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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 59  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 255-258  

Millennium development goals to sustainable development goals: Journey continues for a better world

Director, All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Date of Web Publication17-Nov-2015

Correspondence Address:
Ramendra Narayan Chaudhuri
Director, All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkata, West Bengal
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-557X.169648

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How to cite this article:
Chaudhuri RN. Millennium development goals to sustainable development goals: Journey continues for a better world. Indian J Public Health 2015;59:255-8

How to cite this URL:
Chaudhuri RN. Millennium development goals to sustainable development goals: Journey continues for a better world. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2015 [cited 2023 Feb 7];59:255-8. Available from:

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the benchmark of development policy, which have been set since the beginning of this century, will expire in 2015 and although much progress has already been made, many targets have not been met yet. So to take the unfinished agenda forward, the Rio+20 United Nations (UN) Summit on sustainable development in 2012 called for new development action and led to the launch of an intergovernmental Open Working Group to make recommendations to the UN General Assembly on post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aim was to provide a sustainable comprehensive and holistic framework for development through eradication of poverty and deprivation, improvement of economies, protection of health and environment and promotion of good governance and peace in all communities and countries around the world. Implementation of these goals is supposed to achieve sustainable development by improving the quality of human life through reconciliation of social, environmental, and economic demands and thus, meeting the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.f

MDGs designed and adopted during the Millennium Summit of the UN in 2000 have successes in mobilizing public and political support for development action on a range of issues such as reducing poverty, malnutrition, maternal and child mortality, and increasing access to water and sanitation. It has also been identified that some of the goals and targets have not received adequate support, which include quality of education, environmental degradation, climate change, natural resource depletion, economic growth, good governance, and security. Though the achievements look impressive in some of the societies, the progress has been uneven and the poorest in some vulnerable communities. Gender issues and inappropriate human rights approach remained a barrier to fulfilling the MDGs. Enormous disparities in wealth, power, opportunity, and rising urbanization were found to be the key challenges for development. In addition, more frequent and intense natural disasters, spiralling conflict, terrorism, and related humanitarian crises lead to forced displacement of people, and socioeconomic and public health problems exacerbate the list of challenges of our time undermining the ability of the communities to achieve sustainable development.

Some key shortcomings have been identified while reviewing the implementation approach for MDGs. The priorities and needs of local people were to be considered while deciding on interventions, rather than top-down approach to planning and execution. Reporting mechanisms of national implementation of actions including coordination and exchange of data, among the key agencies, related to implementation of goals and targets have remained weak and inconsistent.

Responding to the post-2015 development needs, the high-level panel of experts in the UN called for a science-based and action-oriented agenda integrating economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development that leave no one behind by ending extreme poverty, transforming economies for decent jobs and inclusive growth, building peaceful and healthy societies as well as open, transparent, and accountable governance, placing sustainable development at the core. Consultations and reports from this expert group and different committees of the UN and other international agencies contributed to the discussions in the Intergovernmental Open Working Group to recommend on the sustainable development agenda, to be achieved through 17 Goals [Table 1] and 169 Targets, incorporating the following six essential elements in framing and reinforcing the goals.
Table 1: Sustainable development goals

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Mapping Goals against the Six Elements.

Dignity: To end poverty and fight inequalities: Goal 1, 2.

People: To ensure healthy lives, knowledge, and the inclusion of women and children: Goal 3, 4, 5.

Prosperity: To grow a strong, inclusive, and transformative economy: Goal 8.

Planet: To protect our ecosystems for all societies and our children: Goal 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15.

Justice: To promote safe and peaceful societies, and strong institutions: Goal 9, 10, 11, 16.

Partnership: To catalyze global solidarity for sustainable development: Goal 17.

The proposed global agenda entitled "Transforming Our World: 2030 - Agenda for Sustainable Development" was unanimously adopted by the 193 Member States of the UN at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development 2015 (September 25-27). Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Summit, the UN Secretary General said, "The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world. The true test of commitment to Agenda - 2030 will be implementation. We need action from everyone, everywhere. Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are our guide. They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success."

The Millennium Development agenda, consisting of eight goals, have been instrumental mainly in collaborative action among wealthy and developing countries, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private sector. In some of the sectors, the development in the last 15 years has been found tangible, e.g., reduction in maternal and child mortality. Though MDGs were applied to all countries, in reality, the perception was to achieve the targets for poor countries with funding from wealthy nations and private sectors. In comparison, SDGs comprising 17 goals are viewed as a comprehensive and holistic universal agenda with a vision of leaving no one behind, taking into account all aspects of social, economic, and environmental issues. This is an ideal change from the Millennium Development agenda where the averages were measured and the most vulnerable, rural, and marginalized populations could not be reached in an adequate and uniform manner. Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs are not purely aid-driven and domestic in-country resources and self-financing are proposed mainly to be utilized for development outcomes. But these resources may not be enough, especially for the poorest countries, to meet the huge demands for the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.

This new sustainable development agenda builds on the renewed global partnership, taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development, and respecting national policies and priorities, with each government setting its own national targets as per national planning processes, policies, and strategies, and guided by the global level of ambition. Each goal will be operational through several targets that will be quantified to the maximum extent possible and help in measuring progress at the local, national, regional, and global levels. As for example, "Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages" can be measured through the achievement of 13 targets [Table 2].
Table 2: Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote the well-being for all at all ages

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The 17 SDGs and 169 targets of the 2030 agenda will be monitored and reviewed using a set of global indicators to be developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators under the UN Statistical Commission by March 2016. The respective governments will also develop their own national indicators to assist in monitoring progress made on the goals and targets. The indicators will act as a management tool, helping countries to implement and monitor strategies for achieving SDGs.

This agenda on sustainable development will stimulate action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for people, the planet, and peace and prosperity through a revitalized participation of all countries, all stakeholders, and all people. Global and national action toward achieving the SDGs and targets is envisaged to make a world free of poverty, hunger, disease, and disparity where all life can thrive and a world with equitable and universal access to quality education, health care, and social protection at all levels, and physical, mental, and social well-being are assured.
"We recognize that people are at the centre of sustainable development and, in this regard, we strive for a world that is just, equitable and inclusive, and we commit to work together to promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection and thereby to benefit all."

Rio+20 Outcome Document: "The Future We Want"


The author deeply acknowledges and thanks Dr. R. N. Sinha, Professor, Department of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) and Dr. Bobby Paul, Assistant Professor, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine (PSM), All India institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkata, West Bengal, India for their help in writing this editorial.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.[6]

   References Top

Balakrishna P. Sustaining Sustainable Development. FLEDGE. PLR Chambers and Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), India. 2015. Available from: [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 3].  Back to cited text no. 1
United Nations. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 2015. Available from: [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 3].  Back to cited text no. 2
Melamed C, Scott L. After 2015: Progress and Challenges for Development (Background Note). London: Overseas Development Institute; 2011.  Back to cited text no. 3
General Assembly (69 th Session), United Nations. Draft Outcome Document of the UN Summit for the Adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. New York, USA: 2015.  Back to cited text no. 4
Open Working Group Proposal for Sustainable Development. 2014. Available from: [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 2].  Back to cited text no. 5
UN Sustainable Development Summit. Transforming Our World for People and Planet- Overview, 2015. Available from: [Last accessed on 2015 Nov 2].  Back to cited text no. 6


  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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