The Prevention and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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Prevention has been very rarely directly related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the scientific literature, other publications and discussions among prevention professionals since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in 2015. However, we can find several sources of information about the fact on how extensively prevention work might be or is connected with SDGs. The 2030 Agenda contains 17 SDGs with 169 targets. The 17 SDGs cover all three aspects of sustainable human development: the social, environmental and economic dimension.

Prevention is logically very strongly associated with the SDG on good health and well-being (Goal 3: »Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages«). Two of the most important prevention-related targets of this goal are to »strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol« and »strengthen the implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries, as appropriate«. Another directly prevention-related targets are also (1) to end (by 2030) the epidemics of AIDS and combat hepatitis; (2) to reduce (by 2030) by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being, and (3) to halve (by 2020) the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents. Let us look at the SDGs in more details, so we can see which goals and targets are directly or indirectly associated with prevention policies and practices, especially in the field of alcohol and tobacco policy, social-emotional learning (SEL), crime prevention and HIV/AIDS prevention:

  1. Alcohol and SDGs

According to IOGT International publication on alcohol and SDGs, which was published in July 2016 (link to the brochure:, alcohol adversely impacts 13 of 17 SDGs and 52 out of the 169 targets that make up the 2030 Agenda. The analysis shows that alcohol, through its multiple human rights, public health, social and economic impacts, is a massive obstacle to all dimensions of sustainable development. As a psychoactive, addictive, toxic, carcinogenic, and teratogen substance, alcohol kills 3.3 million people worldwide every year, representing 5.9 % of all deaths.

  1. Tobacco and SDGs

Similar arguments on crosscutting associations between SDGs and prevention are coming from the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), which works in the field of tobacco control. Although one of the SDG targets is directly connected with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, there are several other more or less directly or indirectly associated targets within other SDGs than health and well-being. According to FCA, tobacco use also affects many other dimensions of development, including poverty, hunger, education, gender equality, economic growth, inequality etc. For example, low-income families that spend money on tobacco have fewer resources for on food, health and education, which are all essential to development. FCA associates 13 of 17 SDGs to tobacco control and smoking prevention, the same as IOGT International in the field of alcohol. More information is available in the advocacy toolkit, which was published by FCA in October 2015 (link to the FCA toolkit:

  1. Social-emotional learning (SEL) and SDGs

A special issue of THE Blue DOT was published in 2019 by the UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) and the cover topic is focused on why social and emotional learning (SEL) is necessary to achieve the SDGs. The article describes the conflicting goals of the SDGs and how the attainment of these goals may necessitate a balancing act. Further, the article discusses »dissonance and the SDGs« at the level of individual and social collectives because of the conflicting nature of the SDGs. The article then posits two specific avenues, emotional resilience and prosocial behaviour, for managing dissonance and attainment of the SDGs. The authors describe the need for social and emotional learning as fundamental skills in our education systems to achieve the SDGs. The objective is therefore towards building emotionally resilient individuals who are able to navigate the complex landscape of conflicting goals and dissonance to one of prosocial behaviour that promotes human flourishing and the attainment of the SDGs (link to the publication:

  1. Crime prevention and SDGs

According to the Model United Nations (MUN), 12 of 17 SDGs are within the framework of crime prevention, criminal justice and other aspects of the rule of law. Specific goals and targets which are strongly related to crime prevention includes corruption, violence and poverty, access to health care in prisons, access to education in prisons, measures to prevent violence against women, the question of cyberbullying, prevention of cybercrime and other illicit uses of the Internet, alternatives to imprisonment etc. Reducing conflict, crime, violence and discrimination, and ensuring inclusion, stable conditions and good governance are key elements of peoples’ well-being and essential for securing sustainable development (link to MUN website:

  1. HIV/AIDS and SDGs

The United Nations system, including UNAIDS, works towards achieving the entire SDG agenda, which include 10 SDGs that are particularly relevant to the response to HIV/AIDS. According to the UNAIDS[1], the AIDS response has advanced the right to health, gender equality, human rights, employment and social protection. It has addressed entrenched social norms, social exclusion and legal barriers that undermine health and development outcomes, and its investment approach is increasingly being adopted to accelerate gains across global health and development. HIV/AIDS responses are directly or indirectly associated with many SDGs, including poverty, hunger, ensuring healthy lives, quality education, achieving gender equality, promoting economic growth, reducing inequality, making cities safe and resilient, promoting peaceful and inclusive societies and strengthening means of implementation (link to UNAIDS website on AIDS and SDGs:


More on the 2030 Agenda and SDGs:

[1] UNAIDS is leading the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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