United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – Courses

Adopted by the United Nations in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 goals with 169 targets that the UN is committed to working towards through the year 2023 with the hope of creating lasting positive change and freedom in the general areas of People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership. The purpose of these goals is to create a framework for development programs that will focus on eradicating poverty, hunger, violence, fear, and disease and promoting literacy, equality, human rights, sanitation and hygiene, education, and physical, mental, and social well-being. These goals are meant to build on the Millennium Development Goals and work towards the three key areas the UN identifies for sustainability, which are economic, social, and environmental development.

The SDG Initiative

In addition to the implementation of the SDGs, 17 various universities have worked to create an initiative to educate learners about the SDGs and how they can contribute to achieving them. Coursera is the primary platform where these courses are offered for the general public in the form of online classes with the hope of increasing participation in the work being done towards these goals. The courses often provide a hands-on experience with an NGO or international organization who is working to achieve the SDGs through their work. The participating universities hope to offer a global education on these goals and ways to get involved.

The SDGs and Courses Offered

The SDGs are 17 goals with a total of 169 targets among them, most of which are meant to be achieved by 2030. These goals strive to work towards sustainable economic, social, and environmental development on a global scale. You can read in-depth reports about these goals and the progress being made towards achieving them at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org. Courses offered through the SDG initiative cover one or more of the goals through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

No poverty (Goal 1)

  • Goal 1—No poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere. The hope for this goal is to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 (defined by people living under $1.25/day) and to reduce the number of men, women, and children living in poverty by at least half. It also strives to implement social protections and measures for all people, including increasing and ensuring equal economic and social access for all people and reducing the vulnerability of the poor to situations such as climate-related events and other shocks and disasters.

Available MOOCs on SDG 1:

Zero hunger (Goal 2)

  • Goal 2—Zero hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. This goal strives to end hunger and ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all people all year round by the year 2030. It also strives to end malnutrition, particularly for children under the age of five, adolescent girls, pregnant women, and older persons. It hopes to double the agriculture and incomes for small-scale farmers/producers, ensure sustainable and resilient food production systems, and maintain genetic diversity in seeds, plants, and animals.

Available MOOCs on SDG 2:

Good health and well-being (Goal 3)

  • Goal 3—Good health and well-being: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Through this goal, the hope is to significantly reduce the maternal mortality rate, end preventable deaths for newborns and children under five years of age, and end the disease epidemics for AIDs, malaria, tuberculosis, tropical diseases, hepatitis, water-borne diseases, and other communicable diseases. It also strives to reduce premature mortality from communicable diseases, strengthen prevention and treatment of substance abuse, and halve the number of deaths and injuries from traffic accidents. This goal also focuses on promoting global access to sexual and reproductive health services, achieving universal health coverage, and reducing the number of deaths from hazardous chemicals in air, water, and soil.

Available MOOCs on SDG 3:

Quality education (Goal 4)

  • Goal 4—Quality education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. The first target of this goal is to ensure that all children complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education. This goal also focuses on ensuring that all children have access to quality early childhood education and care, ensuring access affordable vocational training (including university) for all people, and increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills for employment. The goal also strives to eliminate gender disparity in education, as well as a significant portion of illiteracy in youth and adults. It also hopes to ensure that all learners acquire knowledge and skills to promote sustainable development and to build education facilities that are safe and sensitive to all needs, including disabilities.

Available MOOCs on SDG 4:

Gender equality (Goal 5)

  • Goal 5—Gender equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. This goal will work to end global discrimination of women and girls, end all forms of violence against women and girls, and eliminate harmful practices against women and girls such as childhood marriage and female genital mutilation. It also strives to provide services for those doing unpaid care and domestic work, ensure full and effective participation of women at all political, economic, and public levels of decision-making, and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare.

Available MOOCs on SDG 5:

Clean water and sanitation (Goal 6)

  • Goal 6—Clean water and sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. This goal hopes to provide equal access to safe and affordable drinking water for all people, as well as achieving adequate sanitation and hygiene for all. It strives to improve water quality through the reduction of pollution and increase water-use efficiency. Through this goal, they also hope to implement water resource management and increase the protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems.

Available MOOCs on SDG 6:

Affordable and clean energy (Goal 7)

  • Goal 7—Affordable and clean energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. This goal strives to ensure that all people have access to affordable, reliable, modern energy source and increase the share of renewable energy resources. It also hopes to double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency through the enhancement of international cooperation in access to clean energy research and technology and through the expansion of infrastructure and technology.

Available MOOCs on SDG 7:

Decent work and economic growth (Goal 8)

  • Goal 8—Decent work and economic growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. This goal focuses on sustaining per capita economic growth and growing gross domestic product in the least developed countries. It also strives to help countries achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversity, technological upgrades, and more, as well as promoting development-oriented policies to support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation. They also want to improve global resource efficiency in consumption and production, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, and reduce the number of youth not in employment, education, or training. Through this goal, they also hope to eradicate forced labor, modern slavery, and human trafficking, as well as promote safe and secure work environments, protect labor rights, promote sustainable tourism, and strengthen the capacity of domestic financial institutions.

Available MOOCs on SDG 8:

Industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9)

  • Goal 9—Industry, innovation and infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. This goal strives to increase and improve infrastructure to support economic development and human well-being, as well as promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization. The goal focuses on increasing access to financial services for small-scale industrial enterprises, increasing use of clean technology and industrial processes, and increasing research, upgraded technologies, and innovation.

