UNICEF and the Sustainable Development Goals
17 goals. 7 years left.
This year marks the halfway point to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the world’s 17-point plan to radically improve the lives of people and the planet by 2030.
But with just seven years to go, we’ve fallen behind.
Climate change, conflict, COVID-19 and economic crises are cutting children off from their chance to thrive. If we don’t act now, we risk losing millions of lives to easily preventable causes like disease, poor nutrition and unsafe water.
From the development of the polio vaccine to the first country-wide eradication – just seven years is enough to transform the world. That’s why UNICEF is calling on world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly to put children’s rights at the heart of the SDGs.
The 17 Goals
End poverty in all its forms, everywhere.
Poverty denies children their fundamental rights to health, protection, education and much more. Without global action, child poverty is likely to entrench social inequality and cut off the most vulnerable girls and boys from the services they need to survive and thrive.
An estimated 1 billion children worldwide lack necessities as basic as nutrition or clean water. Of them, over 300 million live in extreme poverty. UNICEF invests in improving social services so that all children can have their basic needs met.
Implementing SDG 1? Learn how to start.
End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
Good nutrition is the bedrock of child development. Well-nourished children are better able to grow and learn, to participate in their communities, and to be resilient in the face of disease, disaster and other emergencies.
UNICEF works to lower the barriers to good nutrition, with a focus on preventing all forms of malnutrition. We do this to ensure that all children have the nutritious and affordable diets they need to reach their full potential.
Implementing SDG 2? Learn how to start.
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, at all ages.
Tremendous progress in child and maternal health has been achieved over the past decades. More babies today live to celebrate their fifth birthday, while fewer mothers lose their lives during pregnancy and childbirth. But millions of women and children are still dying from causes that can be prevented with quality health care.
UNICEF works around the world to keep children safe from disease and illness by strengthening health systems in communities, and across nations.
Implementing SDG 3? Learn how to start.
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
The right to education means the right to learn. But children worldwide are unable to attend school, or to develop basic reading and math skills, for various reasons. Poverty remains one of the most obstinate barriers. Children living through political instability, conflict or natural disaster are also more likely to be cut off from schooling – as are those with disabilities, or from ethnic minorities. In some countries, education opportunities for girls remain severely limited.
UNICEF focuses on equity and inclusion to provide all children – no matter who they are, where they live or how much their family earns – with quality learning opportunities, from early childhood through adolescence.
Implementing SDG 4? Learn how to start.
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, child marriage, an education denied ─ gender inequality takes many harmful forms.
Gender equality is a fundamental human right. It's also a precondition for economic growth and prosperity. UNICEF works across the world so that all children enjoy the same resources, opportunities and protections, no matter their gender. We focus on programmes that empower girls and young women, on positive parenting, and on data analysis to help governments address barriers to gender equality.
Implementing SDG 5? Learn how to start.
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Contaminated water and poor sanitation are among the leading causes of death for children under 5. Without safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), children face an increased risk of preventable diseases and malnutrition. They're also less likely to attend school.
UNICEF works to bring clean water and proper sanitation and hygiene facilities to homes, schools and health centres so that children can grow and learn safely.
Implementing SDG 6? Learn how to start.
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Children worldwide face a host of environmental hazards related to unclean energy, like polluted air, contaminated water and toxic fumes. Access to clean, affordable energy is critical to a child's health. But renewable energy can also improve access to water through solar-powered pumps, or access to learning through off-grid lighting and connectivity.
UNICEF works with partners to support sustainable energy solutions that improve children’s health and development.
Implementing SDG 7? Learn how to start.
Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
Some 1.8 billion young people are on the brink of adulthood. And nearly 60 per cent of them are projected to lack the skills they need to work and thrive by 2030. UNICEF and partners, through Generation Unlimited, are on a mission to skill the world’s young people and connect them to opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship and social impact.
Implementing SDG 8? Learn how to start.
