Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2016


We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet” (UN General Assembly, 2015, September 25, preamble). So pronounces the 2030 Agenda, the United Nations declaration on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted on September 25, 2015, succeeding the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). If achieved, the SDGs will secure an improved level of health, development, and global justice. However, if the international community fails to live up to its commitments, an untold number of people will likely perish prematurely, people’s opportunities to thrive will be cut off, social dynamics will continue to leave people behind, and unsustainable environmental pathways will create risks to the health and well-being of generations to come.

Here, we systematically review the MDGs—specifically, their formation, achievements, and shortcomings. Next, we review the transition to the SDGs—how they differ from the MDGs, some of the critical challenges they present, and suggestions for a response to these challenges, using a human rights-based approach. Finally, we will offer early markers to assess whether states are sincere in their commitment to longer, healthier lives for all, and offer a next step to ensure that commitment: a global health treaty based on the right to health—embodying the vision of global health with justice.

Publication Citation

21 Geo. Pub. Pol'y Rev., no. 1, 2016