Public Health and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals

Public Health and the UNs Sustainable Development GoalsThe United Nations General Assembly recently adopted its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: 17 goals and 169 targets to eradicate poverty, eliminate inequality, and fight climate change over the next 15 years. It's an extraordinarily ambitious agenda for the world community, which closely aligns with the mission and responsibilities of public health.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) build on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ratified by the United Nations in 2000; the world's work to accomplish the MDGs has helped the global community make significant progress toward reducing poverty, childhood mortality, and deaths from AIDS and malaria over the past 15 years. Despite this success, the Millennium Development Goals were seen by many as too narrow and not representative of a true world view. As Liz Ford wrote in The Guardian, "Unlike the MDGs...the UN has conducted the largest consultation programme in its history to gauge opinion on what the SDGs should include."

While the MDGs focused more specifically on health issues, the SDGs, which address underlying structural problems, confront the drivers of the public's health more expansively. Half of the eight MDGs focused directly on health concerns: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty; Reduce Child Mortality; Improve Maternal Health; Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases. The other four were less direct: Achieve Universal Primary Education; Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women; Ensure Environmental Sustainability; Develop a Global Partnership for Development.

In contrast, none of the SDGs mention a specific disease or medical condition, and only one is focused on health. But together they offer a broader framework to address public health concerns in a more holistic way — recognizing the evidence that we can no longer separate poor health from climate change, inadequate housing, gender disparities, and economic privation. Even peace, whose absence has forced millions to become refugees in recent months, finds its way to the SDGs as one avenue towards improved population health.

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About The Project

Supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) UK, this 3 year project focuses on deepening the understanding of the international politics of development diplomacy, including the key political drivers that influence and shape development policy internationally and the impact this has on South Africa as an emerging development assistance partner.

Key Themes

This project considers three key areas:

  1. The development of the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA);
  2. Trilateral development partnerships; and
  3. Multilateral development cooperation.
Aims and Objectives of The Project

The aims of this project include:

  • improving the understanding of the current transition taking place within multilateral development cooperation in both the geo-political North and South;
  • understanding the role of multilateral development cooperation for South Africa’s foreign policy and international engagement in the short, medium, and long-term;
  • review potential opportunities as well as obstacles in engaging in international development assistance
Contact details
Address:   3rd Floor Robert Sobukwe Building
263 Nana Sita Street
South Africa

PO Box 14349
The Tramshed
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      Telephone:   +2712 337 6082
      Fax:   +2786 212 9442
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