What is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?

In 2000, the members of the United Nations agreed on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight global priorities for the years up to 2015, focused on eliminating extreme poverty. The MDGs were a landmark demonstration of a worldwide commitment to tackling poverty and providing opportunity for all, expressed through measurable targets and defined indicators.

Now, after over two years of negotiations and consultation, the UN is endorsing a new, more ambitious development framework, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With 17 separate goals comprising 169 targets, the agenda represents the first ever attempt by the nations of the world to establish an overarching framework for development policy, a framework that embraces the shared responsibilities of both the developed and the developing world.

Why, and how, have the Open Society Foundations engaged in the process?

Our work on increasing access to justice for marginalized peoples demonstrates that justice and good governance do improve economic standing and deliver positive, measurable outcomes on a variety of indicators.

Since 2012, the Open Society Foundations have called for the new development agenda to include targets on justice and good governance, which are now largely embodied in Goal 16 of the 2030 plan.

Through the work of our foundations around the world, we know the intrinsic link between fundamental rights and happy, healthy, prosperous, and stable societies. Goal 16 recognizes this link by including targets addressing corruption, tackling violence, promoting accountability and transparency, supporting legal identity, and calling for access to justice and information and the promotion of the rule of law at all levels. Moreover, the importance of equal access to justice and participatory and inclusive approaches to development are recognized throughout the agreement, in the framing preamble, and in the other goals, targets, and review mechanisms.

What is included in Goal 16?

Goal 16, entitled “Promote just, peaceful, and inclusive societies,” includes 12 targets:

  • 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
  • by 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets, and combat all forms of organized 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
  • by 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration
  • ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
  • strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime
  • promote and enforce nondiscriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development

The challenge now is to implement these targets, and to establish internationally agreed criteria that can be used to measure demonstrable progress towards achieving them.