Four years ago, in 2015, the world adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. These are 17 goals around improving health, welfare and the environment that members of the United Nations agreed to achieve by 2030. The SDGs, as they are known, built upon a previous set of global goals, called the Millennium Development Goals, which expired in 2015.

The idea behind the SDGs was to create an ambitious but achievable set of quantifiable targets around which governments, civil society organizations and the UN can organize their development and environmental policies. These targets include things like eliminating extreme poverty, as defined by people who live on less than $1.25/day; reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 live births; end the aids epidemic; significantly reduce ocean acidification; In all there are 162 targets built around those 17 goals, to be achieved by 2030.

This week at the United Nations there is a major meeting called the High Level Political Forum on the SDGs in which top government officials and civil society participate in a stock taking of where we stand in terms of progress on these goals. A number of foreign ministers and other officials are in New York to discuss progress — or lack there of — on the SDGs, so I thought this might be a good moment to have a conversation that examines where the world stands four years into the Sustainable Development Goals.

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