what are sdgs? India & sustainable development goals

What are SDGs? India & Sustainable Development Goals

Learn what are SDGs, why they matter & how much progress India has made against each Sustainable Development Goal

By Manasa Kannan

In today’s world, we all know the kind of state the earth and humanity are in. Slowly, you and I are educating ourselves, creating awareness and participating in our own journeys of sustainability.

However, in 2015, the United Nations saw an urgent need in tackling environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world. They set up targets that have to be achieved by the year 2030. Signed by 193 nations, this project is called “Agenda 2030”. The Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund) was created to support the goals of this initiative.

History of the SDGs

In September 2000, leaders of 189 countries gathered at the United Nations headquarters and signed the historic Millennium Declaration. They committed to achieving a set of eight measurable goals known as The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These eight goals range from tackling extreme poverty and hunger to promoting gender equality and reducing child mortality.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) came to an end in 2015, and discussions about a post-2015 agenda are still ongoing. The emphasis is now on constructing a sustainable world in which environmental sustainability, social inclusion, and economic development are all valued equally.

The Rio+20 conference in June 2012 sparked a process to develop a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals will carry on the momentum generated by the MDGs and fit into a global development framework beyond 2015.

What are the SDGs?

SDGs or Sustainable Development Goals are a blueprint set up by the United Nations to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals that were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030.

What is the aim of the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The 17 SDGs Decoded

According to the UN, “at its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an urgent call for action by a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests”

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are as follows:

SDG 1: No Poverty

10% of the global population is in extreme poverty. With Goal 1 – No Poverty, the UN targets to reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions by the year 2030.

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

Cases of malnutrition, nutritional deficiencies and world hunger have increased during the pandemic. It remains to be a huge barrier to development in many countries. Goal 2 – Zero Hunger by the UN targets eradicating hunger by promoting sustainable agriculture. The goal also aims to support small-scale farmers and equal access to land, technology and markets.

SDG 3: Good Health & Well Being

At least 40 million people globally have no basic healthcare. This includes 1.6 billion people who reside in settings where it is easy to contract diseases. With Goal 3 of Good Health & Well-being, the UN targets mostly child and maternal health along with prevention and curing of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

SDG 4: Quality Education

Education is the most crucial path through which individuals support, sustain and grow. Education does not just drive individual change but also encourage others to do the same. Hence with Goal 4 – Quality Education, the UN ensures equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.

SDG 5: Gender Equality

Women’s empowerment and gender equality are critical for accelerating sustainable development. Goal 5 of Gender Equality is all about eliminating all forms of discrimination against women. Equality is not only a basic human right but also has a multiplier effect in all other areas of development.

SDG 6: Clean Water & Sanitation

Access to clean water for drinking and numerous other activities is essential to sustain life. Unfortunately, water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of people due to the rise in temperature. The UN targets to improve water quality through Goal 6 – Clean Water & Sanitation. This can be ensured by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials. Halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally are some other ways.

SDG 7: Affordable & Clean Energy

One out of 10 people still lacks electricity. Investing in solar, wind and thermal power are some ways to ensure a sustainable, clean energy supply. It is also essential to improve energy productivity. Goal 7 – Affordable & Clean Energy highlights all of this and targets to achieve them by 2030.

SDG 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth

Creating decent jobs is a direct method to driving the economic growth of any country. The global unemployment rate in 2017 was 5.6 per cent, down from 6.4 per cent in 2000. Even though the rate is declining, unemployment is still a major concern in several nations. Goal 8 – Decent Work & Economic Growth targets to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship and creativity & innovation are some ways this goal can be achieved.

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure

With Goal 9 – Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure, the UN digs deeper into topics surrounding sanitation, electricity, internet access and income. They are looking to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization. The aim is to significantly raise the industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product by 2030.

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

It is well known that income inequality is increasing, with the richest 10% earning up to 40% of total global income. The poorest 10% earn only between 2% and 7% of total global income. When population growth is factored in, inequality in developing countries has increased by 11%.

These growing disparities are a call to action to empower the lowest income earners and promote economic inclusion for all, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity. Goal 10 of Reduced Inequalities paves the path for global equal rights and quality of life.

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities

Urbanization is on the rise and most of us are moving to live in the cities, especially in developing countries. As a result, life in slums is inadequate with overburdened infrastructure and services. The UN is looking to ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services. Upgrading slums and the facilities near them is what Goal 11 of Sustainable Cities & Communities is all about.

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption & Production

The most important aspect of this goal is to change the way we produce and consume goods. Reducing every individual’s ecological footprint is the need of the hour. The UN wants to achieve the sustainable management of wastes and efficient use of natural resources with Goal 12 of Responsible Consumption & Production.

SDG 13: Climate Action

It is no news that every country is tackling the adverse effects of climate change in its own way. By responsibly committing to this goal, it will be easier to effectively achieve all the other SDGs. The UN is participating to improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change with Goal 13 of Climate Action.

