UN sets new global poverty agenda

UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, called the Sustainable Development Goals an “historic turning point for our world”

UN states have agreed new global targets to tackle poverty and its root causes over the next 15 years. Finalising the Sustainable Development Goals concludes two years of negotiations between the 193 UN member states and civil society on 17 ambitious targets that aim to wipe out extreme poverty, promote prosperity and protect the environment from now to 2030.

UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, called the agreement an “historic turning point for our world”.

“This agreement results from a truly open, inclusive and transparent process,” said Ban in a statement. “This is the People’s Agenda, a plan of action for ending poverty in all its dimensions, irreversibly, everywhere and leaving no one behind. It seeks to ensure peace and prosperity and forge partnerships with people and planet at the core.”

World leaders will meet at UN headquarters in New York from 25 to 27 September to formally adopt the goals.

The new agenda aims to tackle unfinished business from the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed in 2000 and due to expire at the end of 2015, which aimed to drastically reduce extreme poverty in the world.

Since 2000, the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day has been cut in half, with 700 million people lifted out of extreme poverty; some 2.3 billion more people have access to improved water sources; and equal numbers of boys and girls are enrolled in primary school in developing countries, according to the UN.

Still, some of the targets – such as rates of child mortality and maternal deaths – have not seen as much progress. In 2013, the difference between women in rich and poor countries remained stark: women in developing regions were 14 times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than women in developed countries.

The agreement on a global development agenda follows hot on the heels of another UN deal to secure funding for such initiatives. Last month saw countries meet in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to agree on how to finance the new goals. In addition to aid, the agreement included measures on how to increase countries’ tax revenues and crack down on illicit financial flows to raise more cash for development projects.

“This historic agreement marks a turning point in international cooperation that will result in the necessary investments for the new and transformative sustainable development agenda that will improve the lives of people everywhere,” said Wu Hongbo, the UN under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs.