Overview of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The title at top says "Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals." The phrase "Easy Read" is inside a circle next to the title. The image below the title shows a drawing of the globe with a ring of people from diverse cultures around it.

Many governments and donor agencies use the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide decisions about which development projects they should fund or who their programs should target. These decisions can impact whether their projects include people with disabilities in efforts to improve employment, access to education, public health outcomes, gender equality, and more. Understanding the SDGs and how they relate to people with disabilities can help disability rights advocates and decision makers advocate for disability inclusion in international development programs.

History of the MDGs and SDGs

In the year 2000, world leaders agreed upon a set of eight international development goals called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) meant to be achieved by the year 2015. These eight goals included targets for reducing global poverty, improving public health outcomes, and putting all primary school aged children in school. Significant progress was made, but was uneven. Some countries and populations benefited more than others. The MDGs often left behind the most marginalized people, including women, people with disabilities, indigenous peoples, ethnic and racial minority groups, children, and others. The Millennium Development Goals did not mention people with disabilities. As a result, most programs meant to help meet the MDGs were not disability inclusive.

As the deadline for meeting the MDGs came closer, world leaders consulted with governments, civil society, academics, the private sector, and more than 5 million private citizens across 88 countries. After these consultations, leaders and decision makers agreed upon a set of 17 goals called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), meant to be achieved by the year 2030. The SDGs build upon the MDGs.

Global disability rights advocacy organizations involved themselves in global dialogue about what should be included in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. As a result, some of the SDGs specifically mention people with disabilities. Most of the 17 SDGs–including the goals that do not mention disability–cannot be achieved if people with disabilities are excluded or left behind.

What is in the SDGs?

The 17 SDGs include goals such as ending poverty and hunger, achieving inclusive education for all, gender equality, employment and decent work for all, reduce inequality, and others.

The 17 SDGs are meant to be very broad, aspirational goals. But each of the 17 SDGs also include some “targets” that are meant to be more specific and concrete. Altogether, 169 targets are associated with the 17 SDGs.

In total, 231 indicators are being used to measure progress toward the 169 targets and the overarching 17 SDGs. These indicators describe the kind of data and statistics that experts will gather to show whether progress is being made toward meeting the SDGs or the targets within the SDGs.

For more detail on each of the 17 SDGs, the 169 targets associated with the SDGs, and the indicators being used to measure progress toward the SDGs, visit the United Nations Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.

Disability and the SDGs

The 17 SDGs mention disability 11 times and mention persons in vulnerable situations six times. Disability is particularly mentioned in the following SDGs:

SDG 4: The fourth SDG goal is to “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.” Two of the targets for this goal mention disability:

  • “By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
  • “Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.”

SDG 8: The eighth SDG goal is to “Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.” One of the targets for this goal mentions disability:

  • “By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.”

SDG 10: The 10th SDG goal is to “Reduce inequality within and among countries.” One of the targets for this goal mentions disability:

  • “By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.”

SDG 11: The 11th SDG goal is to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” Two of the targets for this goal mention disability:

  • “By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons.”
  • “By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.”

SDG 17: The 17th SDG goal is to “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.” One of the targets for this goal mentions disability:

  • “By 2020, enhance capacity-building support to developing countries, including for least developed countries and small island developing States, to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location, and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.”