Here Are The U.N.’s Global Goals That Will (Hopefully) Change The World In 15 Years

The countries of the world to set ambitious (and perhaps impossible) goals for fixing our planet and society by 2030.

Here Are The U.N.’s Global Goals That Will (Hopefully) Change The World In 15 Years
[Illustrations: Essl via Shutterstock]

By 2030, the world will be a vastly better and perhaps unrecognizable place. At least it will be if you believe that the world can even partly meet the United Nations’ new Global Goals–a set of 17 lofty targets that world leaders have agreed will set the development agenda for the next 15 years.


The Global Goals (formerly known as the Sustainable Development Goals) are the next phase of the Millennium Development Goals, which the UN set in 2000 with a 2015 deadline. Some were very successful–such as cutting extreme poverty in half–others were less so. At the very least, they galvanized action and provided a way to hold leaders accountable, often with specific numbers and deadlines.

After the United Nations ratified the Global Goals on September 25, a big celebration kicked off in New York City’s Central Park on Saturday, where celebrites, activists, and world leaders, including Beyonce, Vice President Joe Biden, and Malala Yousafzai called on citizens to engage with each goal. The message at the Global Citizens Festival was that the world won’t achieve these goals unless people all over the world get behind them, and lobby their own governments to act on their committments.

Read about each goal below, and learn about how you can take action.

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Extreme poverty–living on less than $1.25 a day–is the horrible reality for 1 in 5 people in developing regions today. This goal aims to eliminate that, as well as reduce rates of general poverty, assure poor people equal rights, and build resilience among poor populations. Read more here.


2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Globally, one in nine people in the world today are undernourished–the vast majority in the developing world–and small, rain-fed farms provide up to 80% of the food in many of these regions. The goal aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition, double agricultural productivity on small farms, and correct international trade restrictions that distort crop markets, among other measures. Read more here.

3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

There are many targets under this goal including: reducing maternal mortality; ending preventable deaths of children under 5; ending the epidemics of AIDS, TB, and malaria and other preventable tropical diseases; halving the number of global deaths by traffic accidents; and increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services. Read more here.

4. Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning


Today, 103 million youth worldwide lack basic literacy skills, and more than 60 per cent of them are women. This goal aims to ensure free, quality primary and secondary education to all boys and girls on an equal basis. It also provides for improving vocational and skills training for adults and training better teachers. Read more here.

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

This goal aims to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence towards girls and women worldwide, including sexual trafficking and harmful practices such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation. It also aims to empower women looking for jobs, birth control, and even those current doing unpaid domestic work. Read more here.

6. Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Water contamination and scarcity still affect billions of people around the world and still 4 billion people lack access to toilets, latrines, or other basic sanitation. This goal aims to eliminate this as well as reduce water pollution, protect water resources, and increase water use efficiency. Read more here.


7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Today, one in five people still lacks access to modern electricity and 3 billion still rely on wood, coal, or charcoal for cooking and heating. Goal 7 aims to assure universal access to electricity while greatly increasing efficiency and renewables use. Read more here.

8. Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work

In many places, having a job doesn’t guarantee the ability to escape from poverty. Meanwhile, 470 million jobs are needed globally for new workers between 2016 and 2030. Among many targets, this goal aims looks to sustain at least 7% GDP growth per year in the world’s least developed countries and do so in a sustainable way that provides high value jobs to many. Read more here.

9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation


Transportation, energy, irrigation, and information and communication technology infrastructure are lacking in many nations today. Health, education, and scientific research infrastructure also falls into this category. Improving living standards around the world will depend on improving all kinds of infrastructure–and this goal aims to do it all. Read more here.

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries

This goal acknowledges that inequality is a growing global problem. By 2030, it aims to close the gap by achieving higher rates of economic growth in the lower 40% of each country’s population compared to the highest. It also calls for improving regulation of global financial markets, facilitating orderly migration around the world, and ending discrimination based on race, class, ethnicity, etc. Read more here.

11. Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Consider this: Half of the world’s 7 billion people live in cities today, and by 2030, that will be 60%, with most of this growth occurring in the developing world. Improving the safety and resources available in urban slums is a big focus of this goal, as is planning for urbanization in a sustainable, thoughtful way that includes green spaces, public transportation, and affordable safe housing. Read more here.


12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Every year, the world wastes a third of all food produced. Water too is polluted and energy is wasted. This goal considers reducing waste (including halving per capital food waste at retail and consumer levels) and closing the loop on recycling of all kinds of products. Read more here.

13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Climate change is a global problem that requires global action–but its effects will fall disproportionately on poorer nations. This goal calls for developed countries to come through on their commitment to provide $100 billion by 2020 to aid developing nations in adaptation and mitigation actions and calls for all nations to strengthen their resilience to climate-related disasters. Read more here.

14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources


Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods, yet humanity is destroying much of it. Goal 14 aims for increased coastal management, less pollution and regulation of overfishing, among other measures. It calls for nations to conserve at least 10% of their coastal and marine areas. Read more here.

15. Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

Today, 22% of known animal species are at risk, and as of 2008, land degradation affected 1.5 billion people globally. Goal 15 address forest and wildlife protection, illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking, and conservation of freshwater ecosystems. Read more here.

16. Promote just, peaceful, and inclusive societies

Corruption, bribery, theft, and tax evasion cost about $1.2 trillion for developing countries per year. Changing this will have ripple effects in society, reducing arms trades, human exploitation and trafficking, and violent deaths and increasing access to democracy. This goal also aims to provide a legal identity at birth to everyone. Read more here.


17. Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Nothing of all the ambitious goals above will come to pass without a lot of investment. Yet while official development assistance was at $135 billion last year–the highest level ever–that’s still short of what is promised and needed. This calls for developed countries to full implement their commitments as well as increase partnerships for technology and science infrastructure. It also calls for equitable and open trade rules and increasing exports from developing economies in the global market, among other objectives. Read more here.

About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire