Sustainable Development Goals

Caritas is calling for the world to put the poor first and ensure the safe future of the planet by uniting behind the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals which promise to end extreme poverty, tackle inequality and take action on climate change by 2030.

Teacher with children - Sustainable Development Goals image

Background – the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015)

In 2000, the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs ranged from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education. The MDGs formed a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions. By setting a target date of 2015 the MDGs helped galvanize unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Global Goals logo

The SDGs are a set of 17 universal goals aimed at achieving three extraordinary things in the next 15 years:

  • End extreme poverty.
  • Fight inequality & injustice.
  • Fix climate change.

They were adopted by the United Nations in September 2015 and run until 2030.
> Learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals

The 17 SDGs are:

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Good health and well-being
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • Reduced inequalities
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on land
  • Peace and justice - strong institutions
  • Partnerships for the goals

The Global Goals for sustainable development could get these things done. In all countries. For all people.

On September 25th 2015, the SDGs were agreed to by 193 world leaders at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015. The summit was held between 25 Sep 2015 - 27 Sep 2015 in New York.

How are they different from the Millennium Development Goals?

The United Nations says the SDGs go much further than the previous goals, because they address the root causes of poverty and pledge to leave no one behind, including vulnerable groups. The SDGs are intended to be universal, applying to all countries rather than just the developing world.

Pope Francis and the SDGs

Pope Francis with UN Secretary Ban-Ki Moon

Pope Francis delivered a wide-ranging address before world leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday 25 September 2015.

The Pope’s visit to the UN coincided with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development or the Sustainable Development Goals.  

Pope Francis has often spoken of an ‘integral ecology’ – one that encompasses the environment, economic growth, social justice and human well-being – in other words, sustainable development for our common home.

“The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need,” Pope Francis declared in an address just ahead of the General Assembly’s formal adoption of a new global framework – the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Pope spoke of many of the issues which are close to the hearts of Caritas organisations around the world such as war, trafficking, climate change, education, prostitution, injustice and human rights.

Our Common Home

Guided by Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, Care for our Common Home, Caritas will galvanise Catholics into action in communities across the world. You can play a key role in holding governments to account for their commitments and to ensure that the voices of the poor spur the effective implementation of the SDGs so that no one is left behind.

What do the SDGs mean for Caritas Australia?

Much of Caritas Australia’s work fits neatly into the goals outlined in both the MDGs and the SDGs. But the SDGs provide an opportunity to promote Pope Francis’s call in Laudato Si’ to place the poor, the environment and God at the centre of all people’s actions and decisions.

"The SDGs should be a powerful tool in the fight against poverty, climate change and injustice” said Michel Roy, Caritas International Secretary General, “but we must ensure that those living in poverty are the driving force behind this epochal opportunity. These goals will only be achieved if we make a long-term commitment to the poor and we are held accountable for the plans we make to beat poverty and injustice.

Examples of our work in action


  • A boy in Uganda drawing water from a Tippy Tap

    Developing access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation

    MDG (2000-2015):
    The world has met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, well ahead of the MDG 2015 deadline.

    SDG (2015-2030):
    (Goal 6) Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

  • A Bangladeshi woman participant in the Safe Motherhood Program

    Working with communities to provide health education

    MDG (2000-2015): The world reduced the rate of child mortality for children under five from 90/1,000 births to 43/1,000 births from 1990-2015.

    SDG (2015-2030):
    (Goal 3) By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births

  • Thai children doing school work

    Providing education programs

    MDG (2000-2015): Enrolment in primary education in developing regions reached 91 per cent in 2015, up from 83 per cent in 2000.

    SDG (2015-2030):
    (Goal 4) By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes
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