As the United Nations General Assembly meets in New York this week, the global community should look beyond the 2015 expiry of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We need to embrace environmental sustainability to alleviate poverty, and to ensure that economic growth does not generate inequality. Development challenges must be addressed worldwide, going beyond the traditional divides of north versus south, or rich versus poor.
The MDGs on global poverty, health, education and gender equality have provided an unprecedented rallying point for action by governments, civil society, international agencies and the private sector. The numbers of people without access to safe drinking water, living in extreme poverty and dying during childbirth have all been halved since 1990. But what comes next is urgent.
We have to tackle the new interlocking realities: inequality is worsening in many areas; 1.3 billion people still live on less than US$1.25 per day; pressure on natural resources is growing; and climate change is upon us. The world is changing profoundly as the middle class expands globally, and more people now live in cities than in rural areas.
New ideas, including the push for Sustainable Development Goals, are emerging that could help to shift the development agenda in the right direction.
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Bapna, M. Sustainability is key to development goals. Nature 489, 367 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/489367a