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Fast facts

44% of children

In 12 of 29 CEECIS countries are at risk of not developing to their potential due to poverty, stunting or both.

Global Goals for Every Child: September 2015

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07 October 2015
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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an ambitious and universal “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity” that representan historic opportunity to advance the rights and well-being of every child.

For UNICEF, sustainable development is, by definition, development that can be carried on by future generations. So making the right choices for children is critical to the SDG agenda.

Equity – a fair chance for every child to access the tools, services and skills they need to reach their full potential – must be a guiding principle in the implementation of the SDGs.

And achieving equity means investing in the most disadvantaged children. If we fail to invest in these children, we will fail to achieve sustainable economic, political and social progress and stability. Children held back by sickness, lost school days and reduced capacity to learnare denied the fair start in life that allows them to fulfill their ambitions and fully contribute to their societies. Meanwhile violence against children threatens children’s lives and damages the social fabric of societies.

So there are not only lossesfortoday’s child,but also for her children and her community. Each inequity sows the seeds of tomorrow’s inequalities.

The best way to end the vicious cycle of inequality is to set in motion a virtuous cycle – a cycle in which every child gets a fair chance to survive, to grow up healthy and protected, to attend school, and to more fully contribute to her future and the future of her society.

Sustainable development also can only be achieved if we reach the children most affected by conflicts, climate change and natural disasters. It will be essential to combine peace building, humanitarian anddevelopment efforts in new and innovative ways so that societies can break free from repeated andprotracted crises and climate-related disasters and establish foundations for sustainable development.

Achieving the SDGs can only be possible if we make concerted efforts to address the issues that continue to leave children vulnerable, including tackling unfinished business rom the era of the Millennium Development Goals. Itwill require focused partnerships with governments, development partners, business leaders, academia, innovators, and civil society. And it will require effective and equitableinvestment in the most disadvantaged children. National plans, budgets and social and economic policies need to be constructed with the most deprived children at the heart of the agenda.

Investing in the rights, safety and well-being of children and young people empowers them to bring about change in their lives and communities. Fostering the ideas and actions of a young, informed and engaged generation will help motivate, inspire and guide those charged with making the SDGs a reality, so they live up to the commitments they make this week at the United Nations.

Achievingthe SDGs couldgive every child a fair chance in life. What we decide to do for children and how we engage them in building the future will ultimately determine whether we are successful in creating a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.UNICEF is committed to that vision, joining with others to scale up what works, innovate for improved solutions and results, measure progress and share lessons learned.

Goals, targets and children

All the goals of the new development agenda outline a vibrant plan for making the world a better place for children. They all touch the lives of children in some way, even if children are not explicitly mentioned in the goals on partnerships, energy,[1] infrastructure, and protecting oceans and other ecosystems.

Below are some goals and targets that tackle issues at the centre of UNICEF’s work in 190 countries. They include:

Goal 1: Poverty

Why it matters for children: About a billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty.[2] Nearly half of them are children.[3]Poverty is a universal concern, though South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are home to most children who live in extreme poverty.[4]By the end of the Great Recession starting in 2008, there were 2.6 million more poor children in rich countries.[5]

What the goal does: The explicit mention of children and poverty and the call to end extreme poverty in all its forms are critical steps forward. The goal addresses poverty in all its dimensions, a particular concern for children burdened by multiple and complex forms of deprivation. The goal also recognizes the importance of resilience and social protection systems, which are key to ending child poverty.

Goal 2: Nutrition

Why it matters for children: In 2013, one out of every four children under the age of 5 had stunted growth.[6]The consequences of stunting and other forms of undernutrition endanger children’s lives, health, education and futures. For example: Nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are attributable to undernutrition;[7]and if undernutrition were prevented in early childhood, hourly earnings could rise by at least 20 per cent.[8]

What the goal does: The goal aims to ensure access to nutrition for all and specifically mentions infants. It also includes a child nutrition target and a commitment to achieving targets on stunting and wasting by 2025. The targets also mention the needs of adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women.

Goal 3: Health

Why it matters for children: By the end of this year, nearly six million children will have died before their fifth birthday.[9] The later years bring different health risks: About 35 per cent of new HIV infections globally in 2013 were in young people aged 15 to 24;[10]non-communicable diseases linked to obesity, physical inactivity, early elevations in blood pressure, tobacco, substance use and mental disorders account for 70 percent of premature adult deaths.[11]

What the goal does:It renews commitment to child survival and health and continues the focus on diseases that remain a challenge around the world including HIV/AIDS and malaria. In addition, the targets aim for a reduction of neonatal mortality of at least 12 per 1,000 births and under-5 mortality of at least 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030. Importantly, the new targets recognize non-communicable diseases as a growing global health issue and acknowledge the importance of social determinants of health. The targets also address the need to strengthen health systems and provide social safety nets.

