Sustainable Development Goals: 17 Goals to Transform our World​

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 Goals were adopted by all United Nations Member States in September 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which sets out a 15-year plan to achieve the Goals and their related targets. Never before had world leaders pledged common action across such a broad and universal policy agenda.​

The 17 Goals are interconnected, apply to all countries, and need to be carried out by all stakeholders – governments, the private sector, civil society, the United Nations system and others – in a collaborative partnership.​

This year marks the start of the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. It is a critical period to advance a shared vision and accelerate responses to the world's gravest challenges – from eliminating poverty and hunger to reversing climate change. Yet, in only a brief period of time, the precipitous spread of the novel coronavirus turned a public health emergency into one of the worst international crises of our lifetimes, changing the world as we know it.​

This exhibit illustrates the Sustainable Development Goals through photos from around the world, bringing to life what the 17 Goals mean for people on the planet.

This exhibit was produced by the UN Department of Global Communications​.

End poverty in all its forms everywhere

More than 700 million people still live in extreme poverty on less than USD 1.90 a day. They struggle to fulfill the most basic needs (health, education, access to water and sanitation). Most of them – more than 400 million – live in sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 71 million additional people around the world will be pushed into extreme poverty due to COVID-19, the first rise in global poverty since 1998.​

Poverty affects developed countries as well. Right now, 30 million children are growing up poor in the world's richest countries.​

Eradicating poverty in all its forms remains one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. While the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped by more than half between 1990 and 2015 – from 1.9 billion to 731 million – too many are still struggling for the most basic human needs.​

Rocinha, a low-income community in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.​ (1986)​ UN Photo/Claudio Edinger

Children play in the Stung Meanchey landfill in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, home to thousands of people who make their living selling recyclable refuse.​ (2008​) UN Photo/Kibae Park

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

More than 750 million people suffer from hunger worldwide, the vast majority in developing countries. This number is expected to go up by over 100 million in 2020 alone due to COVID-19. Hunger and malnutrition are barriers to sustainable development because hungry people are less productive, more prone to disease, and less able to improve their livelihoods.​

To nourish today’s 750 million hungry people and the additional 2 billion people expected by 2050, a profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed.​

To end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030 and ensure that all people – especially children – have access to sufficient and nutritious food all year round requires promoting sustainable agricultural practices such as supporting small scale farmers and allowing equal access to land, technology and markets.

International cooperation is also necessary to provide investment in infrastructure and technology that improves agricultural productivity.

Girls line up at a feeding centre in Mogadishu, Somalia. After years of drought, 6 million in the country are in need of food assistance.​ (2017​) UN Photo/Tobin Jones​

Rice fields belonging to local hill tribes in Sapa, Viet Nam. (2011) UN Photo/Kibae Park​

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

Despite great strides in improving people’s health in recent years, inequalities in health care access still persist. The COVID-19 pandemic is throwing progress even further off track. More than five million children die before their fifth birthday every year. 16,000 children die each day from preventable diseases such as measles and tuberculosis. Every day, hundreds of women die during pregnancy or from child-birth related complications.​

These deaths can be avoided through prevention and treatment, education, immunization campaigns, and sexual and reproductive healthcare.​

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) make a bold commitment to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases by 2030. The aim is to achieve universal health coverage, and provide access to safe and affordable medicines and vaccines for all.​​

A girl receives a dose of oral polio vaccine in Hargeisa, Somaliland.​ (Somalia, 2013) UNICEF/Adriane Ohanesian​

A woman and her child visit a family clinic in Khovd Province, Mongolia. United Nations agencies work closely with Mongolia's local hospitals to provide immunization and health care for children.​ (2009) UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe​

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and​ promote lifelong learning opportunities for all​

Enormous progress has been made in achieving the target of universal primary education with 91 percent enrollment in 2015. However, 258 million children and youth of age 6 to 17 were still out of school in 2018 and more than half of children and adolescents are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. In 2020, as schools closed due to COVID-19, an estimated 90 percent of all students were out of school, with at least 500 million of those left without access to distance learning options.

