Humanity's needs are so great, so complex and so pressing that in 2015 the Member States of the United Nations unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda comprises 17 global sustainable development goals and articulates 169 targets, pinpointing the eradication of poverty and hunger as the greatest global challenges of them all.

3 min read | Last updated 24 May 2021

The introduction to the Declaration by the UN Member States on their commitment in 2015 to a new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explains what the agenda is really about – ending poverty and hunger by addressing the needs of those who need help most first, so that no one is left behind.

We resolve, between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. We resolve also to create conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all, taking into account different levels of national development and capacities.

As we embark on this great collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind. Recognizing that the dignity of the human person is fundamental, we wish to see the Goals and targets met for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society. And we will endeavour to reach the furthest behind first.

Heads of State and Government and High Representatives, meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 25-27 September 2015

Several important indices orient our understanding of socioeconomic development needs country by country, issue by issue. The UNDP’s Human Development Index reports on 14 indicators associated with health, education and standards of living. The UNDP’s global Multidimensional Poverty Index measures the complexities of poor people’s lives, individually and collectively, each year. The Social Progress Imperative measures human development on basic human needs, wellbeing and opportunity. The Global Modern Slavery Index provides a country by country ranking of the number of people in modern slavery, as well as an analysis of the actions governments are taking to respond and the factors that make people vulnerable; the report Murky Waters 2020 (pdf) provides a comprehensive assessment of modern slavery in the Pacific region, including New Zealand.

Global needs are much greater in 2021 than they were in 2019. Before Covid-19, progress on the SDGs was already lagging behind where it needed it to be (UN, 2019), with a spending gap of about US$1 trillion per year (Brookings, 2019). But Covid-19 has increased the urgency of required actions on food security, health and the global economy, as well as those relating to inequalities, especially gender inequality, and education (UN, 2020 (pdf)). During 2020, progress on almost every key socioeconomic marker slipped (Gates Foundation, 2020).

  • We are experiencing the first increase in global poverty in decades
  • Stunting and wasting among children are likely to worsen
  • Cancellations in services will double malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa
  • School closures have kept 90% of all students out of school, reversing years of progress on education, while remote learning is out of reach for 500 million young people
  • Lockdowns are causing an increasing violence against women and girls, by as much as 30% in some countries
  • More than 3 billion people lack basic hand washing facilities at home, the most effective method for COVID-19 prevention

SDG Tracker gives an up-to-date summary of global progress against the SDGs using data from all available indicators in the Our World in Data database. Of the 17 SDGs, at least nine have socioeconomic targets (listed below).