United Methodist Committee on Relief

Sustaining a Better World

The UN’s new, post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals aim at a continuing better future for the world’s poor.

The UN’s post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals will aim at a continuing better future for the world’s poor.

By David Tereshchuk*

September 19, 2013—Our new century—and new millennium—dawned 13 years ago, to great expectations.

At the United Nations, the world’s governments signed onto a set of targets—the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs—for improving the lives of the world’s poorest. The goals were ambitious, and they aimed at being achieved by 2015.

That target year is now, of course, fast approaching. Much progress has been recorded in meeting the eight high-profile goals, from halving the proportion of the world’s population living in hunger … to ensuring gender equality worldwide. But it remains debatable whether, by the time the remaining two-plus years expire, full-scale global success can realistically be demonstrated or even effectively measured. Nevertheless, there is appreciation that the MDGs provided some amount of focus and prioritization for the global development community.

Intensive efforts certainly will need to continue, and already the international community is laying out fresh guidelines, what are now being referred to as “Sustainable Development Goals,” for the world’s longer-term future. With the Sustainable Development Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 as the prime forum for seeking consensus, the 68th UN General Assembly, meeting this month in New York City, will consider 10 proposed goals to pave the way forward.

The proposed goals are to:

  1. End extreme poverty including hunger;
  2. Achieve development within planetary boundaries;
  3. Ensure effective learning for all children and youth for life and livelihood;
  4. Achieve gender equality, social inclusion and human rights for all;
  5. Achieve health and well-being at all ages;
  6. Improve agriculture systems and raise rural prosperity;
  7. Empower inclusive, productive, and resilient cities;
  8. Curb human-induced climate change and ensure sustainable energy;
  9. Secure ecosystem services and biodiversity, and ensure good management of water and other natural resources;
  10. Transform governance for sustainable development.

Wherever this new approach may be applied in the future, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is likely to find itself at the heart of the work.

In the words of UMCOR’s Associate General Secretary for International Development, Melissa Crutchfield: “These Sustainable Development Goals are an encouragingly close match with all of UMCOR’s hopes and intentions—especially as they stress the need for long-lasting forms of improvement.”

The emphasis that UMCOR places on disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a powerful example of that close match with the proposed goals. DRR seeks to ensure both effective responses to emergencies in vulnerable communities and reliable ways to minimize the danger of future disasters in those communities.

“That’s exactly what the Sustainable Development Goals policy is aiming for,” says Crutchfield. “One particular example—‘empowering resilient cities’—will boost our work to build greater local capacity everywhere for mitigating the effects of future disasters.”

Shannon Trilli, Global Health director for UMCOR, sees the new goals as a powerful focus for ensuring a healthier future for vulnerable populations, as well as for combating current sickness and injury.

“United Methodists have always cared for the health and well-being particularly of vulnerable populations, children, and pregnant women. We will maintain that focus and, in fact, go deeper into the success we have demonstrated in the area of malaria, HIV/AIDS, and maternal and child survival programming, and match that with an even greater concentration on water, sanitation, and hygiene,” she says. 

“No matter how sophisticated our hospitals are, how talented the doctors and health staff, or how many community health workers we help to train,” Trilli indicates, “communities will continue to get and remain sick unless we help them achieve continuing access to clean water and hygiene facilities.”

And, she adds, “We also aim to leverage the inter-connected nature of our programs and the ways health, climate control, and gender equality issues must all be addressed, many times simultaneously and in an integrated manner, to get at the greater issue of poverty.”

Your gift to UMCOR Advance # 999895 will support UMCOR’s work to help vulnerable communities throughout the world build a safer and healthier future.

*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to

Your gift to UMCOR Advance # 999895 will support UMCOR’s work to help vulnerable communities throughout the world build a safer and healthier future.