From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals

From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals
Authors: Ilyin, Ilya V.; Ursul, Arkadi A.; Ursul, Tatyana; Dugarova, Midegue
Almanac: Globalistics and globalization studiesGlobal Transformations and Global Future.

This article investigates the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The authors have set an objective to demonstrate that sustainable development as a future form of development of civilization from the very beginning had a ‘target orientation’ and anticipated realization and staging of the whole hierarchy of objectives needed for the establishment of an effective global governance. In the future, global development in its ‘anthropogenic’ aspect will be to implement the goals and principles of SD, which will be updated with each new stage of the implementation of this kind of socio-natural evolution.

The paper argues the position that the concept of SD should be radically transformed into a ‘global dimension’. Attention is drawn to the fact that Russia recognized another distant, but very important in the conceptual and theoretical perspective, global goal of ‘sustainable transition’ – formation of the noosphere.

Keywords: biosphere, ecological problems, global development, global governance, MDGs, noosphere, SDGs, security, sustainable development, UN.


After the United Nations conference on environment and development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, humanity set a goal of transferring from spontaneous and unregulated development to conscious and purposeful socio-natural sustainable development, which is the main way of survival. The sustainable development (further denoted as SD), which is supposed to become rationally directed at the planetary scale, is understood as the most reasonable and safe type of socio-natural evolution, aiming at maintenance of civilization and biosphere, their co-existence and co-evolution.

The book Our Common Future, also known as the Bruntland Report and devoted to justifying the need for transition to sustainable development, gave the following definition of SD referring to the future: ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. In fact, this definition contains the main goal of transition to sustainable development – survival and securing human existence for indefinite long-term future. The notion of global sustainability also implies ensuring equity with regard to generations, so that the future world is comfortably habitable for the future generations. Along with this, sustainability in a broad sense, as emphasized in many UN documents, should serve as a fundamental principle for all aspects of development and in every society.

The preservation of biosphere and its co-evolution with civilization will create the fundamental conditions and perspectives that will form a completely new ‘nature – society’ system which implements a sustainable development strategy ensuring our common future on the planet and outside its boundaries – in perspective of space exploration. Preservation of the Earth biosphere also counts as one of the main goals of transition to SD. But not only it is a goal, but if achieved, it is a natural foundation for sustainable development as a consecutively evolving new socio-natural global process. The most acceptable scenario of the future of our planet and mankind living on it involves the preservation of the biosphere as the natural basis of existence of all living and intelligent organisms. If taking globally – coordinated actions manages to preserve the biosphere, there will be a real possibility of the survival of civilization and its permanent development, not only in the next few centuries, but also for the indefinite future.

The problematics of transition from MDGs to SDGs is very urgent and important and this article continues the topic that has been discussed in an earlier article published in the journal (Mironenko et al. 2015).

Towards Establishment of SDGs by 2030

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which allocated eight priority goals for international development. The development of MDGs was based on eight chapters of the UN Millennium Declaration, signed in September 2000. They were adopted by the UN member-states and had to be mostly achieved by 2015. One of the main features of the MDGs is their focus on a limited set of specific targets and human development goals: eradicating poverty and hunger, achieving universal access to primary education, reducing child and maternal mortality and improving maternal health, promoting gender equality and empowering women, combat HIV / AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and creating global partnership for development. MDGs concerned eight development areas, which, by the way, were not formally bound to SD (except for the environmental goals).

The UN's directory believes that impressive success has been achieved in reaching many of the global development goals, expressed in the Millennium Development Goals. As it was mentioned by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a foreword to ‘The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015’:

The global mobilization behind the Millennium Development Goals has produced the most successful anti-poverty movement in history. The landmark commitment entered into by world leaders in the year 2000 – to ‘spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty’ – was translated into an inspiring framework of eight goals and, then, into wide-ranging practical steps that have enabled people across the world to improve their lives and their future prospects. The MDGs helped to lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty, to make inroads against hunger, to enable more girls to attend school than ever before and to protect our planet. They generated new and innovative partnerships, galvanized public opinion and showed the immense value of setting ambitious goals. By putting people and their immediate needs at the forefront, the MDGs reshaped decision-making in developed and developing countries alike.

