Sustainable Development

A family in Tarialan, Uvs Province, Mongolia, using a solar panel in 2009 to generate power for their ger, a traditional Mongolian tent. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Sustainable development is the international community’s most urgent priority, and the core aim of the post-2015 development agenda. ECOSOC operates at the centre of the UN system’s work on all three pillars of sustainable development—economic, social and environmental. It is the unifying platform for integration, action on sustainable development and follow-up and review.

As the umbrella for the UN’s functional and regional commissions, and operational and specialized agencies, it links the setting of global norms with their implementation. Across diverse fora, it brings together all the different people and partners involved in achieving sustainable development, while fueling broader awareness and action through sharing its own extensive knowledge and issue expertise.

Within the UN system, ECOSOC has the main responsibility for following up on all major past international conferences linked to the three pillars of sustainable development, and is carrying this experience through in the post-2015 world. As a hub for the exchange of knowledge and mutual learning, it has had an instrumental role in examining lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals, assessing the transition into the post-2015 agenda, considering implementation issues, exploring the scope of a renewed global partnership and inviting youth to share their views on their future.

Important ECOSOC forums for exchanges around sustainable development comprise:

17 Goals for People, for Planet

The Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. The 17 Goals were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which set out a 15-year plan to achieve the Goals.

Today, progress is being made in many places, but, overall, action to meet the Goals is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required. 2020 needs to usher in a decade of ambitious action to deliver the Goals by 2030.

A Decade of Action

With only ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, world leaders at the SDG Summit in September 2019 called for a decade of action and delivery for sustainable development, and pledged to mobilize financing, enhance national implementation and strengthen institutions to achieve the Goals by the target date of 2030, leaving no one behind.

The UN Secretary-General called on all sectors of society to mobilize for a decade of action on three levels: global action to secure greater leadership, more resources and smarter solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals; local action embedding the needed transitions in the policies, budgets, institutions and regulatory frameworks of governments, cities and local authorities; and people action, including by youth, civil society, the media, the private sector, unions, academia and other stakeholders, to generate an unstoppable movement pushing for the required transformations. Numerous civil society leaders and organizations have also called for a “super year of activism” to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, urging world leaders to redouble efforts to reach the people furthest behind, support local action and innovation, strengthen data systems and institutions, rebalance the relationship between people and nature, and unlock more financing for sustainable development.

At the core of the 2020-2030 decade is the need for action to tackle growing poverty, empower women and girls, and address the climate emergency.

More people around the world are living better lives compared to just a decade ago. More people have access to better healthcare, decent work, and education than ever before. But inequalities and climate change are threatening to undo the gains. Investment in inclusive and sustainable economies can unleash significant opportunities for shared prosperity. And the political, technological and financial solutions are within reach. But much greater leadership and rapid, unprecedented changes are needed to align these levers of change with sustainable development objectives. 

Click here for more information on the Sustainable Development Goals.