UN adopts ambitious sustainable development goals

With great fanfare at an event in New York, the United Nations has adopted an ambitious agenda to guide the world's development over the next 15 years.

The Sustainable Development Goals were signed by 193 countries at the UN summit on Friday night. The event included speeches from Pope Francis and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who became a Nobel laureate after surviving a Taliban attack, and a performance by the pop star Shakira.

The 17 goals apply to all countries, rich and poor, and include 169 action targets that aim to tackle poverty, climate change and inequality for all people around the world.

They come at the end of more than three years of negotiations between countries.

The UN has put great effort into publicising the goals in recent months, including hiring prominent young people to spread the word, and projecting each of the goals onto the facade of the organisation's headquarters this week.

In his speech to delegates, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said the goals needed to be implemented effectively.

"We need action from everyone, everywhere. Seventeen sustainable development goals are our guide," Mr Ban said. "They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success. To achieve these new global goals, we will need your high-level commitment. We need a renewed global partnership."

Poor progress for Pacific under old goals

The Sustainable Development Goals replace the eight Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted in 2000. Those goals were mainly intended for developing countries, but have had only limited success.

With 2015 set as the target for the MDGs, it became clear several years ago that a number of Pacific Island countries would not reach most of the goals.

The biggest of the Pacific island countries, Papua New Guinea, has failed on all the MDGs, despite significant investment in the country and its rapid economic growth over recent years.

However, gains have been made in some areas across the region, such as in the reduction of malaria infection.

Already, the Sustainable Development Goals have been criticised for being too broad, ambitious and unrealistic. But the New Zealand head of UN children's agency UNICEF, Vivien Maidaborn, said in an interview that the new goals have been designed to avoid the failures of the MDGs.

"This is not a simplistic measure of poverty, it's a sophisticated measures, it's systemic. So [developing countries] have argued strongly for this much more comprehensive way of measuring progress."

However, she said there needed to be the political will and adequate financing to make them work.

"In the Pacific there are some particular challenges; climate change and also violence is really a significant area of non-improvement. You know, there's heaps to do, but you know it's all going to come down to how much governments prioritise it."

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals - line by line

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

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

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

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

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

6. Ensure access to water and sanitation for all.

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

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

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

10. Reduce inequality within and among countries.

11. Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

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

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

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

16. Promote just, peaceful and inclusive socieites.

17. Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.