As it is believed in the UN, MDGs have become one of the most successful global campaigns to fight poverty in human history. These goals have gained extraordinary popularity, helping to set global and national priorities and directing the action at the local level, increasing awareness and forming a vision of the future, while remaining comprehensive framework for the development activities at the global level. The MDGs aimed at reducing poverty, improving access to safe drinking water and improving the lives of 200 million slum dwellers are already met. The share of children enrolled in primary school has increased while maintaining parity between boys and girls. Child mortality has reduced dramatically, and targeted investments in the fight against malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis have saved millions of lives.

And yet it is quite an optimistic point of view, since the achievement of the MDGs took place with great difficulties and inconsistency and not in all countries (Ovcharova 2015). Also, the implementation of the MDGs was uneven: some countries have already achieved many of them, while the others have not started any of them yet. The most spectacular success on this way was achieved in China and India. But in Africa, in least developed countries, in the developing landlocked countries and small-island developing states, this success was very insignificant. Some of the Millennium Development Goals, allocated in the Millennium Declaration have not been achieved, in particular goals relating to maternal, newborn, and reproductive health. Continuing the Millennium Development Goals beyond 2015, the SDGs are built on the foundations laid by the MDGs, concluding number of goals mentioned there, especially in terms of helping the most vulnerable countries, but at the same time the SDGs will also respond to the new global challenges and risks (Ovcharova 2015).

SDGs, adopted in Agenda-2030, include 17 goals for sustainable development and 169 related targets, complex and indivisible that create a set of global priorities and parameters of sustainability.

Table 1. Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals

Millennium Development Goals (2000–2015)

Sustainable Development Goals (2016–2030)



  1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

  2. To achieve universal primary education.

  3. To promote gender equality and empower women.

  4. To reduce child mortality.

  5. To improve maternal health.

  6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.

  7. To ensure environmental sustainability.

  8. To develop a global partnership for development.

  1. To end poverty in all its forms everywhere.

  2. To end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

  3. To ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

  4. To ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

  5. To achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

  6. To ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

  7. To ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and clean energy for all.

  8. To promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

  9. To build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

  1. To reduce inequality within and among countries.To make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

  2. To ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

  3. To take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

  4. To conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

  5. To protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

  6. To promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

To strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

The approach to the establishment of the SDGs was framed not only by logical considerations, but also by chose considerations regarding negotiation and consensus processes and anticipated development of a common framework and a system of universal goals applicable to all countries, taking into account different national circumstances, capacities, needs, priorities, and in accordance with national objectives, strategies and priorities of SD. The most common and priority goals of sustainable development, which will bring the maximum benefit to both present and future generations, are already included in Agenda 2030.

This Agenda also recognizes the importance of regional and sub-regional factors, interaction in the field of sustainable development, as regional and sub-regional programs will contribute to the effective implementation of sustainable development strategies into specific actions at national levels. In this regard, all the UN Member States are expected to develop a long term national programs covering all aspects of the implementation of the new Agenda for SD as soon as possible. These strategies are meant to support the transition to sustainable development and be based on existing planning instruments such as national development strategies and sustainable development strategies, depending on the circumstances. Moreover, it is assumed that both general and other SD concepts will evolve over time, taking into account emerging issues and new research methodologies.

While analyzing the SDGs expressed in the Agenda-2030, one gets the impression that there has not yet been any significant ideological and conceptual renovation, and even more – no theoretical innovation breakthrough. Implicitly, it is assumed that the desired concept of SD for the whole world has already been created, and the only problem left is its implementation, only changing the development goals after some period of time (apparently, it will be a fifteen-year period). Changing the SDGs in the long run, of course, does affect the general understanding of sustainable development and the prospects for its implementation, but it is also important to pay special attention to the conceptual transformations affecting the actors' worldview on the movement towards global sustainability.

