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The new Secretary-General, António Guterres, has reaffirmed the UN’s support for achievement of the SDGs as a strategic priority for change.

Story by UN India February 7th, 2017

India has played an important role in shaping this ambitious agenda and is the stage where this global agenda will be achieved. India's decision to develop a Vision Document, led by NITI Aayog at the centre and the state governments at the federal level is a testament to its commitment to planning for the long term. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted, “These goals reflect our evolving understanding of the social, economic and environmental linkages that define our lives.”

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Although poverty has declined significantly over the past two decades, one in every five Indians continues to live in extreme poverty.

Eradicating poverty is at the core of India’s national priorities with schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the National Social Assistance Programme.



India is home to a quarter of the undernourished population in the world. How food is grown and consumed has significant impact on levels of hunger, but it doesn’t end there. If done right, agriculture and forests can become sources of decent incomes for the global population.

The government has also taken critical steps to enhance food security, including through an India-wide targeted public distribution system, a National Nutrition Mission and the National Food Security Act. India is also leading the way to improve agriculture through schemes like Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture.

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Ensuring good health and well being

India’s maternal mortality ratio has declined to 167 per 100,000 live births and the under five mortality rate has reduced to 49 per 1,000 live births. However, urgent action is needed to rein in the undernutrition of children; 45 million children under five in the country are stunted and 17 million wasted.

Flagship schemes under the National Health Mission such as the Janani-Shishu Suraksha Karyakram, India Newborn Action Plan, and Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram address the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health needs of the population.


Universalising access to quality education

India has achieved gender parity in primary education and is on track to achieving universal primary education. With the total enrolment rate at 23% and only 22.7% of girls pursuing higher education, reducing dropout rates and universalising higher education are high priority areas for the Government.

The flagship government scheme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, aims at achieving universal quality education for all Indians, and is complemented in this effort by targeted schemes on nutritional support, higher education, and teacher training.

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Gender inequality in India is a challenge, limiting the avenues for socioeconomic empowerment of half of its population. The child sex ratio, 918 girls for 1,000 boys, continues to be a concern.

The flagship Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative aiming at equal opportunity and education for girls, specific interventions on female employment and empowering adolescent girls, Sukanya Samridhi Yojana on girl child prosperity and Janani Suraksha Yojana for mothers reiterate India’s commitment to gender equality.


Improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene

Lack of sanitation facilities, unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene practices such as open defecation have serious public health implications for the country.

The Government has launched programmes such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and National Rural Drinking Water Programme to improve sanitation and drinking water supply, especially in rural areas.


Tapping clean energy sources

India, projected to contribute to a quarter of the total global energy demand, has made significant efforts towards addressing its energy needs, exploring clean energy sources.

The National Solar Mission has contributed significantly in the efforts towards renewable energy, along with other interventions in rural electrification and new ultra mega power projects for achieving universal energy access.

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Facilitating inclusive economic growth

India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, is working to capitalise on its demographic dividend (the largest youth population in the world at over 360 million) by facilitating higher education and skilling of young people on a large scale to meet the global demand. The labour force is projected to grow by more than eight million each year, and the country will need to generate 280 million jobs by 2050.

The National Skill Development Mission, Deendayal Upadhyaya Antodaya Yojana and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme aim at sustainable and inclusive growth.

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Driving sustainable industrial development

Sustainable industrial development depends on improved and resilient infrastructure using technological innovation, inter-border cooperation, and promotion of micro, small and medium enterprises.

The Government’s prioritisation of innovative and sustainable industrial and economic growth is reaffirmed through its flagship schemes, such as Make in India, Start Up India and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Shramev Jayate Karyakram.

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Empowering the marginalised

Poverty, illiteracy and social justice for the marginalised are core concerns for India as it strives for sustainable and inclusive development.

Special social justice schemes and special courts have been set up to address instances of atrocities and violence. The Government’s Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile programmes are part of its comprehensive strategy of inclusion, financial empowerment and social security.


Creating sustainable cities of the future

By 2030, India will have six mega-cities with populations over 10 million. Rapid urbanisation will entail the creation of inclusive cities with adequate infrastructure and services for all residents.

The Government has prioritised sustainable urban development and launched initiatives such as the Smart Cities Mission, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation.


Ensuring sustainable use of resources

With 315 million urban residents expected by 2040, sustainable resource management is a key priority for India.

The Government’s National Policy on Biofuels and the National Clean Energy Fund aim to achieve sustainable consumption, production and management of natural resources.


Gearing up for climate change

India has formally ratified the Paris Agreement and has committed to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020.

Schemes such as the National Action Plan on Climate Change and National Mission for Green India as well as initiatives around use of solar energy, enhanced energy efficiency, water management and sustainable habitats are part of the Government’s strategy to reduce emissions and ensure climate resilience.


Protecting coasts and marine biodiversity

With 35% of its population living in coastal areas and fisheries a vital source of livelihood, coastal and marine biodiversity protection is a key focus area for India. Nearly half of the country’s coast experiences erosion, threatening the wellbeing of coastal communities and marine habitats.

The government’s Sagarmala Project, also known as the Blue Revolution, aims to improve the condition of the country’s ports and coastlines. The government has also implemented a National Plan for the Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems to conserve marine ecosystems.


Conserving land ecosystems

With 275 million Indians depending on agriculture and a quarter of the agricultural land affected by desertification, land degradation is a top priority for the country. India is home to 8% of the world’s biodiversity with many species not found elsewhere in the world.

The country’s National Afforestation Programme and a national programme on the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats aim at the conservation of land ecosystems.



With over 300,000 crimes against women reported every year, India needs to do more to address gender-based violence in all its manifestations. Human trafficking is another core challenge area for the country.

The Government has prioritised the strengthening of justice through initiatives such as Pragati Platform and the Development of Infrastructure Facilities for the Judiciary, including Gram Nyayalays for villages.


Partnering for global sustainable development

Recognising the importance of inclusive partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society for sustainable development, India, a key player in the new global partnership guided by the SDGs, has made tangible efforts to build networks within the region and with the world.


The country’s active participation and leadership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS and its New Development Bank, and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, as well as with UN agencies and programmes around the world are testament to its growing global role.