September 17, 2015 |

Friday Think: What are the UN’s global goals and why do we care?

PATH has expertise in working with countries around the world and is committed to reaching these ambitious goals.
Group of children, smiling as they run on green grass around a tree.
PATH works with partners, governments, and communities around the world to improve the lives of women and children. Photo: PATH/Eric Becker.

The United Nations is buzzing with excitement. In just a few days, world leaders will gather in New York to commit their countries to 17 global goals—officially known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—to end poverty and improve quality of life for all people by 2030. These goals include specific targets for health like ending preventable deaths of children under five; reducing maternal mortality; stopping epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis; and ensuring universal access to reproductive healthcare.

This is not the first time the world has set ambitious goals for itself. In 2000, global leaders put the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in place. Fifteen years later, we can thank the MDGs for many achievements, such as reducing child deaths by more than 50 percent and maternal deaths by nearly as much.

Jenni Lee at the UN Foundation breaks it down simply in this SDG “101” blog post (with gifs!):

While we’ve made a lot of progress on the MDGs, we haven’t achieved all of the goals yet—so we need to finish the work of the MDGs. At the same time, we need to address a more comprehensive set of issues including inequality, environmental sustainability, and climate change.

The global goals also reflect a new way of thinking about development. Howard LaFranchi explains an “evolving vision” in this Christian Science Monitor article.

Out is the view of development as a technical enterprise largely funded by the world’s wealthy powers and other outsiders. In is seeing development as a political process involving a wide range of actors—well beyond technocrats and politicians—in which foreign aid and global development institutions take a back seat.

So, what does this mean for PATH?

Low-cost vaccines, new drugs, diagnostic tools, and innovative devices and system interventions were key to the improvements in global health during the MDG era. The global community must reinvigorate efforts to develop new health tools and harness innovation—from wherever it comes—to make health interventions more affordable, accessible, and effective. Only then will we be equipped to meet our health targets at the pace in which we need to meet them.

Everyone has a role to play in reaching the ambitious new goals, and PATH’s expertise and commitment to working with countries around the world will be incredibly valuable in that work.

PATH has also been vocal about the critical role of research and innovation to achieve the new global goals. Next week, as world leaders set the global goals in place, they will also consider how we measure progress toward them. I urge them to recognize the vital role of research and innovation to bring these lofty goals within reach. The new global goals should be an impetus for countries of all economic levels to assert their leadership for a robust health research and development pipeline.

You can follow the conversation and tweet your support for the Sustainable Development Goals during the United Nations General Assembly next week at #globalgoals and #UNGA2015 on Twitter.

Read both articles in their entirety, “A 101 on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (with gifs!)” and “In new UN goals, an evolving vision of how to change the world.


During the week we scour the news for the hottest stories on innovation. Our feature, The Friday Think, highlights one we’ve found particularly fascinating.

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  • Portrait of Claire Wingfield.
    Claire Wingfield is a senior policy officer with the Advocacy and Public Policy Program at PATH.