Meanwhile, the imperfection of the modern concept of SD appears to be one of the serious reasons why humankind cannot move fast enough in the direction of its survival, which depends not only on environmental factors, which is clearly demonstrated by current aggravated geopolitical situation, which has led to new alignment forces in the world. Some researchers point out the narrowness of the three-pillar approach to SD and offer to convert it into a more comprehensive theory (Ott and Thapa 2003). American scientist Robert W. Kates also believes that the current concept of sustainable development needs further expansion and development, and environmental component must be regarded as no less important than the others (Kates et al. 2005). The author sees the model of sustainable development (including its environmental, economic and social pillars) as a set of clear and transparent principles of social and natural approaches to development, including the protection of natural resources and awareness of responsibility for future generations.

The first report by the UN System Task Team on the post-2015 development agenda ‘Realizing the Future We Want’ was released in June 2012, during the discussions of the agenda, broadly launched several years before 2015. This report featured not three, but already four fundamental dimensions of global vision of sustainable development strategy, namely: inclusive social development, inclusive economic development, environmental sustainability and peace and security.

The fourth dimension turned out to be of extreme importance. Indeed, as mentioned in this report, at least one fifth of the world population lives in countries affected by violence, political conflicts, insecurity and social vulnerability. Moreover, none of the countries experiencing high levels of violence or vulnerability has achieved at least one of the MDGs. The level of poverty in countries with extremely high level of violence is more than 20 percentage points above the average. A much higher level of malnutrition, lack of education, high level of infant mortality, high share of households consisting of unmarried women with young children, a lack of clean drinking water and basic sanitation services are also observed in the vulnerable and conflict-affected countries.

It is pertinent to note, the SDGs already failed to implement a four-dimensional vision of the SD, as all the goals expressed have already been distributed among ‘regular’ three dimensions. And in this regard, at least it seems strange that the goal to achieve international peace and security was not included in the SDGs, and for this goal the United Nations Organization was initially established. At the UN Sustainable Development Summit, the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko as well as many other guests started his speech with the issue of global peace and security, because one of the key obstacles of implementing the SD strategy has always been the abundance of military conflicts and crises, which significantly undermine the progress made. The issues of peace and security, including freedom from political persecution, discrimination and all forms of violence, are crucial to the development and are one of its main components. One can only assume why such a goal was not included in the SDGs, although it is clear that SD should be the safest type of human development, ensuring its continuing existence. It is important to analyze the security problem from the standpoint of global and interdisciplinary research and to ensure the formation of a unified methodology issues and concepts of security studies in connection with the expanded interpretation of sustainable development. After all, security and development (referring to the progressive development) are guiding principles for the higher forms of material systems (Ursul A., Ursul T., and Ivanov 2014).

Ensuring peace and security aims to save and preserve a particular object (primarily the individual, society and the state), while sustainable development aims at its further, but safe progressive development. Merging into a single system providing various types of security and non-regressive forms of development turns a real multi-vector development into the safest progressive evolution, and security, in turn, begins to be provided through sustainable development in its broadest sense.

Shaping a global world is associated with the emergence of new threats and dangers of planetary scale, which can cause man-made global catastrophe. There is a need for exposure to globalization and other global processes through sustainable development, focused on comprehensive security and the survival of civilization. Moreover, in the above mentioned report ‘Realizing the Future We Want’ the main task of the United Nations Development Program for the period after 2015 was seen in the fact that globalization becomes a positive force for all peoples of the world for present and future generations. It was noted that globalization offers great opportunities, but its benefit is currently distributed very unevenly. Constant aspiration to improve the material well-being threatens to exceed the capabilities of the resource base without a radical shift towards more sustainable patterns of consumption, production and use of resources. And remaining inequalities in the distribution of income and resources, and competition for scarce resources are key causes of conflict, famine, insecurity and violence, which, in turn, hinder human development and efforts to achieve SD.

