A Look at 4 Key Sustainable Development Goals

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With 17 goals and 169 targets, the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda sets a pace for the next 15 years that's ambitious—and impossible, critics will say. As the UN prepares to adopt these Sustainable Development Goals next week, the links and overlap between four key goals highlighted by Bill Reese in 4 Reasons to Be Optimistic about the 2030 UN Agenda will be critical to their collective success.

Consider this short list of goals out of numerical order. While I understand why they're presented in their current sequence—especially with poverty eradication as number one—I can see these four in particular flowing from one to the next and building on each other:

Goal 4: "Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning."

  • The second part of the statement—which goes beyond the Millennium Development Goals' quest for universal primary education—is critical because it acknowledges the global need for market-relevant training for technical and vocational skills. With this employment education, the world's 1.2 billion youth will have new confidence, new jobs, and new independence. As UNESCO report Sustainable Development Begins with Education points out, education enables higher wages in the formal sector and better livelihoods in the non-formal sector. For maximum effect, this learning and training must be offered to young men and women equally.

Goal 5: "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls."

  • As the No Ceilings campaign outlines, girls from low-income families receive the least schooling. While it must be complemented by other policies that address inequity, bias, and women's own decision-making freedom (e.g., regarding reproductive rights and early pregnancy), equal access to education and training offers a way for young women to secure jobs. Blocking this huge part of the population, with their inherent skills and talents, from education and training is not only unjust but fatal to economic growth.

Goal 8: "Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all."

  • With an education that's relevant to the positions employers are looking to fill, young men and women will more successfully find work. These new opportunities benefit not only youth but also their families, communities, and local economies. By improving life at each level, we'll be closer to eradicating poverty.

Goal 1: "End poverty in all its forms everywhere."

If the goals are to be inclusive—a word repeated 40 times throughout the UN's 2030 agenda—then youth throughout the world, and especially young women, will need access to market-relevant education and training. Prepared and empowered, they'll lead us to a much better place by 2030.

sustainable development goals global goals millennium development goals united nations education gender young women poverty economic growth