Goal 4: Education

Why it matters for children: Despite achieving great success since 2000, progress towards achieving universal primary education has stalled. In addition, many children who attend school do not learn.[12] According to figures from 2013, 124 million children between ages 6 and 15 never started or had dropped out of school.[13]About 130 million children have not learned literacy and mathematic basics despite spending four years in school.[14]

What the goal does: The goal recognizes that learning should begin early and continue through at least secondary school. It also acknowledges the importance of improving education quality. The targets introduce early childhood care and education to the global development agenda, an acknowledgement of the crucial role early education and care play in providing every child a fair start in life.Critically, the targetscall for accessible education for all children – whether girl, boy, disabled, indigenous or living in a vulnerable situation.

Goal 5: Gender equality

Why it matters for children: Ending discrimination against women and girls and achieving gender equality is critical for achieving the world we want. However girls face many obstacles. For example: Nearly a quarter of girls aged 15 to 19 reported being victims of violence since they turned 15;[15]in 2012, 17 per cent of women were married between 15 and 19 years of age;[16]in 2013, girls accounted for nearly two thirds of new HIV infections among adolescents aged 15 to 19.[17]

What the goal does: Goal 5 provides strong targets on critical gender equality issues that affect children including empowerment, discrimination, violence against women and girls, child marriage and female genital mutilation and cutting. It also calls for policies and legislation that protect and empower girls and women. Boys and men will play a critical role in changing attitudes and behaviours that harm women and girls.

Goal 6: Water, sanitation and hygiene

Why it matters for children: Development efforts in the past 15 years have failed to reach the world’s most vulnerable children. The latest data tells us that:[18] 663 million people still do not have access to improved sources of drinking water; an estimated 2.4 billion people use unimproved sanitation facilities; 946 million practice open defecation. Investing in children’s access to water, sanitation and hygiene positions them to be agents of behaviour change in families and communities.[19]

What the goal does: It furthers the efforts of the Millennium Development Goals by clearly stating the need to achieve universal and equitable access to clean and safe water and sanitation. The goal also calls for an end to open defecation and acknowledges the dangers it presents, especially for girls and women.

Goal 8: Economic growth and employment

Why it matters for children: Economic growth and employment directly affect the financial stability of children and families. In addition, as children grow up and enter the workforce, they will need to find jobs – a task that becomes increasingly difficult in a world where young people between the ages of 15 and 24 make up 36 per cent of people unemployed worldwide.[20]In 2012, an estimated 11 per cent of children globally wereengaged in child labour and nearly half werein hazardous work that endangered their health, safety and moral development.[21]

What the goal does: It calls for work opportunities for young people and decent pay. Importantly, the target also requires steps towards the “elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers.” It also calls for the end of child labour by 2025 and encourages a global strategy on youth employment.

Goal 10: Inequalities

Why it matters for children: Too many children start life burdened by inequalities that deprive them of a fair chance to survive, thrive and reach their full potential. For example: children from the poorest households are nearly two times as likely to die before their fifth birthday as those from the wealthiest;[22] children in low-income households are 1.5 times as likely to be malnourished as children in households in the top 60 per cent of incomes;[23]the poorest children are five times more likely to be out of school than the richest.[24]

What the goal does: The goal focuses on inequalities with targets that call for progress in income growth for the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average. However, targets are included on regulation of global financial markets, an enhanced voice for developing countries in decision-making processes and trade agreements involving developing countries. The achievement of this goal requires a focus on dismantling discriminatory laws, policies and practices that perpetuate inequalities based on age, sex, wealth, ethnicity, disability and geographic location. For effective and sustainable outcomes,people who are traditionally excluded will need to be part of the solutions.

Goal 11: Human settlements

Why it matters for children:Over half the world’s people – including more than a billion children –lived in cities and towns in 2012.[25]And this number is growing.[26]For many children, urban life increases access to education, medical attention and recreation. However, too many are denied electricity, clean water and health care. There are great disparities in urban areas and, by 2020, 1.4 billion people will live in informal settlements and urban slums.[27]

What the goal does: Every child has the right to a living environment that is safe and services that are central to their health, mobility and well-being. The goal calls for access, by 2030, to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, better road safety andmore public transport that provides for the needs of women, children, people with disabilities, the elderly and vulnerable populations. The goal also calls for access to green and public spaces by 2030 and integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and resilience to disasters.

Goal 13: Climate change

Why it matters for children: Typically, about 50 to 60 per cent of the population affected by disasters are children.[28]Three quarters of all disasters are climate related.[29] Climate change can affect children in many ways: For example, families that lose their livelihoods in climate change-related disasters are often less able to afford health care or schooling costs. In addition, many interventions that help mitigate climate change, such as more efficient and clean cook stoves and expansion of solar energy solutions, can have large positive health impacts on children.

What the goal does: It calls for integrating climate change policies into national strategies and plans. The targets also address the commitments made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that require developed nations to mobilizeUS$100 billion annually to address the mitigation needs of developing countries.

The goal on climate change is linked to Goal 7, which calls for universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services by 2030. For children, this goal is an important environmental advancement. Lack of modern energy sources in the home exposes children to household air pollution such as soot that can affect their health, safety, education and well-being.