In the future global world with sustainable development, the national and global security will be mainly provided not through the defense, as it is in the present, but mainly through the SD as the most secure development that will contribute to the consolidation of positive and reduce the negative effects of global trends and development (Ilyin, Ursul A., and Ursul Т. 2015). In the transition to sustainable development, the security ceases to be only one of the conditions of development, but becomes its necessary part. However, it also works in the opposite direction: the development, which is in this case non-regressive, is an essential component of security that derives its expression in the form of the phrase ‘security through sustainable development’, acting as the main conceptual idea of Russia's national security for the foreseeable future, and not only for our country, that has made an important step on the way to secure a sustainable future, but also for the entire world community (Ilyin, Ursul A., and Ursul Т. 2015).

The implementation of the development program after 2015 will significantly depend on the governance efficiency at the national, local and municipal levels. Increased negative trends, challenges and dangers are now associated with chaotic deployment of globalization and other global processes; and, what is now becoming evident, it is necessary to establish effective global governance to promote SDGs. Global governance is becoming the new mechanism of the further development of civilization, which can ensure its further progressive development, prevent crises and disasters, acute global problems and increased negative trends on a planetary scale.

The content, methods and social technologies that all together form the SDGs, can be heavily criticized in the same manner they repeatedly voiced criticism over the MDGs. Nevertheless, the adoption of the SDGs and especially their implementation should have a positive impact on the future of all mankind, to make it more acceptable and safe for everyone.

SDGs as Continuation and Development of the MDGs

Today the concept of the MDGs may seem to be pretentious, especially after the adoption of SDGs. It became apparent that those goals would not only grow in number, but also they would not once undergo radical transformations this century, not to mention the millennium. However, since the adoption of these goals for the first time took place at the turn of the millennium, it seemed that the name ‘MDGs’ looked very good and promising. SDGs, continuing the ‘target’ approach does not claim to actually span for thousand years, it seems to be more appropriate, not only in terms of the name but also in terms of adopted goals and targets.

It is worth mentioning that a new agenda on SD joined the ‘traditional’ approach to the SD strategy, which was typical for the first three summits on sustainable development since 1992, and used ‘target’ approach outlined in the MDGs at the Millennium Summit as well. A specific monitoring process had been organized for each of these documents, and related reports and other materials had been published, as if they were two unrelated processes. It is possible that up to a certain point in time the UN leadership for a long time had not realized the very close relations between these processes, but then realized the necessity of their unification.

The integration of these two approaches to the vision of the future development was outlined in Paragraph 246 of the outcome document of the Rio + 20 ‘The Future We Want’. A connection between this document (and in general all the ‘Rio process’) and the Millennium Development Goals, adopted at the Earth Summit in 2000, is indicated there. The paragraph says:

We recognize that the development of goals could also be useful for pursuing focused and coherent action on sustainable development. … The goals should address and incorporate in a balanced way all three dimensions of sustainable development and their interlinkages. They should be coherent with and integrated into the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015, thus contributing to the achievement of sustainable development and serving as a driver for implementation and mainstreaming of sustainable development in the United Nations system as a whole. The development of these goals should not divert focus or effort from the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Paragraph 249 of this document states that the movement towards SD ‘needs to be coordinated and coherent with the processes to consider the post-2015 development agenda’. Therefore, these two paragraphs of the final ‘Rio + 20’ outcome document together laid the foundation of the unification of the development program, expressed in the SDGs and the final report ‘Future We Want’. Also during the Rio + 20 conference, it was agreed that ‘sustainable development goals should be action oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities’.

SDGs unlike the MDGs are much more complex and significantly affect the concept of development aid. A distinctive feature of the adopted Agenda 2030 is the fact that it affects not only developing countries but also the already developed ones. In order to achieve these goals it is necessary that the developed states not only provide the developing ones with financial aid, but also take political decisions and steps to reform its own institutions. On the eve of the adoption of the Agenda, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network established by the UN Secretary General, prepared a report that analyzed how developed countries fulfilled the criteria of sustainable development (Kroll 2015). The report showed that only five states (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Switzerland) had already achieved all of the 17 SDGs, while the rest of the countries were left behind. The most serious challenges for the developed countries include: sustainable growth and employment for all, sustainable consumption, climate change mitigation and income equality.

