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The UAE and the UN’s 17 SDGs

Table of the UN's 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs)

Ahead of COP 28 in the UAE in 2023, we look at the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), and how the UAE is aligning itself to that vision of sustainability in 2030.

At the heart of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are 17 SDGs, which it says are an “urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership”.

The SDGs form the “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”.

They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations go hand in hand with improving health and education, reducing inequality and spurring economic growth, while tackling climate change and preserving our oceans and forests.

In this post:

‘Translating passion into action’

The UAE, which had an important role in the creation of the SDGs, has aligned its national strategy to the SDGs, first in Vision 2021 for the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, and then in its Vision 2071 for the UAE centennial.

HE Reem bint Ebrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and chairwoman of the UAE National Committee on SDGs, says the goals are “part of our national development outcomes”.

“Actions drive impact, and impact drives results. With conscientious efforts and unwavering ambitions, the UAE is translating its passion into action to ensure that humanity and the planet thrive for generations to come,” she says.

Table 1: The 17 UN SDGs

SDG #SDG nameSDG description
SDG 1No povertyEnd poverty in all its forms, everywhere
SDG 2Zero hungerEnd hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
SDG 3Good health and wellbeingEnsure healthy, healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
SDG 4Quality educationEnsure inclusive and equitable quality education  and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
SDG 5Gender equalityAchieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
SDG 6Clean water and sanitationEnsure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
SDG 7Affordable and clean energyEnsure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
SDG 8Decent work and economic growthPromote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
SDG 9Industry, innovation and infrastructureBuild resilient infrastructure promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation
SDG 10Reduced inequalitiesReduce inequality within and among countries
SDG 11Sustainable cities and communitiesMake cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
SDG 12Responsible consumption and productionEnsure sustainable consumption and production patterns
SDG 13Climate actionTake urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
SDG 14Life below waterConserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
SDG 15Life on landProtect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests to combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss goals
SDG 16Peace, justice and strong institutionsPromote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
SDG 17Partnerships for the goalsStrengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development


Who co-ordinates the UAE’s SDG efforts?

In 2017 the UAE federal government established the National Committee on SDGs.

HE Reem bint Ebrahim al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, chairs the National CommitteeHE Abdulla Nasser Lootah, Director General of the UAE Prime Minister’s Office, is the committee’s vice-chair.

The committee has set up private sector and youth advisory councils, and launched the Global Councils on SDGs in 2018.

Member ministries include:

  • Ministry of Cabinet Affairs
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation
  • Ministry of Education
  • Ministry of Economy
  • Ministry of Interior
  • Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation
  • Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure
  • Ministry of Community Development
  • Ministry of Climate Change & Environment
  • Federal Competitiveness & Statistics Centre
  • Ministry of Health and Prevention
  • Ministry of Finance
  • Central Bank of the UAE
  • Federal Youth Authority
  • UAE Gender Balance Council

Portfolio agencies, such as the Ministries of Education, Health and Energy, co-ordinate the implementation of SDGs that most closely correspond to their core business.

However, they also support agencies for other SDGs.

For instance, the Ministry of Health & Prevention, the lead agency for SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing), collaborates with the Gender Balance Council and the Ministry of Climate Change & Environment to advance targets in SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 2 (zero hunger).

The Gender Balance Council leads efforts to progress SDG 5, and also works to address gender-specific issues across the SDG framework.

SDG targets are also mapped to federal agencies that are not part of the National Committee. For instance the Ministry of Justice advances targets in SDG 16 (Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions), working closely with the Ministry of Interior.

“Successful nations are not gauged by their size, but the speed by which they accomplish achievements and bring forward innovative solutions to challenges in transitioning to the future, as well as active participation in making a difference in the lives of people.”

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai

Table 2: UAE mapping of SDGs to Vision 2021

Pillars of UAE National Agenda (Vision 2021)

SDG #Name of SDGWorld-class healthcareCompetitive knowledge economySustainable environment and infrastructureFirst-rate education systemSafe, public and fair judiciaryCohesive society and preserved identity
SDG 1No povertyxxx
SDG 2Zero hungerxx
SDG 3Good health and wellbeingxxxx
SDG 4Quality educationxx
SDG 5Gender equalityxxx
SDG 6Clean water and sanitationxxx
SDG 7Affordable and clean energyxx
SDG 8Decent work and economic growthx
SDG 9Industry, innovation and infrastructurexx
SDG 10Reduced inequalitiesx
SDG 11Sustainable cities and communitiesxxx
SDG 12Responsible consumption and productionxx
SDG 13Climate actionxxx
SDG 14Life below waterx
SDG 15Life on landxx
SDG 16Peace, justice and strong institutionsxxx
SDG 17Partnerships for the goalsxx

Source: UAE National Committee on SDGs

How Aurora50 aligns with the UAE’s SDG efforts

Aurora50’s work is directly aligned to SDG-5, gender equality.