Available MOOCs on SDG 9:

 

Reduced Inequalities (Goal 10)

  • Goal 10—Reduced inequalities: Reduce inequality in and among countries. This goal focuses on increasing and sustaining income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population, as well as promoting global inclusion, ensuring equal opportunities and reducing inequalities in legislation and policies, and adopting policies that will promote equality and social protection. The goal also wants to improve regulation of and strengthen global financial markets, increase representation of developing countries in global decision-making processes, and facilitate migration and mobility of people that is safe, orderly, and responsible.

Available MOOCs on SDG 10:

 

Sustainable Cities and Communities (Goal 11)

  • Goal 11—Sustainable cities and communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The target areas of this goal strive to provide access to safe and affordable housing for all, access to safe and affordable transportation for all, and inclusive and sustainable urbanization, planning, and management. It also hopes to achieve strengthened efforts in protecting cultural and natural heritage, reduction in the number of deaths and economic losses related to disaster, and reduction in the adverse environmental impact on cities from air quality and waste management. It also hopes to provide global access to safe and inclusive green spaces.

Available MOOCs on SDG 11:

Responsible consumption and production (Goal 12)

  • Goal 12—Responsible consumption and production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. This goal includes the implementation of a 10-year framework for sustainable consumption and production and hopes to achieve sustainable management of natural resources. It also strives to reduce global food waste by half, achieve environmentally sound management of chemicals and wastes, reduce waste overall, and encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices. This goal will also promote sustainable procurement practices and work to increase information and awareness on sustainable development and lifestyles.

Available MOOCs on SDG 12:

Climate change (Goal 13)

  • Goal 13—Climate change: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. This goal strives to strengthen the capacity to deal with climate-related hazards and natural disasters, in addition to integrating climate change measures into national policies and improving education and awareness surrounding climate change and its impact.

Available MOOCs on SDG 13:

 

Life below water (Goal 14)

  • Goal 14—Life below water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The targets of this goal focus on preventing and reducing marine pollution, managing and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems, and minimizing the effects of ocean acidification. It also strives to regulate harvesting and end overfishing, as well as conserve at least 10 percent of marine and coastal areas by 2020 and prohibit certain types of fisheries from overfishing and overcapacity. Finally, it hopes to increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and other developing countries through sustainable use of marine resources.

Available MOOCs on SDG 14:

Life on land (Goal 15)

  • Goal 15—Life on land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. This goal focuses on ensuring conservation and restoration of terrestrial ecosystems, including promoting the implementation of sustainable management of forests, combating desertification, and ensuring the conservation of mountain ecosystems. It will also work to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, promote fair sharing of genetic resources, end poaching and trafficking of protected species, and prevent the introduction and negative impact of alien species on various ecosystems. It also hopes to promote the integration of ecosystem and biodiversity values into planning and development processes.

Available MOOCs on SDG 15:

  • Courses under development.

 

Peace, justice, and strong institutions (Goal 16)

  • Goal 16—Peace, justice, and strong institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. This goals purpose is to reduce all forms of violence and violent deaths, end abuse, trafficking, and exploitation of children, and promote rule of law at all levels to ensure access to justice. Included in this goal is the reduction of illegal financial and arms flow, the reduction of corruption and bribery, and the development of accountable and transparent institutions. Additionally, this goal strives to ensure responsive, inclusive, and participatory decision-making at all levels, broaden the participation of countries in global governance, provide legal identity and birth registration for all people, and ensure public access to information and the protection of fundamental freedoms.

Available MOOCs on SDG 16:

 

Partnership for the goals (Goal 17)

  • Goal 17—Partnership for the goals: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. This goal targets the specific areas of finance, technology, capacity-building, trade, and systemic issues. In the area of finance, this goal plans to work towards strengthening domestic resource mobilization, fully implementing development assistance commitments in developing countries, and increasing financial assistance and access for developing countries. For technology, the goal strives to enhance regional and international cooperation and access to science, technology, and innovation, as well as promote environmentally sound technologies, and fully implement mechanisms to improve technology and capacity-building in the areas of science, technology, and innovation. The capacity-building target focuses on enhancing international support for capacity-building in developing countries. Around trade, this goal works to promote a universal, inclusive trade system through the World Trade Organization, increase exports of developing countries, and implement duty-free/quota-free market access for developing countries. The targets for systemic issues, also known as policy and institutional coherence, focus on enhancing global macroeconomic stability, enhancing policy coherence, respecting individual countries’ leadership and policies, enhancing global partnership in sustainable development, promoting effective partnerships between public, private-public, and civil society, enhancing support for capacity-building in developing countries, and build on initiatives to development measurements of sustainable development.

Available MOOCs on SDG 17:

  • University of Arizona (SDG Partner Project)
    The Orbital Perspective
    PROJECT Earthrise-2068 is a project that celebrates our profound interdependence and brings together astronauts, scientists, experts, philosophers, engineers, students and everyday citizens to conceive a positive future and act to achieve it. Using the 50 and 100-year anniversaries of the first viewing of Earth from space, the project will encourage a worldwide systems approach that regards our planet in a comprehensive way that can lead to healing interpersonal conflict and yield a new conscience for the planet’s care and protection.
  • Leiden University (SDG Partner Project)
    Political Economy of Institutions and development
    PROJECT Partnering with Development Done Differently. Participants will analyse a (local) NGO and suggest possible improvements for effectiveness. 
  • Other courses under development.

Find out more on the SDG Initative.

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