Inclusion of the SDG number 10 ‘To reduce inequality within and among countries’ is not only the consequence of heated debates over increased inequality, but also an indicator that shows that the international community is to find a new balance between the concepts of the welfare state and the liberal state. A number of studies, particularly conducted by the Oxfam Group in 2015, proved that without significant government regulation, as well as without a carefully thought-out framework conditions created by the state, social inequality would continue to increasingly hamper sustainable economic growth which will result in the uncontrolled social problems in both developing and already developed countries. However, while the developed countries need reforms most obviously in the social sector, the developing countries first need to establish economic freedom.

As it was mentioned before, the key peculiarity of the newly adopted Goals is to re-evaluate the concept of development aid. Previously, with the emergence of the concept of development aid or financing for development, and up to this day, it was assumed that the global community was divided into two groups – the developed countries and developing countries, and that the first group has to provide the second one with financial aid in order to enable developing countries to move into the category of developed, thus, implying that development aid is only a temporary set of measures.

But decades of such practice have shown that this approach to development aid is impossible. It was found out that financing for development indeed improves living conditions and alleviates suffering of millions of people, but it does not radically change the entire situation, and does not solve the backlog and weak economic development issue (Easterly 2001). This conclusion is confirmed by the experience of transition of some developing countries into the group of developed countries, which is basically explained by a number of other reasons and not development aid. As a result of active discussions and practice of development aid one can see that financing for development is only a supporting element while the key to successful growth and development of society (as reflected in Agenda 2030) lies in the effective state policy and the proper functioning of international institutions and organizations, in the first place – financial and trade organization. Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development pays close attention to the functioning of such institutions.

In addition to the abovementioned, one should note that the approach to development aid has also changed in different ways. Many experts point out that in the new millennium, not only states play the key role in the movement towards SD, but also individuals, corporations and companies that invest considerably in the third world countries development (Kharas 2007). Consequently, the SDGs have been developed not only for governments and heads of state, but also for other players – companies, private foundations, philanthropists, and so on. The number of actors in this ‘sustainability process’ has also increased due to the implementation of the South-South cooperation projects, which do not replace, but complement North-South cooperation and are implemented by those developing countries that are not part of the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD. So, at the 70th UN General Assembly, China announced its intention to invest up to $12 bln into the least developed countries until 2030.

Since the adoption of the MDGs the ideas of what measures should be attributed to the process of development assistance and which are not have also changed, as the economic development of developing countries is influenced by a combination of factors, such as foreign direct investment, debt relief, credit system, etc. Therefore, the OECD has introduced the concept of ‘total official support for sustainable development’ which covers a large number of sources of financing developing countries than the notion of ‘official development assistance’, that has been used up to the present day.

The new concept of evaluating the efficiency of development can lead to the creation of new tools for the states to monitor their own development. However, it is too early to draw conclusions whether such categories as ‘social equality’ or ‘environmental protection in the near future’ may be equal in importance to economic indicators when assessing the development of the state.

It still remains unclear how the UN and OECD will cooperate. In the past few decades, the United Nations took responsibility for the development of action agenda and for goals establishment, while the OECD was responsible for the development of applied issues and statistics. But given the increasing number of actors of the development aid as well as the increasing number of Goals and evaluation indicators, the commitments that the United Nations will have to take also grow in number.

The MDGs had previously been criticized for several reasons, but one can hardly overstate or overestimate the potential of the SDGs. Firstly, the MDGs contradicted themselves (Goal number three ‘To promote gender equality and empower women’ cannot be possible without realization of the Goals number two ‘To achieve universal primary education’, because in certain aspects these two goals correspond to each other). Secondly, the included targets are utopian for some states since only a complete solution of the problem and not a relative progress was recognized as a success. Because of this position, the promotion of a number of African countries to the path to sustainable development is left without proper assessment (Easterly 2009). The mismatch between the official statements and the implementation of the Action Plan into practice is often subjected to criticism, for example in terms of increased funding for developing countries from developed ones, addressing critical issues and challenges in the near future. For example, China has agreed to invest heavily in the development of non-least developed countries which are commercially advantageous for national business. Such criticism is valid for a number of other developed countries. Another example is the reduction in funding of camps for the Syrian refugees in recent months, which also does not meet the statements of officials.

Some Differences between the MDGs and the SDGs

The UN Task Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda identified in 2012 advantages and shortcomings of the MDGs. Due to the concentration on the performance of a small number of problems, some of the components of the MDGs were underestimated. At the stage of implementation, it became clear that some targets were not delivered properly. For example, in some areas the demographic changes were underestimated as well as the respective scope of social problems (e.g., the share of urban population living in slums) were also underestimated. Moreover, the emphasis on global goals led to the disregard of national circumstances and differences in the initial conditions of different nations. This caused the failure, even in the cases when the achieved results have been significant, but did not provide the achievement of global goals, as is the case with the African countries.

In addition, the MDGs did not address issues of manufacturing employment, violence against women, social protection, inequality, social exclusion, biodiversity, chronic malnutrition and an increase in non-communicable diseases, reproductive health and the challenges associated with demographic dynamics, peace and security, governance, rule of law and human rights. The MDGs paid insufficient attention to the exposure to natural disasters and other external crises, which caused gaps in the achievement of the MDGs.

Several goals and targets related to the global partnership for development were identified inaccurately, thereby weakening the responsibility of the promised international support in the implementation of the MDG framework. Many of the commitments made by the international community, remained unfulfilled. Important obstacles on the path to sustainable and inclusive development remain in many developing countries: lack of access to financing for development sources, export markets, technologies and medicines. The global economic and financial crisis of 2008–2009 and its aftermath have revealed serious shortcomings of multilateral mechanisms to minimize and overcome the shocks caused by the instability of world markets.

Here, still continuing to identify differences between SDGs and MDGs, we do not lay claim to completeness, and we only dwell on some of them, which seemed to us the most obvious and significant. In fact, this is the setting of the problem (and the same research can be conducted in the future regarding the Agenda-1992 and Agenda-2030). Now we are going to highlight the following differences between the two documents:

  1. First of all, let us pay attention to the fact that the MDGs mainly concentrated on development in its broad sense, while the SDGs only focused on Sustainable Development. And this is quite significant: now the SDGs are going to the full extent implement the strategy of sustainable development, but not only because there is a greater number of just the Goals. No less important is the fact that the change of the term ‘development’ to the concept of ‘sustainable development’ means that the action and efforts on the continuation of unsustainable development will no longer be promoted. Although in fact the MDGs actually ‘worked’ mostly for the SD, however, formally it was not their main goal to focus on this type of development and this made the poor informed population believe that everything is as usual, that society only needs to operate a little better and fairer.

  2. The MDGs until 2015 have been developed and adopted for the development of the world community on the way to solve global problems such as hunger, extreme poverty, gender and social inequality, and so on (MDG 4 ‘To reduce child mortality’, MDG 5 ‘To combat HIV / AIDS, malaria and other diseases’), while the SDGs seek to completely solve them (SDG 5 ‘To achieve gender equality ...’, SDG1 ‘To end poverty… everywhere…’ etc.). The final solution to the problems requires full concentration on the task of empowerment of the poorest and most inaccessible countries.

  3. The SDGs are more universal. The MDGs related only to developing countries, while the SDGs are applicable to all countries in the world, regardless of their level of socio-economic development. Therefore, all states face both common and individual challenges in the implementation of many aspects of sustainable development strategies.

