Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs for short) may not sound very exciting, but they are set to make a huge impact on how governments, nongovernmental organizations, businesses and BMS World Mission approach the world’s problems.

Here are four (mostly) fun facts you need to know to get up to speed with them:

1. They’re a sequel.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) premiered in September 2000 and were international goals agreed by the United Nations to make the world a better place.

Each of the eight MDGs had targets and a deadline of 2015 to achieve them by. They haven’t been blockbusters, but they’ve been pretty successful.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day has been reduced from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015.

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education.

The number of children of primary school age not in school has been reduced from 100 million to 57 million.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality.

Around two-thirds of developing countries are enrolling the same number of girls as boys into school.

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality.

The child mortality rate did not fall by the set target (two-thirds) but has fallen by more than half (from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births).

Goal 5: Improve maternal health.

Maternal mortality has been cut by nearly half, but not by two-thirds as hoped.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

The number of new HIV infections has declined by 40 percent, but the target to reverse the spread of the disease has not been achieved.

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability.

Since 2000, 2.6 million more people worldwide have access to safe drinking water, halving the amount that didn’t have access before.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development.

This MDG had a broad range of targets covering trade, debt and access to communications. The most impressive achievement is a 75 percent drop in the debt burden of developing countries since 2000.

The U.N. has described the MDGs as “the most successful anti-poverty movement in history.”

Steve Sanderson, BMS manager for mission, said BMS was “incredibly supportive of the MDGs and recognize their immense importance in addressing poverty. They have encouraged a joined-up approach to development, which has led to an effective partnership of people from civil society, the private sector and governments.”

Sanderson said, “Working together in a coherent and knowledge-based way, we have made significant reductions in many areas of poverty. I am pleased that we at BMS have responded to the MDGs and played our part in their success.”

The SDGs are set to replace the MDGs and run for the next 15 years until 2030. They will be adopted at a U.N. summit in New York this week and should come into force in January 2016.

2. They’re bigger.

The common perception is that there are many things that the MDGs did not include that need to be tackled. Therefore, after a global consultation involving more than 70 countries, there are a proposed 17 SDGs and 169 targets.

The goals can be split into six areas:

  • Dignity: Ending poverty and gender inequality.
  • People: Ensuring all people have healthy lives, free of hunger, with access to quality education.
  • Planet: Protecting ecosystems, tackling climate change and increasing access to clean drinking water and good sanitation.
  • Partnership: Strengthening the global partnership for effective implementation of sustainable development.
  • Justice: Promoting safe and peaceful societies, and strong and capable institutions.
  • Prosperity: Developing innovative economies worldwide that are sustainable, reducing inequality, providing decent work for all, and seeking inclusive, safe and sustainable places to live.

3. It’s business time.

Governments and charities involved in development work were seen as the essential drivers of the MDGs. This time, as some of the goals are linked to economic growth, the business community is expected to play their part in achieving them.

A prosperous economy can do more to help people out of poverty than aid. However, challenges still remain in fragile states and very low development countries: The market can only do so much, not everything.

4. BMS is already working toward some of the SDGs, for example:

  • Developing a malnutrition program to improve the nutritious diet of children younger than 5 in Chad and leading sustainable agriculture projects in Uganda.
  • A PEPE preschool education programme in Mozambique as well as other education ministries improving access to education worldwide.
  • The Dignity Initiative to counter gender-based violence in Mozambique, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Thailand and India.
  • Helping Ugandans get better access to safe drinking water and build more hygienic toilets.

“The SDGs are a fresh, comprehensive and dynamic framework for the future,” Sanderson said. “Some aspects of the SDGs play to existing BMS strengths and some will require us to respond in new ways to the challenges faced in the coming 20 to 25 years. Of course, we take our lead from Scripture, but we believe that the SDGs capture something of God’s evident kingdom.”

But how should churches and Christians respond?

“The SDGs encourage the development of global responsibility for the poor,” Sanderson said. “How we as individuals and churches invest our money, what we advocate for and the choices we make as consumers will be every bit as important to their success as charitable giving.”

Those are the SDGs in a nutshell. When they make the news this autumn, impress your friends with your knowledge! Pray for them, too, that they will be a success and help improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

Chris Hall is the editor of BMS World Mission’s Engage magazine. A longer version of this article first appeared in the Autumn 2015 edition of Engage and is used with permission. You can follow Hall on Twitter @chrishallnewb and BMS @BMSWorldMission.

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