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Sustainable development goals

The EU played an instrumental role in developing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the General Assembly of the UN in 2015. Indeed, since the 1990s, sustainable development has been enshrined in the EU treaties as one of the EU’s long-term goals and a priority for both its external (for example, development cooperation and trade) and internal policies (for example, environment, social exclusion and discrimination). The references to sustainable development as an EU goal are currently found under Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union. Sustainable development priorities have been mainstreamed into the EU’s key cross-cutting agendas as well as into sectoral policies and initiatives.

In signing up to the 2030 Agenda, the international community undertook to address the global challenges of:

  • eradicating poverty;
  • finding sustainable and inclusive development solutions;
  • ensuring human rights for all; and
  • making sure that no one is left behind.

The 17 SDGs build upon the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which ran over the period from 2000 to 2015. While the MDGs focussed on developing countries only, the SDGs apply to all countries. The SDGs balance the economic, social and environmental facets of sustainability and define 169 associated targets to be achieved by 2030. The following is a list of the SDGs:

  • no poverty;
  • zero hunger;
  • good health and well-being;
  • quality education;
  • gender equality;
  • clean water and sanitation;
  • affordable and clean energy;
  • decent work and economic growth;
  • industry, innovation and infrastructure;
  • reduced inequalities;
  • sustainable cities and communities;
  • responsible consumption and production;
  • climate action;
  • life below water;
  • life on land;
  • peace, justice and strong institutions; and
  • partnerships for the goals.

Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the EU has taken a broad range of actions to implement the SDGs. With the von der Leyen Commission, the SDGs have been highlighted in a range of major deliverables and landmarks documents — such as the President’s Political Guidelines, the Mission Letters of Commissioners, Commission Work Programmes putting SDGs at the heart of EU policy, the European Green Deal, the refocusing of the European Semester, a dedicated Staff Working Document (‘Delivering on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals — A comprehensive approach’) and the active integration of SDGs in Better Regulation. Eurostat monitors progress in achieving the SDGs and publishes annual reports.

Externally, the implementation of the SDGs is a central part of the EU commitment to multilateralism. The 2017 European Consensus on Development contains a shared commitment by all EU institutions and Member States to support partner countries in implementing the SDGs. This is being taken further, together with the pursuit of EU priorities, in particular in the support of a sustainable recovery aligned with the SDGs through our new programming and Team Europe.