Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Part 1: Introduction and Goal 1

This the first of a series of articles on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted in September 2015. This article will first provide a brief introduction, then provide details of Goal 1.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the latest in a series of measures to ensure that all peoples live healthy, productive lives. The process began with the Alma-Ata declaration and the adoption of Health For All by 2000 (HFA 2000) in 1978.

HFA 2000 was a failure, and in the Millennium Summit in 2000, nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), aimed at achieving 8 goals by 2015. Each Goal had targets and indicators to help measure progress towards its achievement. The MDGs were a mixed bag- while significant progress was made in some areas, things were not so good in others. However, on the whole, the MDGs accomplished more in 15 years than HFA 2000 did in 22 years.

The global community reviewed the achievements made under the MDGs and reaffirmed their commitment to continue working towards achievement of the broad goals set out in the MDGs. However, with the lessons from MDGs, leaders adopted a new set of Goals- 17 in all, that are to be achieved by 2030. These are collectively referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What’s the major difference between MDGs and SDGs?

The MDGs dealt only with developing countries and only to a limited degree captured all three dimensions of sustainability. In contrast, the SDGs deal with all countries and all dimensions, although the relevance of each goal will vary from country to country.

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere [No Poverty]

Poverty is considered a major impediment to development and provision of healthy, productive lives for everyone. In fact, poverty alleviation must precede many other interventions.

In absolute terms, extreme poverty has been defined as “living on less than $1.25 per day”. However, there is also allowance for national definitions of poverty, as social situations and challenges vary from nation-state to nation-state.

One of the major improvements in this Goal is that it not only seeks to address poverty, but also vulnerabilities.


1.1 By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day

1.2 By 2030, 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

Comment: The above target seems in contradiction with the stated Goal.

1.3 Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable

Comment: This is considered the most important target within this Goal.

Social Protection: It is defined as “the public actions taken in response to levels of vulnerability, risk and deprivation which are deemed socially unacceptable within a given polity or society“. It includes ‘policies and programs designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labour markets, diminishing people’s exposure to risks, and enhancing their capacity to manage economic and social risks, such as unemployment, exclusion, sickness, disability and old age.’

Social Protection Floors: They are “nationally defined sets of basic social security guarantees that should ensure, as a minimum that, over the life cycle, all in need have access to essential health care and to basic income security which together secure effective access to goods and services defined as necessary at the national level.” In simple words, Social Protection Floors are the first level of social protection measures in a national social protection system.

According to the ILO:

National social protection floors should comprise at least the following four social security guarantees, as defined at the national level:

  1. access to essential health care, including maternity care;
  2. basic income security for children, providing access to nutrition, education, care and any other necessary goods and services;
  3. basic income security for persons in active age who are unable to earn sufficient income, in particular in cases of sickness, unemployment, maternity and disability;
  4. basic income security for older persons.

1.4 By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance

Comment: This target is advocating gender equality in all spheres of life, especially in the economic sphere.

1.5 By 2030, 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

Comment: This target intends to focus on the kinds of risk not usually covered by social protection schemes.

Means of Implementation

1a Ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions

Comment: This requirement intends  to “ensure that – despite the universality of the SDGs – poor countries are not left alone with their limited resources to deal with the crucial problems they face.”

1b Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions

Comment: This requirement is non-specific and probably hopes to provide an all-embracing, universal guideline.

Useful Links:

Link to the UN Sustainable Development Goals web site:

Link to UN SDG page on Poverty:

Link to DFID document on Social Protection Concepts:

Link to International Labour Organization (ILOs) page on Social Protection Floor:–en/index.htm

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