As we have spread our wings to cover all diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, we also see our work falling under:

  • SDG-3 (good health and wellbeing).
  • SDG-4 (quality education and lifelong learning)
  • SDG-8 (decent work and economic growth)
  • SDG-10 (reduced inequalities)

SDG-13, climate action, also sits well with environment, social and corporate governance (ESG), a big driver of DEI.

Aurora50 services: tracking the SDGs

  1. Pathway20: A year-long accelerator for women board directors aiming for their first independent board role
  2. NOORA: The UAE’s first network for corporate women
  3. The Inclusion Summit:MENA region’s largest cross-industry DEI event: an assembly of hundreds of chairs, board members and C-suite executives
  4. Gateway: Virtual workshops to open the boardroom door to senior and mid-level women executives
  5. Table Talks: Customisable, curated in-house discussions to build inclusive leaders and teams
  6. Manarat: A club for the GCC’s women directors on listed boards

Abu Dhabi Ports Group’s work with Aurora50 on its in-house GLOW management accelerator was lauded in a Bain report on gender equity in the Middle East workforce, while the Tony Blair Institute name-checked Aurora50’s work with the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) in its report on the modernisation of the Middle East.

Aurora50 also tracks the companies that have signed the Gender Balance Council’s SDG 5 pledge to put women in 30 percent of leadership roles by 2030.

Table 3: Aurora50’s work mapped to the UN SDGs

SDG #Name of SDGAurora50 focus
SDG 1No poverty
SDG 2Zero hunger
SDG 3Good health and wellbeingx
SDG 4Quality educationx
SDG 5Gender equalityx
SDG 6Clean water and sanitation
SDG 7Affordable and clean energy
SDG 8Decent work and economic growthx
SDG 9Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 10Reduced inequalitiesx
SDG 11Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13Climate actionx
SDG 14Life below water
SDG 15Life on land
SDG 16Peace, justice and strong institutions
SDG 17Partnerships for the goals
Energy trees at Expo 2020's Terra sustainability pavilion. Photo by Dany Eid/ Expo 2020 Dubai
Energy trees at Expo 2020’s Terra sustainability pavilion. Photo by Dany Eid/ Expo 2020 Dubai

SDGs and the UAE: A timeline

  • 2010: The UAE put a commitment to sustainable development at the heart of the country’s vision for its future, with the UAE national development plan, Vision 2021.
  • 2012: The UAE played an important role in the dialogue around SDGs, to make them the core outcome of the Rio+20 Summit (the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development).
  • 2015: The global community formally adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015 at the UN Sustainable Development Summit. The UAE highlighted six that resonated strongly with the country: access to clean energy; sufficient and affordable food; quality education and healthcare; sustainable economic growth; healthy ecosystems; and increased resource efficiencies. The UAE also pledged to “leave no one behind” and “shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path”.
  • 2017: The UAE Federal Government established the National Committee on SDGs in early 2017, to align and integrate the SDGs with the UAE’s development agenda.
  • 2017: The UAE announces the UAE Centennial Plan 2071, which aims to make the UAE the best country in the world.
  • 2018: The National Committee launched the Global Councils on SDGs during the World Government Summit, as a platform for international experts to come together and discuss innovative solutions to global challenges. It also launched two advisory councils: a private sector advisory council (PSAC) and a youth advisory council.
  • 2019: The UAE continued to support the 17 SDGs by distributing a total of $8 billion in foreign assistance. More than half of it directly supported three SDGs: SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth (46.5 percent); SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals (22.3 percent), and SDG 2: No Poverty (7.7 percent).
  • 2020: The UAE announced ‘The Next 50’: the year of preparation for the next 50 years, to create the largest national strategy of its kind.
  • 2021: During its golden jubilee year, the UAE announced the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative, a national drive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, making the Emirates the first MENA nation to do so.
  • 2021-22: The delayed Expo 2020 opened in the UAE with theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future; the Terra sustainability pavilion, which showcased innovative solar ‘trees’ and smart uses of water, was one of the event’s highlights. The women’s pavilion also showcased efforts towards SDG 5, gender equality; 53 percent of Expo’s staff were women.
  • 2023: UAE to host COP 28, the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties, held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).
  • 2030: This is the date imposed by the United Nations by which the SGGs should “bring peace and prosperity to all people”.
  • 2071: The UAE Centennial 2071 comes to fruition.

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