Global goals for sustainable development, a roadmap to Pacific prosperity

Today is one for the history books.

On this day, 193 world leaders, including all Pacific leaders, have committed to pursue 17 Global Goals, intended to achieve three extraordinary things in the next 15 years: end extreme poverty; fight inequality and injustice; address climate change. 

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development could get these things done. In all countries. For all people.

It may sound impossible but we only need to look back to understand what is possible – and we only need to look forward to understand what lies at stake if we do not act collectively towards a healthier, more prosperous and equal future for all. As for climate change? We only need to look around us to see its impacts – the Pacific has long been at the forefront of climate change action, largely because our homes, health and future are forever linked to the health of our climate and oceans. 

Looking back. Goal setting works. 

First, let’s look back to see what is possible when we work together to achieve defined goals. Fifteen years ago, the world’s leaders agreed to pursue the Millennium Development Goals, global targets set in the year 2000, which galvanised unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. Today, as we near the December 31 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, we can rightfully celebrate huge achievements globally and in the Pacific.

The numbers are remarkable.

The number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. In same period, the likelihood of a child dying before their fifth birthday has nearly halved; that means about 17,000 less children dying every day. Since 1990 a staggering 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation and the proportion of people practicing open defecation has almost halved.

Enrolment in primary education in developing regions reached 91 per cent in 2015, up from 83 per cent in 2000. More girls are also in school, and the average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled.

Over 6.2 million malaria deaths were averted between 2000 and 2015, while tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions saved an estimated 37 million lives between 2000 and 2013.

In Oceania, we’ve witnessed a drop of 51 per cent in the number of pregnant women dying before or during childbirth over the past two decades. Primary school enrolment rates have jumped from 69 to 95 per cent. Progress has also been made in protecting marine areas, which helps to prevent loss of biodiversity, maintain food security and water supplies, strengthen climate resilience and provide services for human wellbeing. These are all achievements worthy of celebration.

But there’s more to do.

Although we have achieved so much in the last 15 years, there is much more to do. Armed with the knowledge that collective goals can be powerful catalysts for change, the global community has set itself new targets: the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

This time round, the Global Goals apply to all countries in the world, with targets that aim to bring about positive change for everyone. As part of this, every Pacific nation has signed up to the Global Goals, agreeing on our collective priorities for the next 15 years.

The Global Goals focus on ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and injustice and addressing climate change – aspirations that directly connect to the Pacific development agenda. They are a vital tool for focusing our efforts and resources, and for ensuring that the most vulnerable groups in our societies do not get forgotten. For the first time, one of the Goals also focuses on the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.

Here at the United Nations in the Pacific region, we are incredibly excited about the potential of the Global Goals - a roadmap to prosperous, healthy and sustainable future for all. We hope you’ll join us as this new chapter in our development journey unfolds.