistics, as they face significant challenges in getting their raw materials and finished products to and from various markets.

The fallout from the pandemic and the ongoing Ukraine war have caused many job losses, leaving many individuals uncertain. As a result, generating more employment opportunities has become increasingly important, particularly in the industries that suffered the most significant blows during this economic downturn. Such sectors include, amongst others, hospitality, travel, and retail.

The increasing debt crisis in developing countries is a major worry. Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has warned that it could have a “significant negative impact on the worldwide economy”. David Malpass, the President of the World Bank, has rightly emphasized the need to take immediate steps to address this issue before it becomes a major problem. “The ongoing conflict in Ukraine cannot be ignored, as it could also have far-reaching effects on the global economy” he cautioned.

According to Guterres, the increase in prices of goods and services is a major contributor to inflation, which can negatively affect international trade, supply chains, and financial markets. He stressed the need for immediate action to mitigate its impact on the global economy

This informative series will delve into the UNSDGs in the coming weeks, providing detailed insights into each of the 17 goals. The objectives and targets of each goal will be meticulously explained, enabling a comprehensive understanding of their significance. Additionally, the series will explore the impact of current global crises on the progress made towards these goals. By clearly understanding the current situation, UN Member States such as Ghana can further devise effective measures to aid the most vulnerable members of society and honour their commitments.

>>>The writer is an international chartered director and Africa’s first-ever appointed Professor Extraordinaire for Industrialisation and Supply Chain Governance. He is the CEO of PanAvest International and the founding non-executive chairman of MY-future YOUR-Future and OUR-Future (“MYO”) and the “thought-provoking” daily Nyansa Kasa (words of wisdom) series. Professor Boateng is currently the non-executive chairman of the Minerals Income and Investment Fund (MIIF). He was previously the non-executive chairman of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA). For more information on  Nyansakasa, visit and

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