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SDGs take over MDGs, what is new in it?


Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) became one of the important discussions around the world at an international level. In the 21st century, we are living where the world is progressing day by day and the diameters of issues linked to economic, social, and environmental changes with the duration of time and their measuring scenarios of development. In 2000, the United Nations took steps to develop an agenda with the collaboration of all state and non-state actors to cope up with challenges faced by the world population under different circumstances.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set by the United Nations which was followed by all the countries till 2015, later on; it is succeeded by Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to continue the journey of development around the world. But the question arises, why there was a need for a new developmental agenda? Does MDGs weren't able to fulfill the demand of the developmental sector? Demands change with the changes in aspects of surroundings and necessities like from the last 5 years there is a rising subject of climate change that was not focused during the time of MDGs settings. Now there is a shift we could see in SDGs which are, to some extent, have been not covered by MDGs. Hope this will be helpful for the upcoming change makers to work on SDGs at the individual level.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were the eight international development goals considered to be practiced from 2000 - 2015 that had been established following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration held on 8th September 2000 in United National General Assembly Hall. All 189 United Nations member states at that time, and at least 22 international organizations, committed to helping achieve the following Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

2. To achieve universal primary education

3. To promote gender equality and empower women

4. To reduce child mortality

5. To improve maternal health

6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

7. To ensure environmental sustainability

8. To develop a global partnership for development

Each goal had specific targets and there were some set indicators for achieving those targets, perhaps there were 18 targets and 30 indicators for them[i].

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The SDGs were initiated in two phases; first was in MDG Summit 2010 in which different countries suggested United Nation General Secretary Ban Ki-moon (Former secretary-general) for making arrangement of developmental agendas after expiration of MDGs and there was a session in 2015 held Open Working Group (OWG) in United Nation Headquarter in which with the participation of all over SDGs were set which also named as Transforming our World: Sustainable Development Agenda 2030[ii].

This agenda is considering as the transformation of the world with sustainable development while it has about 169 targets along with indicators of achieving targets all UN countries are working together also on individual basis UNDP is welcoming NGOs, civil societies, social activists, etc. to participate in transforming world under SDGs agenda 2030. The following are 17 goals you can follow on UNDP website for SDGs while in the following link there is a document of proceeding of general assembly regarding SDGs in which you can find details of every goal with its targets, the following are goals been set under SDGs[iii].

1. No Poverty

2. Zero Hunger

3. Good Health and Well-being

4. Quality Education

5. Gender Equality

6. Clean Water and Sanitation

7. Affordable and Clean Energy

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth

9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

10. Reduced Inequalities

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities

12. Responsible Consumption and Production

13. Climate Action

14. Life below Water

15. Life on Land

16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

17. Partnerships for the Goals

Now we will make a comparison between them to know about the potential of SDGs as compare to MDGs which will give a clear perception about the role of SDGs in transforming the world[iv].

Comparison between MDGs and SDGs

There are the following points I have identified comparing MDGs and SDGs points then we will be able to conclude about the focus of SDGs more dimensional than MDGs.


The SDGs are defined in such a way that is covering the need for a new era of development either it is economic, social, or environmental. It’s collectively addressing the world with the word of sustainability which gives a positive message to others for making it global towards the development approach. In SDGs, it could be observed that 17 goals have interacted to each other in many ways while in MDGs we can see they are having individual approaches regarding maternal, health, education, and gender where we can note the targets and indicators are really designed narrowly. SDGs have the capacity to influence even political structures to support regarding economical structures, law, and order, etc. (Goal 8 and goal 16)


If we see the structure regarding the formation of MDGs it was set by elites and having no proper knowledge of development science and studies which bounded to work out while in SDGs we can see there was Open Working Group and there was inclusive participation of people with collaboration they set 17 focus areas from top to civil societies were involved in process of developing goals to transform the world with sustainable development.