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
UNICEF has a long history of innovating in humanitarian and development contexts. Whether it's deploying drones to deliver life-saving vaccines, using cryptocurrencies to hook schools to the internet, harnessing solar power to bring water to villages, or developing chatbots that keep young people connected to emergency information, we do what it takes to find scalable solutions for widespread challenges.
Implementing SDG 9? Learn how to start.
Reduce inequality within and among countries.
Around the world, children are cut off from essential care and services on the basis of race, gender, disability, language, religion and ethnicity. Without investments to shield children from the lifelong consequences of discrimination and exclusion, progress towards equality will stall.
UNICEF helps countries build social protection systems that reach the children most at risk, to help ensure every child gets an equitable chance in life.
Implementing SDG 10? Learn how to start.
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
More than half of the world’s population live in urban areas, with hundreds of millions confined to slums or informal settlements. Children living in slums are often cut off from essential services like health care, education and sanitation.
UNICEF partners with urban communities to bring quality services to children in informal settlements, and with national governments to help plan and finance child-friendly public spaces.
Implementing SDG 11? Learn how to start.
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Global consumption and production trends deplete valuable natural resources and create toxic waste. Children are the least responsible for environmental degradation, yet they'll bear the greatest burden of its impact – mostly in the form of health and developmental issues.
Decades of evidence shows that widespread behaviour change, such as recycling and using less plastic, often begins with children. That's why UNICEF engages young people to promote responsible, climate-friendly consumption behaviours and to set an example for their communities.
Implementing SDG 12? Learn how to start.
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
Virtually every child on the planet is already affected by climate change. Natural disasters, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss cut children off from nutritious foods, clean air and safe water. They lead to dangerous disease outbreaks, and destroy the shelter, health care and education systems girls and boys need to thrive.
The climate crisis is a child rights crisis. Children make up half of the world’s population. But they bear no responsibility for the greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and other hazardous practices harming our environment.
Implementing SDG 13? Learn how to start.
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
The impacts of climate change are being felt around the world. And for many children, a change in climate is felt through a change in water.
In times of drought or of flood, in areas where the sea level has risen or where snow has unseasonably melted, children lose the water they depend on. Nearly a quarter of the world's population lives in low-lying coastal areas or Small Island Developing States, where rising sea levels have already rendered water undrinkable as saltwater infiltrates freshwater sources.
UNICEF brings clean water and safe hygiene to communities impacted by water scarcity, especially in the most climate-vulnerable countries on the planet.
Implementing SDG 14? Learn how to start.
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems; sustainably manage forests; combat desertification; halt and reverse land degradation; and halt biodiversity loss.
The widespread destruction of the natural world threatens the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Across the globe, children are standing up against land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change. UNICEF commends young climate activists and creates platforms on which they can build their movements for peace and prosperity.
Implementing SDG 15? Learn how to start.
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development; provide access to justice for all; and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
No child should be exposed to violence, abuse or neglect. Yet millions of children worldwide face violence at home or at school, in their communities or online. Violence takes many forms: emotional, physical, sexual. And its effects can last a lifetime.
Governments offer the first line of defense for children at risk – birth registration systems that give children legal claim to vital social services, equitable justice systems and other forms of child protection.
UNICEF works to end the multiple kinds of violence children face around the world by helping governments build stronger child protection systems – including by supporting health, social work, justice and law enforcement programmes – and challenging existing norms related to violence, exploitation and abuse.
Implementing SDG 16? Learn how to start.
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
Partnerships are critical to achieve results for every child. Everyone has a role to play in advancing the SDGs.
UNICEF’s ability to support and empower children and their families depends on our partners, who provide critical resources that enable us to reach children wherever they are. We work with a broad range of partners at the global, regional, country and local levels, across the public and private sectors.
Implementing SDG 17? Learn how to start.
Learn more about the SDGs
The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 to end poverty, reduce inequality and build more peaceful, prosperous societies by 2030. Also known as the Global Goals, the SDGs call for a world where no one is left behind. UNICEF works with governments, partners and other UN agencies to help countries ensure the Goals deliver results for every child – now and for generations to come.