Sustainable Development Goals

Photo: Intu Boedhihartono
IUCN has continuously encouraged the integration of sustainable development principles into national and international policies. Environmental concerns have been well integrated into the Sustainable Development Goals and targets, acknowledging that healthy ecosystems are fundamental to human well-being.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in September 2015 by the United Nations and signifies an opportunity to achieve a more sustainable future. This Agenda spells out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets to reach a sustainable world by 2030, in terms of people, planet and prosperity.

The level of integration within the SDGs is unprecedented. For the first time, the concept of sustainable development fully embraces all its dimensions, including the environment one. In addition, the framework not only calls for conservation of nature in specific goals, but also integrates the role of ecosystems in other development sectors such as agriculture and water. Furthermore, unlike the Millennium Development Goals, which focused on eradicating poverty in developing countries, the SDGs are applicable to developed and developing countries alike. The Sustainable Development Goals are one of the most important outcomes of the 2012 Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, aiming to guide sustainable global development over the next fifteen years (2015-2030).

IUCN actively engages in the discussions on the SDGs by stressing the interconnectedness of the three dimensions of sustainable development, and ensuring that the environmental dimension remains strong and integrated within the goals. In particular, IUCN supports the adoption of nature based solutions and the effective governance of natural resources to ensure that the SDGs are truly sustainable. 

The EU and the SDGs

The EU is committed to the SDGs and has taken on the role of being one of the “driving forces behind mobilising action internally and worldwide”. In December 2014, the EU Council adopted an ambitious set of Council conclusions for a transformative, overarching post-2015 agenda in which the EU Member States agreed that healthy ecosystems have a key role in achieving broader global sustainable development priorities. The EU Council conclusions focused on the integration of all three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental), while also recognising the differences in nations’ capabilities to realise all of the goals.

In order for the EU to make positive contributions towards the achievement of the SDGs - both within and outside the EU - relevant policies may need to be revised. This may include policies on trade, agriculture, competition, use of natural resources and consumer health and protection. The EU is currently drafting a gap analysis on SDG implementation. IUCN maintains a close relationship with Karl Falkenberg (European Political Strategy Centre) who is leading this study and looks forward to the outcomes which are announced for this summer (June). The European Commission will also launch a public consultation in May 2016 on how the EU should implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Voices from CSO representatives favour an update of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy (2006), which should reflect on the implementation of the SDGs within the EU and its external activities.

Follow-up and accountability

Strong monitoring, review and accountability mechanisms are required to ensure the SDG goals and targets are achieved. IUCN has been actively involved in defining a global indicator framework for the SDGs as part of the Inter-Agency Expert Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (IAEG-SDGs). The High Level Political Forum in Sustainable Development (HLPF) is the United Nations central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs. Four EU countries – France, Germany, Finland and Estonia – have volunteered for the first year review in July 11th-20th 2016. 


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