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Sustainable Development Goals fact sheet

This fact sheet was prepared by the Australian Water Association's Sustainable Development Goals Specialist Network Committee


What are SDGs?

The United Nations (UN) has developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which form a set of targets and indicators that UN member states will use to guide global development between 2015 and 2030. Each of the 17 goals has a set of targets to achieve by 2030, with 169 targets in total.[1]


1 No poverty End poverty in all its forms, everywhere
2 Zero hunger End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
3 Good health and wellbeing Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
4 Quality education Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
5 Gender equality Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6 Clean water and sanitation Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7 Affordable and clean energy Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8 Decent work and economic growth Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation
10 Reduced inequality Reduce inequality within and among countries
11 Sustainable cities and communities Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
12 Responsible consumption and production Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13 Climate action Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
14 Life below water Conserve and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
15 Life on land Protect restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
16 Peace, justice and strong institutions Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17 Partnerships for the goals Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation

The primary goal related to water is Goal 6, which is about ensuring access to water and sanitation for all people. [2] There are eight targets for Goal 6 that cover safe and affordable access to water, reduced pollution, increased water efficiency, protecting waterways and ecosystems, increasing capacity, support and local community participation.

Everyone working together

The SDGs superseded the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were developed in 2001. The SDGs are the next round of global goals to follow after the MDGs and further expand on them by making sustainable development a focus for all countries, including those providing funding. The SDGs set the expectation that every country will work towards achieving the goals, not just the developing countries that the MDGs targeted.

Another key aspect of the SDGs is how they interact with one another. The SDGs acknowledge that in order to meet the goals, every goal needs to be addressed. The most obvious for the water sector is the interaction between health, one of the key drivers of providing safe water and sanitation is to reduce illness. There are a plethora of different interaction diagrams but shown here is the SDG “wedding cake” created by the Stockholm Resilience Centre which shows the scales that each SDG should be considered.[3]

How is Australia going?

Australia is one of the few countries that is actually moving backwards in regards to meeting the SDGs. The 2017 SDG dashboard scored Australia 75.9/100 placing us 26th out of all countries, however in 2018 this dropped to 72.9/100 placing us 37th.[4] [5] One key reason for this is the very poor rating for SDG 13 Climate action.

While Australia reports 100% of the population have access to safe water and sanitation, we know this to be incorrect and work is underway to correctly understand and report on these targets.[6]

More information

For more information, sign up to the AWA Sustainable Development Goals Specialist network or follow the links below.

[1] United Nations – Sustainable Development Goals
[2] United Nations, Goal 6
[3] Stockholm Resilience Centre
[4] SDG Index & Dashboards Report 2017 (Full)
[5] 2018 SDG Index and Dashboards Report
[6] Report on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals