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Towards Sustainable Development Goals

Towards Sustainable Development Goals

What are the prospects for agreeing on a set of global Sustainable Development Goals, what could they look like, and how could they help to focus international efforts to achieve sustainable development?

This report, authored by Ecologic Institute, first describes the two processes for the development of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda, and the options to integrate the results of both processes in order to arrive at one set of goals. It goes on to discuss the possible structure of a set of SDGs, and discusses a number of topic clusters, as an illustration of what possible SDGs could look like. The report is available for download.

The Rio+20 Conference in 2012 decided to launch a process to adopt Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This process is closely linked to another target-setting process, the post-2015 development agenda, which includes discussions on the future of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Both processes are currently underway. As a global set of targets, the SDGs are supposed to address the most relevant aspects of human development, ranging from poverty eradication and human health to safeguarding the global ecosystems on which humanity depends for its survival. But it is also clear and agreed that meaningful SDGs must set priorities and should not attempt to cover all facets of sustainable development. The SDGs, themselves global in nature, are also supposed to act as a framework for specific targets, which take into account the very different capacities and circumstances of 193 UN Member States.

Given the significant political and economic changes that the world has seen since 2000, when the MDGs were adopted, successful SDGs cannot be a simple extension or a minor adjustment of the existing MDGs. Several world regions have achieved rapid and continuous economic growth during this period. This growth has lifted millions of people out of poverty, but it also presents a new set of challenges. For instance, in many countries, the benefits of growth have been distributed unequally. Also, the rapid economic growth in parts of the world has coincided with an equally rapid growth in the consumption of energy, natural resources and other material inputs, to the point where the increase in economic welfare – after accounting for the side-effects of growth, such as environmental degradation – is considerably less than the growth in incomes.


Meyer-Ohlendorf, Nils; Benjamin Görlach and Keighley McFarland: Towards Sustainable Development Goals. UBA-Texte 18 / 2014, February 2014. Dessau: Umweltbundesamt

Published In
UBA-Texte, No. 18, 2014
46 pp.
Table of Contents

1 Zusammenfassung
2 Summary
3 Introduction
4 “One Set of Goals”: the Link between SDGs and (future) MDGs
4.1 The SDG Process
4.2 Millennium Development Goals: Lessons Learned
4.3 Post 2015 MDG process
4.4 Link between SDGs and MDGs
5 Criteria for the Development and Selection of SDGs
6 Development of SDGs
6.1 Structure of the SDGs
6.1.1 One Set of Goals: the Link between SDGs and MDGs
6.1.2 Link between Global Goals and Action at National Level
6.1.3 Internal Structure of the SDGs
6.1.4 Link between Objectives and Means
7 Content of the SDGs
7.1 Priority Areas defined by the Rio+20 Conference
7.2 Examples of possible SDGs
8 Conclusions: How to Achieve One Set of Goals
9 References

SDG, sustainable development goals, MDG, millennium development goals, post-2015,
 United Nations, Rio Conference, global