‘Ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all at all ages is essential to sustainable development.’ – is what the UN emphasizes in regards to the SDG #3. When reading through the statistics highlighted in regards to this goal, it becomes evident that at the core of SDG number 3 lays the prevention of child and maternal mortality as well as infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The current situation concerning each one can be summarized as follows:
- While 17,000 fewer children die each day than in 1990, more than six million children still die before their fifth birthday each year.
- Maternal mortality has fallen by almost 50 per cent since 1990.
- At the end of 2014, there were 13.6 million people accessing antiretroviral therapy. New HIV infections in 2013 were estimated at 2.1 million, which was 38 per cent lower than in 2001.
Generally, according to the UN major progress has been made on increasing access to clean water and sanitation, reducing malaria, tuberculosis, polio and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Hence while there has been a substantial change and effort to improve the health situation of children, mothers and HIV/AIDS affected individuals, there is also still a lot of work to be done.
The targets for the future set out by the UN are manifold. By 2030 the UN hopes to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births as well as end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age.
The means with which these targets can be reached are varied and reach into public, private and the third sector alike: education obviously plays a very big role. According to UN facts, children of educated mothers, even mothers with only primary schooling, are more likely to survive than children of mothers with no education. Furthermore sexual education is one of the major means of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
But even the private sector has a role to play in regards to SDG #3. At minimum business has a responsibility to respect all human rights, including the right to health. Small, medium and large companies can both benefit from and contribute to achieving healthy societies. The SDGs provide a new opportunity for the private sector to support the delivery of health needs around the world through their products, services and business activities including value chains and distribution networks, communication activities, occupational health and safety practices and provision of employee benefits.
Lastly, while the governments of most of the 193 participating countries will be predominantly working on realizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, it will be civil society – also known as the social sector, the nonprofit sector or the “third” sector – that carries the major share of the burden.
And yet civil society is only marginally part of the UN’s plans for measurement, monitoring and implementation of the SDGs. Surely national governments are not expected to implement the SDGs on their own, but while the importance of engaging civil society is mentioned, there is little guidance on which structures may be put in place to support this process. That may be due to a lack of awareness about the fundamental role that civil society plays, by in touch and working with citizens in achieving the SDGs on an every day basis.
The Sustainable Development Goal number 3 is a necessary challenge for our societies in order to protect the vulnerable from easily avoidable suffering and death. And while there are still many more steps to be taken, the path towards good health and well-being for all – regardless of gender, age or socio-economic background – is slowly being pathed.
This is part 4/18 of a series on the Sustainable Development Goals.