Goal 16: Violence

Why it matters for children: Violence against children is a pervasive and universal problem that threatens the lives and futures of millions of children and damages the social fabric of communities and nations. The numbers are shocking: Homicide took the lives of 95,000 children under age 20 in 2012 – nearly one in five homicides; about 1 of every 10 girls under age 20 has been raped or subjected to a forced sexual act; nearly 1 in 3 students aged 13 to 15 report involvement in one or more physical fight in the past year.[30]

What the goal does: One of the major achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals is the introduction of violence and protection to the international development agenda. The targets for the goal includeending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against children. There is also a target on birth registration, which is crucial to guarantee the fundamental right of all children to an identity.




[1] United Nations Children’s Fund, Why Sustainable Energy Matters to children: The critical importance of sustainable energy for children and future generations, UNICEF, New York, 2015.

[2] World Bank Group, Global Monitoring Report 2014/2015: Ending Poverty and Sharing Prosperity, World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2015, p. xi.

[3]United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Beyond Averages: Learning from the MDGs’, Progress for Children, No. 11, UNICEF, New York, June 2015, p. 15.

[4] United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Beyond Averages: Learning from the MDGs’, Progress for Children, No. 11, UNICEF, New York, June 2015, p. 15.

[5] United Nations Children’s Fund,’ A Fair Chance for Every Child, UNICEF Executive Board Special Session on Equity’, Conference Room Paper, UNICEF, New York, June 2015, p. 25.

[6]United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Beyond Averages: Learning from the MDGs’, Progress for Children, No. 11, UNICEF, New York, June 2015, p. 26.

[7] Black, Robert E., et al., ‘Maternal and Child Nutrition: Building momentum for impact’, Lancet, vol. 382, no 9890, 3 August 2013, pp. 372-375.

[8] International Food Policy Research Institute, Global Nutrition Report 2014: Actions and Accountability to Accelerate the World’s Progress on Nutrition, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, D.C., 2014, p. 8.

[9] United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Beyond Averages: Learning from the MDGs’, Progress for Children, No. 11, UNICEF, New York, June 2015, p. 26.

[10]United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Beyond Averages: Learning from the MDGs’, Progress for Children No. 11, UNICEF, New York, June 2015, p. 38.; United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Beyond Averages: Learning from the MDGs’, Progress for Children No. 11, UNICEF, New York, June 2015, p. 39.

[11]Resnick, Michael D., et al., ‘Seizing the opportunities of adolescent health’, The Lancet, vol. 379, 28 April 2012, pp. 1564-1566.

[12]United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and UNESCO Institute for Statistics, ‘A growing number of children and adolescents are out of school as aid fails to meet the mark’, Policy Paper no. 22, Fact Sheet no. 31, UNESCO and UIS, Montreal, July 2015.

[13] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and UNESCO Institute for Statistics, ‘A growing number of children and adolescents are out of school as aid fails to meet the mark’, Policy Paper no. 22, Fact Sheet no. 31, UNESCO and UIS, Montreal, July 2015.

[14] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Institute for Statistics, Education for All Global Monitoring Report: Achievements and Challenges 2000 – 2015, UNESCO, Paris, March 2015, p. 189.

[15]United Nations Children’s Fund, Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against Children, UNICEF, New York, 2014.

[16] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2000–2015: Achievements and Challenges, UNESCO, Paris, March 2015, p. 165.

[17] United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Beyond Averages: Learning from the MDGs’, Progress for Children No. 11, UNICEF, New York, June 2015, p. 39.

[18] World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund, 25 Years of Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 update and MDG Assessment, WHO, UNICEF, Geneva and New York, June 2015.

[19] United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Community Approaches to Total Sanitation: Based on case studies from India, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Zambia’, Field Notes series, UNICEF, New York, 2009, p. 23.

[20] United Nations Population Fund, The State of World Population 2014: The Power of 1.8 Billion Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future, UNPFA, New York, P. 34.

[21] International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, Marking Progress Against Child Labour: Global estimates and trends 2002 – 2012, International Labour Organization, Geneva, 2013, p. vii.

[22] United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Beyond Averages: Learning from the MDGs’, Progress for Children No. 11, UNICEF, New York, June 2015, p. 26.

[23] World Bank Group, Global Monitoring Report 2014/2015: Ending Poverty and Sharing Prosperity, World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2015, p. xi.

[24] United Nations Children’s Fund, ‘Beyond Averages: Learning from the MDGs’, Progress for Children No. 11, UNICEF, New York, June 2015, p. 3.

[25]United Nations Children’s Fund, The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World, UNICEF, New York, p. iv.

[26]United Nations Children’s Fund, The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World, UNICEF, New York, p. 2.

[27]United Nations Children’s Fund, The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World, UNICEF, New York, p. 4.

[28] United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and Child-Centred Disaster Risk Reduction, UNICEF, New York, p. 3 http://www.unicefinemergencies.com/downloads/eresource/docs/DRR/Child-centred%20DRR.pdf

[29] United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Children’s Fund, OXFAM, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, Disaster risk reduction makes development sustainable, p. 4. http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/crisis%20prevention/UNDP_CPR_CTA_20140901.pdf,

[30] United Nations Children’s Fund, Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against Children, UNICEF, New York, 2014.

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