United Nations Environment Programme environment for development

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Sustainable Development?
Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It is a visionary plan that calls for integration of economic development, social equity, and environmental protection. It is development that puts people at the centre and that is just, equitable and inclusive.

The Rio+20 outcome document recognizes that poverty eradication, promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are essential requirements for sustainable development. It also emphasizes the importance of democracy, good governance and the rule of law at all levels, as well as an enabling environment for sustainable development.

2. What is the 2030 Agenda?
Adopted in September 2015, the 2030 Agenda represents “a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world” (Ban Ki Moon). It is the “world's growth strategy for the next 15 years” (Achim Steiner), calling for today’s growth-based economic model to make way for a new path that creates sustainable and equitable economies and societies worldwide, and ensures greater public participation in decision-making. It is a plan of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership, which everybody will implement together.

The agenda aims to end poverty and hunger, combat inequalities, build peaceful, just and inclusive societies, protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. Member states also resolved to create conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all. The 2030 Agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 associated targets that will guide decisions and actions over the next 15 years

3. What are the SDGs?
SDGs is the common acronym for the Sustainable Development Goals, also referred to as Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The concept of the SDGs was agreed at the Rio+20 Summit (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) in 2012. The Rio+20 Outcome Document called for the SDGs to be “global in nature and universally applicable to all countries, while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development”.

After intense negotiations, 17 SDGs, together with their 169 targets, were adopted in September 2015. The 17 SDGs are integrated and indivisible, and balance environmental, social and economic concerns. They build on past achievements and commitments, such as the Millennium Development Goals, to address persistent issues and new challenges facing people and the planet. The goals will stimulate action over the next fifteen years in areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet, including: poverty eradication, food security, health, education, gender equality, access to water, sanitation, clean energy, decent jobs, key infrastructure, strong institutions, inequality reduction, sustainable urbanization, responsible production and consumption patterns, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and ecosystem conservation.

4. Why is the environmental dimension so important to the success of the new Agenda?
Environment constitutes one of the three interrelated pillars of sustainable development. Environmental protection, ecosystem management, resilient cities, clean energy, sustainable production and consumption patterns, climate mitigation and adaptation are overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development. A sustainably managed environment is a prerequisite for socio-economic development and poverty reduction. The natural environment provides direct sources of food and supplies ecosystem goods and services supporting human health and well-being, incomes, job creation, poverty alleviation, safety nets and inequity reduction.  A poorly managed environment, together with the increased impacts of climate change, could reverse years of hard-won development gains.

Environmental considerations are fully embedded in the 2030 Agenda and reflected in the set of goals, targets and indicators both as a cross-cutting issue and as a development priority. More than half of the SDGs have an environmental focus or address sustainability concerns, while over 86 of the 169 targets directly concern the environment – including at least one in each of the 17 SDGs.This means that no single goal can progress significantly without particular attention to the implementation of the environmental dimension.

5. Who implements the 2030 Agenda?
The primary actors in delivering the 2030 Agenda are governments, who need to modify policies that account for their national realities and provide the regulatory and incentive structures to help achieve the new goals. The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs address universal concerns, while recognizing that each country starts with different challenges, needs, priorities and response capabilities.

If governments are central to implementation, the new agenda calls for a global partnership under which other players – including the UN system, but also other regional and international institutions, non-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector – will be essential to support countries, especially ones with fewer resources and capacities,  in achieving their goals.

6. How does the system for follow-up and review work?
The lynchpin of follow-up and review in implementing the SDGs is at the national level. Relying on the work of their National Statistical Offices (NSOs), while fostering broad multi-stakeholder participation, countries are encouraged to carry out up to two Voluntary National Reviews before 2030.

The global level is intended to complement, support and build on national and regional efforts. The High-level Political Forum (HLPF) has a central role in overseeing a network of follow-up and review processes at the global level, working coherently with and under the guidance of the General Assembly, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and other relevant organs and fora such as the United Nations Environment Assembly. It facilitates sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, and provides political leadership, guidance and recommendations for follow-up. It promotes system-wide coherence and coordination of sustainable development policies.

The next HLPF will meet under the auspice of ECOSOC from 11 to 20 July 2016 around the theme “Ensuring that no one is left behind”.

Inputs of different stakeholders at national, regional and global level will be collected and collated under the supervision of the HLPF to create one common final product, namely the SDGs Annual Report.

7. What is UNEP`s role?
UNEP has an important role to play in ensuring the implementation, follow up and review of the 2030 Agenda, especially of its environmental dimension. As a result of the call made by world leaders at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012, UNEP is today the leading environmental authority responsible for setting the global environmental agenda. Its new governing body – the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) – gained universal membership and has become the place where the environmental dimension of the sustainable development is addressed through the participation of all who have an interest or a role in addressing this issue.

UNEP’s challenge with regards to the 2030 Agenda is to address its complexity and ambition. UNEP is developing and enhancing integrated approaches, across programmes and sectors, to contribute to countries’ SDGs implementation, ensure coherence and avoid duplication. UNEP aligns its strategic planning to the 2030 Agenda and strengthens embedded interactions with the rest of the UN system to build universality and partnerships, while addressing emerging environmental issues.

UN supports member states in implementing the 2030 Agenda and reviewing progress through strengthening the science-policy interface, providing expert knowledge, capacity building and technical assistance, as well as leading on environmental advocacy.

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High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF)

11-20 July, UN Headquarters, New York - #17days17goals