The targets behind the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

If you have read the first article in this series you know that there are 17 SDG’s or Global Goals. They are high level, overarching goals for humanity to achieve by 2030 if we are to ensure our survival.

You can see the 17 goals here. Moving a little further down that same page you find the details that interest researchers: the 169 targets that underpin the 17 goals. If you feel that the 17 goals are too broad to be actionable, this is where you will understand the full impact of the SDGs framework.


In this list you will find the target that your research work is helping us to achieve. If your research is contributing to one of these targets, particularly at a local level, then you are part to the global SDG effort. Well done!

Image for SDG Target 2.4

Many of the targets seem to apply to more than one goal. For example target 2.4; Sustainable Food Production and Resilient Agricultural Practices is also relevant to Goal 15; Life on Land, and Goal 12; Responsible Consumption and Production. This means you will have to look through the list carefully to find the right targets for your research. They may not be under the goal/s you initially expected because they are relevant to more than one goal.


When looking for the targets that your research is helping us to achieve, please be both realistic and practical.  The targets and goals you most want to see achieved may not be the ones you are working on.  As an example, the goal I would most like to see achieved is Goal 6; Clean Water and Sanitation.  However, right now my work contributes to targets under Goal 17; Partnerships for the Goals.  This may not be my favourite but it is the one I’m working on. Because the goals are so interconnected, I hope my contribution also impacts on other targets and goals, but for the purpose of the Global Academy website we focus on the targets where our work contributes directly.

If you have been invited to create your own Global Academy researcher page and are having trouble finding the right target/s for your work, please do get in touch with us directly. We will help you find your way around the goals and targets. As the Global Academy grows you will certainly find that you share targets with researchers from other disciplines. This is what makes the framework a powerful tool for trans and inter-disciplinary research.

Researchers working towards the Global Goals
Researchers working towards the Global Goals

 

Some researchers ask whether their work has to be ‘global’ in scope or impact if they are to contribute to the goals. The short answer is a firm “No”. Every country has adopted these goals, and is reporting on progress, even though someone doing more work to achieve the goals than others. This means that your work on drainage, biodiversity, infectious diseases, sustainable transport, or whatever else in your local area is making an important contribution to both national and global progress towards the goals. Don’t be shy about the importance of your work and do use the SDG targets to reinforce the purpose of your research.

This last point brings us helpfully to the impact of your research. Prof Mark Reed, of Fast Track Impact in the UK, helpfully defines research impact as “The good researchers do in the world “  If your research contributes directly to any one of the 169 SDG targets then you know your work has real impact. You should talk about this in your reporting and funding applications. The SDGs are where humanity wants to go and every step, however small, towards getting there truly counts.


Measuring those steps is also important so our next article in this series will look at the 244 indicators that are tracking our progress towards a sustainable world in 2030. In the meantime, do spend some time finding the target/s that best reflect your research work. We suggest you limit yourself to the 3 most important target for each goal, for a maximum of 3 goals. This should be more than enough for most research reports or applications, and definitely works best on the Global Academy researcher pages.

You can contact us via Twitter, Linked In, Email or the Global Academy website.

Useful resources:

Graphic resources for the Goals and Targets

Goals and targets from The Global Academy

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

The SDG Indicator framework

More about the Global Academy

Wendy Stone

Wendy Stone

Wendy leads the team at The Global Academy. She also makes respectable tea, but should leave coffee to experts.