The ideal of eradicating extreme poverty, protecting the environment, and ensuring that all Earth’s inhabitants can enjoy peace and prosperity lies at the heart of the United Nations’ work. For decades, it has sought to make this a reality. To transform these aspirations into tangible actions, the 193 member countries of the UN established eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, setting targets to be achieved by 2015.
This was a successful initiative, with noticeable progress in reducing global poverty, improving access to education, and providing clean water. This positive evaluation led the UN to plan a new advancement in 2012 during its Rio+20 conference. On this occasion, member countries discussed sustainable development – a way of progress that meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the existence and well-being of future generations.
From these discussions emerged a global agenda adopted during the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2015, which outlined the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be reached by 2030.
Infrastructure is directly mentioned only once in the list of SDGs, under goal 9 – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. However, infrastructure underpins all the goals.
Without appropriate infrastructure, the health and well-being of the population, job creation, business competitiveness, attraction of investments, and economic growth become challenging. When conceived and executed according to all sustainable criteria, infrastructure projects become a fundamental step in achieving the desired outcomes in the SDGs.
This direction requires closely examining current infrastructure projects to ensure they can meet their goals while minimizing negative externalities and maximizing their positive societal impact.
Despite the massive challenges, tools, and resources are available to make this scenario a present reality rather than just a future possibility.