UN agrees on ‘bold, transformative’ development agenda

193 member states have agreed on the new Sustainable Development Goals

An Eritrean mother with child waits for an opportunity to cross the fences to the tracks as French police tries to block access on the outskirts of Calais, France. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/EPA

An Eritrean mother with child waits for an opportunity to cross the fences to the tracks as French police tries to block access on the outskirts of Calais, France. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/EPA


After months of negotiations, the 193 United Nations member states have agreed on the new global Sustainable Development Goals which are to be adopted by world leaders at a summit in New York in September.

The agreement reached by member states late on Sunday night marks the culmination of three years of efforts to create a new set of development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals - eight targets introduced in 2000 which aimed to halve extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education and reduce child mortality.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as “bold, ambitious and transformative” but warned of the “sheer size, the depth and the complexity” of the new agenda and the many challenges ahead.

“We can be the first generation that ends global poverty, and the last generation to prevent the worst impacts of global warming before it is too late,” said Mr Ban.

He said the new goals were “people-centred and planet-sensitive”.

“They are universal - applying to all countries while recognising different realities and capabilities.”

Eradicate poverty


Ireland was appointed alongside Kenya in 2014 to lead the negotiations and create the 15-year plan which aims to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and create sustainable economic growth for all. Ireland’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador David Donoghue, has led the negotiations over the past year in partnership with Kenya’s ambassador Macharia Kamau.

Mr Donoghue told The Irish Times last month how the new goals were about moving away from the “idea that there is one part of the world, which has somehow got it right, in effect telling the rest of the world what to do.”

He said the goals would not politically or legally binding, which means countries will not be sanctioned if they fail to meet them.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan highlighted the “immense significance” of the UN’s agreement and commended Irish UN representatives for their role in “driving the agreement”.

“In its declaration, it is as ambitious as the landmark agreement seventy years ago to create the United Nations from the ashes of war and division,” said Mr Flanagan. “Ireland’s role in driving this agreement marks a very real commitment to the UN and is a tremendous way to mark the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the organisation.”

‘Future we want’

Minister of State Sean Sherlock welcomed the decision to move beyond traditional development issues to focus on human rights, renewable energy, creating peaceful and inclusive societies, and moving towards sustainable consumption and production.

“The agreement reached last night, taken alongside the recent agreement on financing for development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as well as the forthcoming climate change conference in Paris represent a phase in global politics this year that gives us the opportunity to deliver the future we want,” said Mr Sherlock.

Hans Zomer of Dóchas says the 17 goals reveal the “scope and ambition” needed to build a better world. “This agreement shows we have the vision and the means to make history. Now it is time we also have the will.”

World leaders will meet in New York in September to formally approve the new sustainable development agenda at a summit at the United Nations headquarters. Heads of state will meet again in Paris in December for the UN international summit on climate change.

More than 100 countries agreed on a framework in Ethiopia last month to bankroll the Sustainable Development Goals by mobilising domestic resources such as taxes, leverage private investment and channel foreign assistance.