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What are the Global Goals?

Boy in a classroom with an opened book. Box reads Plan International is calling for all children to complete 9 years of quality, free and safe education
Plan International is calling for all children to complete 9 years of quality, free and safe education

The Global Goals* – also known as the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs – are a set of universal goals and targets adopted by 193 UN member states that outline a vision for the future for people and the planet. They replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which expired in 2015. The MDGs were launched in 2000 to make global progress on poverty, education, health, hunger and the environment.

The Global Goals will be used to frame the UN member states’ agendas and policies over the next 15 years until 2030. 

The Global Goals have been put forward as a ‘transformative' agenda that incorporates the needs and rights of all people and groups, including those who were left behind by the MDGs. The goals are also universal and will apply to all countries.

The new Global Goals are far broader in scope than the MDGs, and now include economic, environmental and social aspects of development.

The core challenges of quality healthcare, quality education and gender equality are tackled more robustly in the new Global Goals than in the MDGs. Other important issues are included, such as ending violence against children, ending gender-based violence; building peaceful, inclusive societies; decreasing inequality, and much more emphasis on environmental factors that affect global sustainability. Gender equality, and the importance of the empowerment of girls and women, also play a key role in the goals.

The Global Goals repeatedly state the importance of ‘leaving no one behind’. For Plan International, this is critical as we strive to reach the most excluded and marginalised girls, boys and young people.

How will we contribute to achieving the Global Goals?

The Global Goals provide a powerful framework for Plan International’s own efforts and our collaboration with others as we work to advance children’s rights and gender equality.

A crucial first step to ensure the world takes action on the Global Goals is to change local policies and practices so that these ambitious global commitments are localised and implemented by national governments. This may mean changing a national law to prohibit child marriage (Target 5.2 in the Global Goals) or ensuring that schools are safe and inclusive for girls and children with disabilities (Target 4.a). The changes required to meet the Global Goals by 2030 will vary from country to country, but every government must recognise the gaps and challenges in their own context and take action to meet them.

The role of civil society, including Plan International, is crucial. We are forming new, innovative partnerships with the private sector, academia, civil society, and government to advocate for action on the Global Goals. We have started this in 16 pilot countries, where our Plan International offices are working with partners to influence their governments to localise the Global Goals and specifically to meet the needs and rights of girls. 

  • Happy child. Box says Plan International is calling for an end to all violence against children
    Plan International is calling for an end to all violence against children
  • Girl crying. Box says Plan International is calling for an end to child marriage
    Plan International is calling for an end to child marriage
  • Boy in a classroom with an opened book. Box reads Plan International is calling for all children to complete 9 years of quality, free and safe education
    Plan International is calling for all children to complete 9 years of quality, free and safe education
  • Girl holding an ID card. Box says Plan International is calling for birth registration and a legal identity for all children
    Plan International is calling for birth registration and a legal identity for all children
  • Group of young people having a discussion. Box says Plan International is calling for all girls and boys to have a voice and effectively participate in decisions affecting them
    Plan International is calling for all girls and boys to have a voice and effectively participate in decisions affecting them

Our most important partners in this effort are children, adolescents, and youth, particularly girls and young women. We encourage children, adolescents and youth to be leaders in their communities, contributing innovative ideas and an eagerness for delivering change that can transform lives for the better. Our global youth advocates from communities around the world have brought their ideas to the international stage, taking part in numerous international events and lobbying national and international governments to make the changes they want to the Goals. They are continuing to play powerful roles in their own families and communities to advocate for change. 

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How did Plan International influence the Global Goals?

Plan International began work to influence the Global Goals in 2011, continually meeting with UN member states and civil society coalitions to influence the framework, goals, targets, and indicators for the Goals, including during the final, critical negotiation sessions in New York. We have held numerous meetings with governments in the countries where we work to ensure that the transformative potential of the SDGs is realised at national levels.

Plan International’s advocacy focused on ensuring that the Goals truly represented and measured the lived realities of those on the margins. The 4 issues we lobbied for are:

  • the meaningful participation of young people in decision-making and accountability
  • adolescent girls’ needs and rights
  • the right to education
  • child protection

We also advocated for explicit recognition of the role girls, boys and young people must play in the Global Goals, and we are calling for robust mechanisms to rigorously track implementation of the 17 Goals if they are to transform the lives of millions of children as promised.

Among those left behind by the MDGs is the critical demographic of adolescent girls, who are central to any effort to achieve sustainable development. Our Counting the Invisible research shows that the discrimination and marginalisation faced by many adolescent girls results from the intersecting identities they hold as young people, females, and a multitude of other variables including ethnicity, disability, location and orientation. 

Plan International has worked closely with young people around the world to enable them to participate in these decisions that affect them, because we believe that their insights and innovation are critical to success as plans to implement and monitor the Goals are developed. If girls, boys and young people are to inherit the benefits of the Global Goals, they must be fully consulted and informed, as they are in the best position to comment on their everyday experiences and challenges, as well as the specific impact of laws and policies.

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