In addition to free primary and secondary schooling for all boys and girls by 2030, the aim is to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to quality higher education.​

Education is the key that will allow many other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved. When people are able to get quality education they can break from the cycle of poverty.​

Education helps to reduce inequalities and to reach gender equality. It also empowers people everywhere to live more healthy and sustainable lives. Education is also crucial to fostering tolerance between people and contributes to more peaceful societies.​

Students attend class at a public school in Taliko, a neighbourhood of Bamako, Mali.​ (2013) UN Photo/Marco Dormino

Students from Piramerd Basic School in Badawa, Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The school, housing grades 1 through 9, is one of the educational institutions where UNICEF is undertaking projects to improve infrastructure and academic standards. (2011) UN Photo/Bikem Ekberzade

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and therefore also half of its potential. But gender inequality persists everywhere and stagnates social progress.​

On average, women in the labor market still earn 23 percent less than men globally. On average, women spend about three times as many hours in unpaid domestic and care work as men.​

Sexual violence and exploitation, the unequal division of unpaid care and domestic work, and discrimination in public office, all remain huge barriers. All these areas of inequality have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic: there has been a surge in reports of sexual violence, women have taken on more care work due to school closures, and 70% of health and social workers globally are women.

As of 2014, 143 countries have guaranteed equality between men and women in their constitutions, but 52 have yet to take this step.

Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.​

Women parliamentarians of the Afghan Lower House (Wolesi Jirga, or House of the People) arrive at their inauguration ceremony in Kabul, following Afghanistan’s second parliamentary election since 2001. Women make up 69 of the 249 incoming parliamentarians. (2011) UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

Women and girls march in El Fasher, North Darfur, to celebrate International Women's Day, on the theme "Equal Access to Education, Training, Science and Technology". ​(Sudan, 2011) UN Photo/Olivier Chassot

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all​

Access to water, sanitation and hygiene is a human right. Yet billions are still faced with daily challenges accessing even the most basic of services.​

Water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the world population and is projected to increase with the rise of global temperatures as a result of climate change.​

Globally, 3 in 10 people lack access to safely managed drinking water services. And 6 in 10 people lack access to safely managed sanitation facilities, leaving an estimated 3 billion people without basic handwashing facilities at home, a critical need to prevent infection and contain the spread of COVID-19.

Investments in infrastructure and sanitation facilities; protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems; and hygiene education are among the steps necessary to ensure universal access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030.

In the Abu Shouk Camp for internally displaced, a child pushes a water roller, which has the same capacity as the four cans carried by her companion. The rollers, distributed in the thousands by the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, help alleviate the heavy daily burden of collecting water. ​(Sudan, 2011​) UN Photo/Albert González Farran

A child takes a drink of water at Maslakh Camp for internally displaced persons in Herat, Afghanistan.​ (2002) UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

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

Our everyday life depends on reliable and affordable energy. And yet the consumption of energy is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

From 2000 to 2018, the proportion of the global population with access to electricity has increased from 78% to 90%. In the least developed countries, that proportion has more than doubled during the same period. And yet, there are still about 789 million people around the with no access to electricity.

Ensuring universal access to affordable electricity by 2030 means investing in clean energy sources such as solar, wind and thermal. Expanding infrastructure and upgrading technology to provide clean energy in all developing countries is a crucial goal that can both encourage growth and help the environment.

The Shams Solar Power Station, located in Madinat Zayed, United Arab Emirates, is one of the largest concentrated solar power plants in the world.​ (2014​) UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The Gourmet Mokai greenhouse in Taupo, New Zealand, is heated by electricity generated from geothermal energy. (2014) UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all​

Globally, labour productivity has increased and the unemployment rate has decreased. However, more progress is needed to increase employment opportunities, especially for young people, reduce informal employment and labour market inequality (particularly in terms of the gender pay gap), promote safe and secure working environments, and improve access to financial services to ensure sustained and inclusive economic growth.​

The global unemployment rate in 2019 was 5%, down from 6.4% in 2000. However, COVID-19 could cause the equivalent of 400 million job losses in 2020, depending on the policy measures adopted.

The pandemic will have a particularly adverse impact on workers in the informal economy, where an estimated 1.6 billion workers risk being impacted.

A persistent lack of decent work opportunities, insufficient investments and under-consumption contribute to the erosion of the basic social contract: that all must share in progress. The creation of quality jobs remain a major challenge for almost all economies.

Employees of Cooperative Café Timor sift coffee beans. With 21,500 members, Cooperative Café Timor is the largest employer in Timor-Leste during the coffee season, helping realize the government's priority of promoting rural development. (2009) UN Photo/Martine Perret

A clothing designer at work in her studio in Beirut. Lebanon emerged from a 15-year civil war in 1990, beginning its slow yet steady recovery.​ (2015) UN Women/Joe Saad

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and​ sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Some progress has been made in the manufacturing industry.

The global share of manufacturing value added in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased from 15.2 percent in 2005 to 16.5 percent in 2018.

However, the share of manufacturing in Least Developed Countries remains low, posing a serious challenge to the target of doubling industry’s share of GDP by 2030.

Global manufacturing slowed in both developing and developed regions in 2018-19, mainly attributed to emerging trade and tariff barriers that constrain investment and future growth and has plummeted in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

While global internet coverage has expanded widely, as of 2019 46% of the global population still does not use the internet.​

Investments in infrastructure – transport, irrigation, energy and information and communication technology – are crucial to achieving sustainable development and empowering communities in many countries.​

Students from the Khan Younis Training Centre in Gaza - run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) - assemble a Formula 1-style car out of mostly recycled parts, for entrance in the Formula Student competition. The competition challenges students from around the world to design, build and race a single-seater racing car from scratch.​ (2011) UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan

At REBUILD Globally in Port-au-Prince, workers fabricate sandals out of recycled tires. The employment and vocational training programme is partially funded by a Quick Impact Project grant from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).​ (2012) UN Photo/Victoria Hazou

Reduce inequality within and among countries

Income inequality is on the rise – particularly within countries. As of 2017, the richest 10 percent earn at least 20 percent of total global income. The poorest 40 percent earn less than 25 percent of total global income.​

On average, and taking into account population size, inequality has increased by 11 percent in developing countries between 1990 and 2010.​

Inequality threatens long-term social and economic development, harms poverty reduction and destroys people’s sense of fulfillment and self-worth.​

To reduce inequality, policies should be universal and pay special attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations, which will be disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19.​

Sebastián (right), age 9, and Mateo, 4, walk and talk during recess at Colegio y Liceo Ceni, an inclusive school in Montevideo, Uruguay. (2013) UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

Young students of the Salasaca indigenous people of Ecuador, at school in Ambato, a city to the south of Quito, the capital. ​(1985) UN Photo/Milton Grant

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Half of the world’s population live in cities. By 2050, 6.5 billion people – two-thirds of humanity – will live in urban areas.

In the developing world, the rapid growth of cities, along with​ the increasing rural to urban migration, has led to a boom in​ mega-cities. In 1990, there were ten mega-cities with 10 million​ inhabitants or more. In 2014, there are 28 mega-cities, home to​ a total of 453 million people. This rapid urbanization outpaces the development of housing, infrastructure and services, which led to a rise in the share of the urban population living in slums – 24 percent in 2018.​

As the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear, sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way urban spaces are built and managed.​

Making cities safe and sustainable means ensuring access to safe and affordable housing, upgrading slum settlements, investing in public transport, creating green spaces, and improving urban planning and management in a way that is both participatory and inclusive.

