Eradicating poverty 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, too many are still struggling for the most basic human needs. Economic growth and increased agricultural productivity over the past two decades reduced the number of undernourished people by almost half. Many developing countries that previously experienced famine and hunger now meet the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable. Huge strides have been made in reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Since 1990, preventable child deaths have declined by more than 50 percent. Maternal mortality fell by 45 percent worldwide. New HIV/AIDS infections fell by 30 percent between 2000 and 2013, and over 6.2 million lives were saved from malaria. Since 2000, there has been enormous progress in achieving the target of universal primary education. The total enrolment rate in developing regions reached 91 percent in 2015, and the worldwide number of children out of school has dropped by almost half. There has also been a dramatic increase in literacy rates, and many more girls are in school than ever before. Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls addresses a basic human right and is crucial to accelerating sustainable development. Empowering women and girls has a multiplier effect, and helps drive up economic growth and development across the board. Water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of people around the world and is projected to increase with the rise of global temperatures as a result of climate change. Although 2.1 billion people have gained access to improved water and sanitation since 1990, dwindling supplies of safe drinking water is a major problem impacting every continent. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people with access to electricity has increased by 1.7 billion, and as the global population continues to rise so will the demand for cheap energy. A global economy reliant on fossil fuels, and the increase of greenhouse gas emissions is creating drastic changes to the climate system, impacting every continent. Over the past 25 years the number of workers living in extreme poverty has declined dramatically, despite the lasting impact of the 2008 economic crisis and global recession. In developing countries, the middle class now makes up more than 34 percent of total employment, almost trebling between 1991 and 2015. Investment in infrastructure and innovation are crucial drivers of economic growth and development. With over half the world population now living in cities, mass transport and renewable energy are becoming ever more important, as are the growth of new industries and information and communication technologies. Income inequality is on the rise, with the richest 10 percent earning up to 40 percent of total global income. The poorest 10 percent earn only between 2 percent and 7 percent of total global income. In developing countries, inequality has increased by 11 percent taking into account the growth of population. More than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas. By 2050 that figure will have risen to 6.5 billion people, about two-thirds of all humanity. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces. Achieving economic growth and sustainable development requires urgent measures to reduce the ecological impact of the way goods and resources are produced and consumed. Agriculture is the biggest user of water worldwide, and irrigation now claims close to 70 percent of all freshwater for human use. Virtually every country is experiencing first-hand the drastic effects of climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and are now more than 50 percent higher than their 1990 level. Global warming is causing long-lasting changes to our climate system and threatening irreversible consequences if no action is taken. The world’s oceans drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. How we manage this vital resource is essential for humanity as a whole, and to counterbalance the effects of climate change. Human life depends on the Earth and the oceans for sustenance and livelihoods. Plant life provides 80 percent of our human diet, and we rely on agriculture as an important economic resource and means of development. Forests account for 30 percent of the Earth’s surface, providing habitats for millions of species and important sources for clean air and water; as well as being crucial for combating climate change. We are living in a world that is increasingly divided. Some regions enjoy sustained levels of peace, security and prosperity, while others fall into seemingly endless cycles of conflict and violence. With peace, stability, human rights and effective governance, based on the rule of law, it is possible for sustainable development objectives to be achieved.
You are here: / / United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Part Two: Challenges)