SDG 14: Life Below Water

Only a limited part of the population have been lucky enough to know and study the beautiful life underwater. Oceans provide key natural resources including food, medicines, biofuels and other products. Goal 14 of Below Water targets to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds.

SDG 15: Life on Land

While the previous goals were all about improving life for humans, there is a lot more life on land. The life of forests, plants, animals, insects are important for the ecosystem to survive. Goal 15 – Life on Land targets to combat desertification and restore degraded land and soil.

SDG 16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions

Peace, stability, human rights, and effective governance based on the rule of law are critical enablers of long-term development. We live in a world that is becoming increasingly divided. Some regions enjoy long-term peace, security, and prosperity, while others seem to be trapped in never-ending cycles of conflict and violence. This is not unavoidable and must be addressed. Goal 16 of Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions aims to significantly reduce all forms of violence. This is done by collaborating with governments and communities to find long-term solutions to conflict and insecurity.

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can only be achieved with a strong commitment to global collaboration and partnership. Today’s world is more interconnected than ever before. Improving access to technology and knowledge is an important step toward encouraging idea-sharing and innovation. Coordination of policies to assist developing countries in debt management, as well as promotion of investment for the least developed, is critical to achieving long-term growth and development. Goal 17 – Partnerships for the Goals aims to strengthen global solidarity.

Why do the SDGs matter?

These goals are interconnected and unique, in a way they call for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. The health of the planet is of the utmost importance to every citizen since it is directly linked to our own health and the ecosystem. Especially after COVID, we need a constant reminder and a push to build back better. It recognises that the goals are interwoven and every goal affects the outcome of the others.

SDGs in Practice & Success Stories

Sharing some examples from around the world that highlight SDGs in practice.

  1. Yemen was already one of the world’s most energy insecure and water-poor countries, with most of the country having lacked sustainable access to energy. The Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen (ERRY) project intervention has addressed the above challenges by taking pathways from service delivery to livelihood improvement.

  2. In many schools around the world, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities and services are inadequate. Lack of facilities causes several ailments that can negatively affect children’s ability to learn. The Fit for School (FIT) Programme established in 2011 and running until 11/2021, supports Ministries of Education of Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR and the Philippines. The aim is to develop national standards and implementing guidelines for WASH in Schools, based on the basic service level set out in SDGs 6 and 4.

  3. Suzano, the world leader in the market of eucalyptus pulp, has an innovative Restoration Program. The program seeks to restore degraded habitat and promote environmental conservation of ecosystems in four out of the six Brazilian biomes (Amazon Rainforest, Atlantic Forest, Cerrado and Caatinga). Suzano’s sustainable environmental management increases afforestation and reforestation in Brazil. It also ensures the conservation of important habitats including its biodiversity and watersheds. All of this strengthens Suzano’s adaptive capacity for climate change.

India & the SDGs

As of the publication of this article, India ranks at 120 among the 193 nations in SDG. Check recent updates at SDG tracker dashboard.) NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) is the Indian Government Agency think tank chaired by PM Narendra Modi that oversees the adoption and monitoring of the SDGs in the country.

NITI Aayog in consultation with The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has prepared a draft mapping of the goals and targets as an initial step. According to the June 2021 report about SDG India Index, the country’s overall SDG score improved by 6 points—from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2020–21. This positive stride towards achieving the targets is largely driven by exemplary country-wide performance in Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and Goal 7(Affordable and Clean Energy).

Some of the initiatives that helped improve our SDG score includes Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean and Healthy India), Jan Dhan Yojana (to provide financial access to all Indian citizens) and Sashakt Bharat (Pan India sustainability network).

NITI Aayog has created an SDG India Index Dashboard where everyone can access the latest development India is making at a national and state level to achieve the Sustainable Developmental Goals.

SGDs & Individual Action

Although in the bigger picture, we see names of corporations and government agencies driving forward these goals, every individual’s action is just as crucial. Oftentimes, we think to ourselves if our actions can have a bigger impact. Well, yes it does; with the kind of decisions we make on a day to day basis in consuming or purchasing a product, we signal the demand and trends for the industries.

Think again, what are the daily products you use, what really goes on in the production of those products? Some practical and realistic ways you can help the UN in achieving the SDGs are:

  1. Mentor in NGOs to teach underprivileged children which tackles Goal #4 (Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all)
  2. Escalate or create awareness of inequality in your own workplace which tackles Goal #5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls)
  3. Being mindful of your consumption of water for daily activities you tackle Goal #6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all)
  4. Refuse single-use plastic and be mindful of the waste you dump every day which tackles Goal #14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development)
  5. Switching to a plant-based diet and practising veganism can help tackle Goal #15 (Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss)

Remember that every step you take to help yourself and the planet will yield results. So don’t forget to take small, mindful steps each day to make bigger impacts.

Manasa is a voracious reader and fitness instructor. Her recent transition towards a vegan lifestyle gave way to explore more about climate change, zero waste, and sustainable living. She is on a mission to find initiatives and alternatives that give back to mother nature through awareness and education. She is looking forward to training with the Climate Reality Project to find better climate solutions.


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