What are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted internationally through the United Nations, provides a blueprint for action and a call to equality and sustainability. Within this blueprint are 17 SDGs. The 17 SDGs cover international issues from poverty to global partnerships. Global leaders observe these SDGs recognising that better work environments and education are needed to eradicate poverty and that the world must address topics such as gender equality to create better economies effectively. All the SDGs are connected, and none of the goals can be met without working towards the other. 

The SDGs are based on a shared vision of what world leaders want the world to be like in the future – a future that is secure, sustainable, and based on equality of all peoples both between nations and within nations.

The SDGs apply to every person, of every age, in every community and every country on Earth and were endorsed by all 193 member states of the United Nations in September 2015. Although every country starts from a different point for each goal, all nations have committed to work towards them. The SDGs are based on a shared vision of what world leaders want the world to be like in the future – a future that is secure, sustainable and based on equality of all peoples both between nations and within nations. The SDGs are based on a belief that no‐one should be left behind. It will not be enough that the average person has had their life improved. The poorest and most vulnerable people must also experience improvement in their lives with a reduction of the disparity between the richest and the poorest people.

For more information visit: THE 17 GOALS | Sustainable Development (un.org)

The SDGs are for every person,  of every age,  in every country.  No one can be left behind.

Why should we get involved with the SDGs?

The fact that world leaders agreed on a set of goals reflecting values which The Salvation Army has promoted for 125 years is something to be welcomed – especially as it can result in positive change for the poorest and most vulnerable people. The goals identify issues and promote values very familiar to Salvationists: equality of all people with no discrimination; the well‐being of all people with all people able to flourish; being good stewards of the earth and its resources; seeking peace and security for all people. These are values that shine through the Bible and have inspired Christians for more than 2000 years. All people, without exception, are made in the image of God and are equally precious to him (Genesis 1:27‐31). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God’ (Matthew 5:9). Jesus declared that he came that we might ‘have life and life in all its fullness’ (John 10:10). The SDGs recognise a lesson The Salvation Army learnt many years ago – people and communities need to participate in their own development. In addition, The Salvation Army recognises the importance of integration. Just as God created people as integrated persons with body and soul so those seeking to participate in God’s mission to save the world should not fragment services or treat only the body while trying to ignore the soul and spiritual healing. General André Cox is encouraging The Salvation Army to focus attention on the SDGs in every programme. This does not mean only in the developing world. The goals are universal, for every nation, for all people, everywhere.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

  • Eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere
  • Reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
  • Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all and achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable
  • Build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate‐related extreme events and other economic, social, and environmental shocks and disasters
  • Ensure significant mobilisation of resources from a variety of sources
  • End hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food all year round
  • End all forms of malnutrition, including achieving the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age
  • Ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding, and other disasters
  • Reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births
  • End preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age
  • End the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water‐borne diseases, and other communicable diseases
  • Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse
  • Achieve universal health coverage, access to quality essential health‐care services and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines for all
  • Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
  • Ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care, and pre‐primary education so that they are ready for primary education
  • Ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational, and tertiary education, including university
  • Eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access
  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
  • Recognise and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
  • Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision‐making in political, economic and public life
  • Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights
  • Achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
  • Achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
  • Improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimising release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally
  • Substantially increase water‐use efficiency and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity
  • Protect and restore water‐related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers, and lakes
  • Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services
  • Increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
  • Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
  • Enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil‐fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology
  • Sustain economic growth in accordance with national circumstances. Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading, and innovation
  • Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
  • Eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and end child labour
  • Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers and those in precarious employment
  • Develop quality, reliable, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure to support economic development and human well‐being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all
  • Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product
  • Increase the access of small‐scale industrial and other enterprises to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets
  • Progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population.
  • Empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, religion or economic status
  • Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies, and action in this regard
  • Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality
  • Ensure enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision‐making.
  • Facilitate orderly, safe, regular, and responsible migration and mobility of people
  • Ensure access for all to adequate, safe, and affordable housing and basic services, upgrade slums
  • Provide access to safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport
  • Provide universal access to safe, inclusive, and accessible, green, and public spaces
  • Support least developed countries in building sustainable and resilient buildings
  • Achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources
  • Halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains,
  • Achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes and significantly reduce their release in order to minimise their adverse impacts on human health and the environment
  • Substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse
  • Encourage companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle
  • Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies
  • Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate‐related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
  • Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning
  • Improve education, awareness‐raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning
  • Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change‐related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States
  • Prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land‐ based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
  • Sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy, productive oceans
  • Effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science‐based management plans
  • Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources
  • Ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains, and drylands
  • Promote sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally
  • Combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought, and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation‐neutral world
  • Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats
  • Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
  • End abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence against and torture of children
  • Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
  • Significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, and combat all forms of organised crime
  • Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
  • Develop effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels
  • Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision‐making at all levels
  • Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance
  • Improve domestic capacity for revenue collection
  • Developed countries to implement fully their official development assistance commitments
  • Mobilise additional financial resources for developing countries from multiple sources
  • Assist developing countries in attaining long‐term debt sustainability
  • Enhance international support for implementing capacity‐building in developing countries


Where There's A Need... cover

Where There's A Need...


The following pages are an important record of the international impact and work of The Salvation Army from 2015 – 2020 as it pertains to the first five SDGs.

They tell a numerical and empirical story that is impressive and inspiring. What they cannot tell are the innumerable heartwarming human stories of children, women and men served with compassion, related to with dignity, and engaged with the love of God, from the albino child taught a trade and spared stigma in Tanzania, to the traumatised and trafficked Thai girl sheltered in Sydney.

You can download or bookmark this publication here or read it below.

Go and Do Something cover

Go and Do Something

Go and Do Something is a new resource from the International Social Justice Commission. It is full of practical ideas for action, prayer points and facts, for people of all ages who want to 'go and do something' to make the world a better place today.

There are 17 topics, including focuses on poverty, hunger, health, education, the environment, inequalities, development and consumption. There is one for each of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Check out our page on Go and Do Something here: https://salvationarmy.org/isjc/go_and_do_something

Go and Do Something is available to download free of charge. Please visit sar.my/dosomething to view, print and download it.

For the Spanish version of this resource, please visit this link to access it.

Go and Do Something cover

Building a Just World

Building a Just World examines The Salvation Army's contribution to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - the UN's sustainable development programme between 2000 and 2015.

Using data collected by The Salvation Army during that period, this report aims to give a brief insight into the work being done in 127 countries around the world.

It also includes photographs, stories and an explanation of the Army's holistic approach to addressing each MDG.

You can download or bookmark this publication here or read it below.