The 2018 WSP Global Cities Index ranks Bogotá, Colombia, 24th globally in its efforts to meet the strains placed on its infrastructure by rapid urbanization and growth. The city operates an aboveground mass transportation system of high-capacity buses running on dedicated lines, has a large network of bicycle lanes, and every Sunday closes 100 kilometres of its roads to cars, limiting use to pedestrians and cyclists.​ (2019​) UN Photo/Hector Latorre​​

The view from Stockholm City Hall, looking out across Riddarfjärden, the eastern-most bay of Lake Mälaren in the city's centre. The steeple of Riddarholmskyrkan (Riddarholmen Church), official resting place of Swedish monarchs, is visible at left. Stockholm consistently ranks in the top 5 of the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index, as well as in the People sub-index, factoring in quality of life indicators such as good health and education.​ (2016) UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

If the global population reaches 9.8 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets will be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles.​

In 2015, almost 12 tonnes of resources were extracted per person, with electronic waste as the fastest-growing sector. This means that production, consumption, and natural resources must be managed better and differently.

The world’s ecological footprint should be reduced by changing​ the way goods and resources are produced and consumed.​

Shared natural resources should be managed efficiently and toxic waste and pollutants disposed of carefully.​

Support should be provided to developing countries to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption by 2030.​

The United Nations Development Programme's "Cash for Work" initiative partners with the Sant Triyaj Fatra Kafoufey recycling factory in Port-au-Prince to turn paper trash collected from the streets into briquettes. The paper briquettes are an alternative cooking fuel to the wood-based "charbon", or charcoal, the production of which contributes to deforestation.​ (Haiti, 2010) UN Photo/Sophia Paris​​

A player kicks a ball made using recycled rubber during a football match between Geneva high school students and a team of Permanent Representatives to the UN Office at Geneva, to mark the International Day of Peace. The balls, donated by the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace, are designed to withstand the harsh surface conditions of refugee camps.​ (Switzerland, 2010) UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Climate change affects every country on every continent. It is caused by human activities and threatens the future of our planet. With rising greenhouse gas emissions, climate change is occurring at rates much faster than anticipated and its effects are clearly felt world-wide.​

The impacts include changing weather patterns, rising sea level, and more extreme weather events. The year 2019 was the second warmest on record, bringing with it massive wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, floods and other climate disasters. If left unchecked, climate change will undo a lot of the progress made over the past years in development. It will also provoke mass migrations that will lead to instability and wars.​

Affordable, scalable solutions are now available to enable countries to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient, and low-carbon economies.​

Climate change is a global challenge that requires coordinated international cooperation.​

Two people replant mangrove seedlings in Kampong Jawa, an area of Banda Aceh that was devastated by the tsunami in 2004. Conserving, restoring and sustainably using coastal wetlands is crucial in the battle against climate change. (Indonesia, 2012) UN Photo/Irwandi M. Gade​​

Solar panels are cleaned at the Ain Beni Mathar Integrated Combined Cycle Thermo-Solar Power Plant in Morocco. The innovative power plant broadens access to electricity through affordable renewable energy, reducing the country's dependence on petroleum while creating jobs and lowering CO2 emissions.​ (2010) World Bank/Dana Smillie

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Oceans cover three-quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97 percent of the Earth’s water, and represent 99 percent of the living space on the planet by volume.​

The world’s oceans provide key natural resources including food, medicines, biofuels and other products; help with the breakdown and removal of waste and pollution; and their coastal ecosystems act as buffers to reduce damage from storms.​

Today more than 30 percent of the world’s fish stocks are overexploited, and marine pollution is reaching alarming levels, with an average of 13,000 pieces of plastic litter to be found on every square kilometer of ocean.​

Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future.​

Underwater landscape at Beveridge Reef, Niue, in the South Pacific.​ (2016) UNDP/Vlad Sokhin​​​

A boy helps to release a turtle into the sea in Watamu, Kenya.​ (2017​) UNEP/Cyril Villemain

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss​

Plant life provides 80 percent of the human diet, and agriculture​ is an important economic resource and means of development.​

Forests cover more than 30 percent of the Earth’s surface, but 7 million hectares of forests are being lost every year while the persistent degradation of drylands has led to the desertification of close to 4 billion hectares.​

Of the 8,300 animal breeds known, 8 percent are extinct and​ 22 percent are at risk of extinction.​

Wildlife trafficking also disrupts ecosystems and contributes to the spread of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19.

Halting deforestation and restoring the use of terrestrial​ ecosystems is necessary to reduce the loss of natural habitats​ and biodiversity which are part of our common heritage.​

Amazon forest area in Brazil's Para State, which is rich in mineral resources. (1983) UN Photo/George Love​

Farmers work in a "fruit seeds" project in the Altai-Sayan Eco-Region of Khovd Province, Mongolia. Established with support from the United Nations Development Programme, the project offers converted land for the production of fruit tree seeds, helping to generate additional income for Mongolian farmers and prevent deforestation in the region.​ (2009) UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable​ development, provide access to justice for all and build​ effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels​

People everywhere should be free of fear from all forms of violence and feel safe as they go about their lives whatever their ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation.​

High levels of armed violence and insecurity have a destructive impact on a country’s development.​

Sexual violence, crime, exploitation and torture are prevalent where there is conflict or no rule of law, and countries must take measures to protect those who are most at risk.​

Governments, civil society and communities need to work together to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity. Strengthening the rule of law and promoting human rights is key to this process, as is reducing the flow of illicit arms, combating corruption, and ensuring inclusive participation at all times.

A woman and her child at a polling station in Kidal, Mali, during the country's second round of presidential elections in 2013.​ (2013​) UN Photo/Blagoje Grujic​

Students at Tripoli University, Libya, attend a human rights workshop organized by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to commemorate the anniversary of the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (2011​) UN Photo/Iason Foounten

Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is universal and​ calls for action by all countries – developed and developing – to​ ensure no one is left behind. It requires partnerships between​ governments, the private sector, and civil society.​

The Sustainable Development Goals can only be realized with a strong commitment to global partnership and cooperation.​

Significant challenges remain: official development assistance is declining; private investment flows are not well aligned with sustainable development; there continues to be a significant digital divide; and there are on-going trade tensions.​

To be successful, everyone will need to mobilize both existing and additional resources, and developed countries will need to fulfill their official development assistance commitments.​

The Sustainable Development Goals icons, projected onto the UN Headquarters in New York during the annual high-level general debate of the General Assembly.​ (2015​) UN Photo/Cia Pak​​

United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador Nikolaj Coster-Waldau greets a young participant of the "Global Goals​ World Cup" in Nairobi, Kenya.​ (2017​) UNDP Kenya/James Ochweri


COVID-19 has upended our lives. The way we work, the way we interact, the way we move about. This can be a turning point. Let’s seize the moment, and change course - toward more sustainable lifestyles.

ActNow is the United Nations campaign for individual action on climate change and sustainability. Every one of us can help limit global warming and take care of our planet. By changing our habits and making choices that have less harmful effects on the environment, we have the power to confront the climate challenge and build a more sustainable world.

"Everything we do during and after this crisis [COVID-19] must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges we face." – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

Now is the time for change. COVID-19 has upended our lives. The way we work, the way we interact, the way we move about. This can be a turning point. Let's seize the moment and change course - toward more sustainable lifestyles. Small changes in your daily life can save you money, improve your health and help cut harmful pollution.

ActNow is the United Nations campaign for individual action on climate change and sustainability. Every one of us can help limit global warming and take care of our planet. By changing our habits and making choices that have less harmful effects on the environment, we have the power to confront the climate challenge and build a more sustainable world.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As such, the Agenda's Sustainable Development Goals aim not only to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions – economic, social and environmental – but also to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies, realizing the human rights of all.

They offer a blueprint for tackling the defining issues of our time, such as climate change, which requires urgent and transformative action that leaves no one behind.

The United Nations and its agencies, funds and programmes are working with Member States, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders to accelerate progress toward the Goals, in a spirit of global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.