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United Nations agenda for sustainable development

pikselSince the beginning of the XXI century, the United Nations has promoted awareness among its member States concerning key and major challenges the International Community must face and deal with in the foreseeable future. The UN identified eight international development goals, established at the Millennium Summit in 2000 following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration by the UN General Assembly. The so-called “Millennium Development Goals” are the following:

  1. To extreme poverty and hunger
  2. To universal primary education
  3. To gender equality
  4. To child mortality
  5. To maternal health
  6. To HIV/AIDSmalaria, and other diseases
  7. To ensure environmental sustainability
  8. To develop a global partnership for development

The UN encouraged the member States to adopt proper policies in order to achieve the goals and to reconvene on the topic by 2015. Notwithstanding the effort given by most of the members up to today, the results of the 2010 UN Conference to review the progress made towards the goals and the outcomes from the annual analysis of improvements show drawbacks, like for some goals there has been difficulty or lack to find proper measurements, that progress has been uneven among members and that there has been a lack of clarity and transparency in the developing process of such policies nationally. Moreover, the current global situation shows a need for reinterpret the goals using different key of understanding to catch the main or newly emerging threats the International Community is facing, like lasting poverty and hunger, virulent plagues and diseases, rapid depletion of natural resources, pressing effects of global warming and widespread violence and instability.

On the 25th September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/70/1: “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, inspired by the Resolution A/RES/66/288 “The future we want”, issued after the 2012 UN Conference in Brazil on Sustainable Development. The document is a framework strategy for the next 15 years, up to 2030, and it is enriched by the experience collected in the previous 15 year framework and by the conclusions developed by the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals and released at the end of 2014.

Sustainability is the core concept and, as developed by and in the UN[1], it is seen in a three dimension perspective – economic, social and environmental. Sustainable development recognises that

eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, combating inequality within and among countries, preserving the planet, creating sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and fostering social inclusion are linked to each other and are interdependent in a balanced and integrated manner.

The General Assembly calls on the International Community to deal with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Fig. 1) with 169 associated targets and 304 indicators.



Fig. 1. Inforgraphics showing 17 SDGs


The orientation of research and development activities carried out at the Institute for Sustainable Technologies - NRI is in line with the following SDGs: quality education, clean water and energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production.

  1. NO POVERTY: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. ZERO HUNGER: End hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. GOOD HEALTH and WELL-BEING: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all
  4. QUALITY EDUCATION: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. GENDER EQUALITY: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. CLEAN WATER and SANITATION: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. AFFORDABLE and CLEAN ENERGY: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. DECENT WORK and ECONOMIC GROWTH: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  9. INDUSTRY, INNOVATION and INFRASTRUCTURE: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
  10. REDUCE INEQUALITIES: Reduce inequalities within and among countries
  11. SUSTAINABLE CITIES and COMMUNITIES: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION and PRODUCTION: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. CLIMATE ACTION: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. LIFE BELOW WATER: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. LIFE ON LAND: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. PEACE, JUSTICE and STRONG INSTITUTIONS: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. PARTNERSHIP FOR THE GOALS: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

All member States, developing as well as developing countries, will develop national agendas in order to deal with such challenges. Policies, international relations and co-operation, and research activities will be deeply influenced by these topics and will be oriented towards the expressed desirable results.

For the specific targets associated with the Sustainable Development Goals, see:


Author: Stefano Tommei, Innovation Strategies Department, ITeE – PIB 


[1] The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development – Conference Report, Resolution 1, Annex I -,  the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the World Summit for Social Development, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development – Conference Report, Chapter 1, Resolution 1, Annex -, the Beijing Platform for Action – Conference Report, Chapter 1, Resolution 1, Annex II- and the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. We also reaffirm the follow-up to these conferences, including the outcomes of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, the third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, the second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries and the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Research areas

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