  4. A number of SDGs continue MDGs dividing the already established goals into targets, highlighting the ones of the utmost priority. However, the SDGs are more extensive than the MDGs. In contrast to the eight MDGs, 17 SDGs go beyond the issues of poverty, health and environment. Agenda-2030 focuses on democratic governance, access to justice and the integrity of the person (SDG 16), as well as on the revitalization of global partnership for sustainable development (SDG 17). Thus, the Legal Research Center also affects issues related to human rights, including political, cultural, economic, social and civil rights and the right of development.

  5. SDGs take into consideration all the three pillars of the fight against hunger recognized by the ‘Hunger Project’, which were largely ignored by the MDGs – empowering women, mobilizing everyone, and partnering with local government. The SDGs address these crucial components much more effectively, with far stronger gender goals, people's participation and government ‘at all levels’.

  6. We also call attention to the division of the goals related to hunger and poverty. The MDG concepts of hunger and poverty are linked together: the MDG 1 ‘To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger’, suggesting that the solution to one problem solves another automatically. Since then, the food problem has been studied from different positions and prospects and now the SDGs divide problems of poverty and food security.

  7. In contrast to the MDGs, the SDGs, in some way, do tackle the issues of maintaining peace and security, but only in certain spheres. Inclusion of the peace-keeping process into the list of priorities for the sustainable development (ensure food security, make cities and towns safe, promote the establishment of peace and free from social societies barriers for sustainable development) – is an important step towards achieving the goals, which was not mentioned in the MDGs. Over the past 15 years the world has witnessed that peaceful and reasonably well-governed countries prosper. After 2015, it is expected that a significant part of the population living in extreme poverty will inhabit mainly the states which are someway affected by armed conflicts. However, as already mentioned above, the problem of peace and security, unfortunately, did not become one of the most important of the MDGs, meanwhile we consider it to be of utmost importance.

  8. It is important to pay attention to the problems of monitoring, evaluation and reporting. The Millennium Declaration says nothing about monitoring, assessment and reporting of realization of the MDGs. In contrast, SDG 17, Task 18 mentions the problem saying that

By 2020, enhance capacity-building support to developing countries, including for least developed countries and small island developing States, to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.

  1. The MDGs focused on quantitative indicators with regard to access to education (and then only to the primary one), not noticing the fall of the level of education in certain countries and entire regions. SDGs are the first attempt of the international community to put into focus the quality of education, learning process and the role of education in achieving a more humane and sustainable world.

By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture's contribution to sustainable development (SDG 4, Task 7).

The Formation of Noosphere as a Sustainable Development Goal

Already adopted in Russia ‘Concept for the Transition of the Russian Federation to Sustainable Development’ claims that ‘in the long run the movement towards sustainable development of humankind will lead to the formation of the sphere of mind (noosphere) as predicted by Vladimir Vernadsky when moral values and knowledge of a Human living in harmony with environment, will become a measure for national and individual wealth’. This point of the Concept means that two decades ago Russia set another, still distant but very important in the long term, global goal of transition to the SD – the emergence of the noosphere. And it is very important to understand in which direction the humankind should move to achieve SD, which should lead to the deployment of a global process of noospheric genesis.

The main goals of sustainable development in the long run focus on the survival of civilization and preservation of biosphere, which are the necessary conditions for the formation of mind-sphere and are an integral part of this process and one of the main sustainable development goals in an even more distant period of time.

As early as in the first half of the twentieth century Vernadsky and two French scientists Edouard Le Roy and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin put forth the idea of formation of a mind-sphere – the noosphere – as a key direction for the further human development, which should rationalize the civilization processes and ensure the survival of humanity. Vernadsky views the noospheric genesis not only as social and moral and intellectual transformations, but also as natural continuation of biospheric and geological evolution, in which humanity plays the role of the major geological force (Vernadsky 2012).

