On September 25, 2015—after nearly three years of deliberation—the leaders of the 193 United Nations (UN) Member States agreed to a list of 17 global goals that could radically transform the world for the better by 2030.
So, what are these 17 goals?
Known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), these 17 targets are: no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace, justice and strong institutions; and partnership for the goals.
As per the UN, these goals mainly aim to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all” within the stipulated time-frame.
Can economic progress end poverty and ensure prosperity for all?
Economic growth (usually measured by GDP) of a country should ideally result in improvement in the the standard of living for all its citizens. However, in many countries this occurs for only a few of its citizens as it often results in making the rich richer and poor poorer.
Take the economic scenario in India, for example. Even though the country has been showing an increase in production and related consumerism, around 732 million of its inhabitants still do not have access to toilets (source: WaterAid report). Many of its citizens continue to remain oppressed mainly due to social stigma and religious bias. For many more, safe dwelling and affordable medical care are luxuries they can only dream of. However, a handful of citizens enjoy first-class facilities and social privileges due to concentration of wealth, power and influence in their hands.
This reveals that for sustainable development, the Indian government as well as governments across the world must not only create opportunities for their citizens to earn and consume, but also spread financial literacy to help them attain financial independence and prosperity.
How can financial literacy then help achieve UN’s sustainable goals?
When families (as groups) are made aware of how all their adult members (both men and women) can contribute towards a better and struggle-free future for themselves and their children, they can experience a significant change in mindsets that can help them to effectively overcome social and emotional issues (and even religious biases) in the long run.
Financial literacy can also enable people from any socio-economic background to plan for their safety, healthcare, food, personal development and general well-being. It can also eliminate their dependence on corruption and crime (or even political parties) to make ends meet.
What’s more is that when individuals experience financial independence, they also get the financial flexibility (through volunteer work/donations/sponsorships) and power to choose to make their their surroundings safer, cleaner and healthier.