Statistical bounding

If we see the criteria of MDGs there are some figures bounded by the goals to achieve them, the goals we see here in SDGs are zero goals. For goal 1, “eliminate extreme poverty and hunger” which fix the people who are having extreme poverty earning less than $1 while in SDGs 1 use terminology of goal as “no poverty” which is focusing to end up poverty in every shape. Also MDG 2, “achieve universal primary education”, now in this goal the sector was bound to focus on primary education only while in SDG 4, “quality education” defines to develop education in every stage and have to form equity regarding education to reduce the difference.

Goals Funding

The goals of MDGs were demanded much based with funding due to setting of indicators while if we see SDGs it focuses on strategy-level where governments can implement goals by their own support because we know it really clearly after seeing SDGs goals we can see they are focusing also an economical condition of countries (SDG 8, 9, 10) which will play a big role in achieving other SDGs. For example, if economic growth gets better, there will be a reduction in the poverty rate and people will be having food security which will make peace in society with respect to local crime.


If we analyze the goals of MDGs we can easily see that the goals are focusing the under-developed or developing countries while there are goals mentioned in SDGs focusing on the entire world and neglected areas in developed countries. (SDG 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16)

Poverty and Hunger

In MDGs 1, “eliminate extreme poverty and hunger”, they were focused together which became really controversial because poverty is an economical link while hunger reduction is in link with nutrition and food security. So, in SDGs poverty and hunger were treated separately so nutrition and food security dimensioned in different goals to focus them on their specific needs.

Educational Stance

In MDGs, they were focusing on “universal primary education,” and also if we see the indicators of goal, they were focusing on high enrollment which directly shows they were focusing on quantity to filling school rooms while in SDGs 4 we have seen its focusing on “quality of education” to every stage of education, also they targeted equity in enrollment which will bring good impact in a number of girls enrollment.

Economic Sustainability

MDGs, we have already discussed, we're focusing on underdeveloped or developing countries while if we see SDGs goal 10, “reduce inequality” which is focusing to reduce the North-South gap due to the economic condition of countries. The reduction of the gap will bring a good impact on social conditions too.


In MDGs, they were working for development for 15 years to develop a society with perspective while we all know that these issues are part of those societies where the stress and conflicts are invade while in SDGs 16, they also assure that promoting peace is also need for sustainable development.

Environmental Focus

In MDGs, we have seen under goal 7, there was environment sustainability as a generalized subject while if we see the environment is a really vast subject. We all are because of the environment if it gets finished we all will vanish too. SDGs took this subject seriously and focused on every side of the environment really sincerely (SDG 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, and 15)

Why there is a need for an individual approach towards SDGs?

Development is a process where the involvement of the beneficiaries is required at every level i.e. government, community, and individual. Nowadays we can see everywhere is focused on individual participation nothing can be accomplished by the realization of community and community becomes potential with the role of the individual person. The SDG goals really require individual based working to implement them practically to transform the world in real meaning. MDGs didn’t make a good impact because people were not participating properly due to the design and technique of those goals was really technical. Now, SDGs goals are having a really general and open house for everyone to work with it. The most important, in the new era, is individual participation. As a bucket of water fills up with a lot of drops of water same like that in individual life, if we want to fulfill the need of sustainable world everyone has to focus and make his/her part for the development of the world.

I am trying to write different blogs to focus on each goal of SDGs to generate some practical ideas in which we can asses some activities to engage individuals to participate in a transforming world.

[i] WHO, “WHO | Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” WHO, 2000, [ii] IISD, “Summary of the MDG Summit 2010, 20-22 September 2010, UN Headquarters, New York, United States of America,” News, IISD Reporting service, September 25, 2010, [iii] “120815_outcome-Document-of-Summit-for-Adoption-of-the-Post-2015-Development-Agenda.pdf,” accessed May 8, 2019, [iv]. dpicampaigns, “About the Sustainable Development Goals,” United Nations Sustainable Development (blog), accessed May 8, 2019,

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