If we assume that the ultimate goal of transition to sustainable development is the emergence of the noosphere, it is necessary to form the first conceptual and theoretical model of the mind-sphere, and then determine an optimal path to achieve it. The peculiarity of the noospheric-futurological approach to the study of the future, including implementation of the sustainable development strategy, consists in setting moral and fair intelligence and intellectual and spiritual factors as a top priority in the coming transformations.

It is the noosphere that is considered as a hypothetical future state of the world and at the same time as a global process, implemented through the SD of society and its interaction with environment, with collective human intelligence, named as ‘the noospheric intelligence’ taking the leading role, guiding evolution of civilization in progressive and safe direction. Sustainable development from the perspective of the ‘noospheric goal’ becomes global evolution that can be managed, focused on building up the sphere of the mind as a new qualitative state and the outcome of civilizational development.

If we consider noospherogenesis as a transition process from sustainable development to civilizational noosphere, we can assess possibilities of various forms of mind and rational management of these processes. Formation of the noospheric civilization does not only mean making ethical intelligence a priority in social development, but it also means that this ethical intelligence obtains new forms and qualities that the mind has never possessed before. And the main mechanism of outpacing implementation of the sustainable development strategy will also be the collective human intelligence of a global scale, which can be significantly transformed during the genesis of the noosphere, turning into an advancing noospheric intelligence. The noosphere which is formed through the transition to sustainable development and establishment of global information-oriented society will demonstrate many of the positive features of a human and humanity (Ilyin and Ursul 2014).


Obviously without formulation of the most important and priority tasks towards the SD it makes no sense to talk about establishment of global governance, although global governance can be used for different tasks as well. SDGs in the first place will have to affect and in a balanced way cover at least three basic components (economic, social and ecological spheres) of sustainable development and their interdependence.

Global governance will be implemented in different ways and in different directions, for example, with the help of economic, political, environmental and other social tools and actions. Speaking about global governance, it is appropriate to note that, in its entirety, this phenomenon may appear to the fullest extent only in the future, when globalization enters its following and not necessarily ‘final’ stage, by which we mean a controlled transition to sustainable development on a global scale. Moreover, globalization as the transition to SD and the formation of global governance are very closely linked, and progress in one field will stimulate progress in another one. However, it is important to note that today we only have an initial simplified and one-sided concept of SD, which is not quite adequate since it primarily highlights environmental aspects of development and their interconnections with economic and social spheres. Now one needs a substantially more integrated and holistic approach to the development of concepts and strategies for sustainable development that would provide account not only of the environmental and social costs of economic growth as it is now largely emphasized.

It became evident that the concept of SD should not be reduced to the ‘triad’ of environment, economy and social sphere, at least not in its modern manifestation. These three ‘dimensions’ of the future transition to SD should be significantly expanded, turning ‘the phase space transition to SD’ into a kind of expanding an n-dimensional space, in which there will also emerge some other dimensions, such as outer space or information (as we will need to assess in what way a sustainable society interacts with the information-oriented society and other patterns of modern civilization and the future of civilization).

The new model of civilization turned out to be, on the one hand, more promising, because only with its help our civilization can survive and persist. But, on the other hand, being created only on conceptual and theoretical level, this model is less than a system and does not include many more components in terms of development and security that characterize the modern developmental model, referred to as a model of unsustainable development (USD). These components ‘pull back’ movement in the right, but simplified and not yet systemic direction. Building a sustainable future confronts the threat posed by long non-work areas (they are continuing to be developed in the framework of the model of USD) and they significantly hamper progress towards SD.

In fact, it is necessary to develop a theoretical and methodological concept, and then a theory of a new type of human development with transition to global sustainability acting as a global strategy for further safe existence and development of our civilization. The transition to sustainable development will contribute to the resolution of the main socio-natural contradiction between the growing needs of the global community and the inability of the biosphere to satisfy these needs. Sustainable development is becoming more and more comprehensive, global and safest type of the socio-economic development. And in the broadest sense of SD is a non-regressive type of evolution that eliminates or reduces to an acceptable level danger for humanity and biosphere with the purpose of their preservation and further mutual co-evolution.


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