The Sustainable Development Goals are an ambitious set of targets for global development progress by 2030 that were agreed by the United Nations in 2015. Amongst the 169 targets are a number that call for universal access, universal coverage, or universal eradication. These include ending extreme poverty and malnutrition alongside preventable under-5 deaths, ending a number of epidemics, providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, primary and secondary education, a range of infrastructure services, and legal identification. These have often been labeled “zero targets.” A review of the literature on meeting these zero targets suggests very high costs compared to available resources, but also that in many cases there remains a considerable gap between financing known technical solutions and achieving the outcomes called for in the SDGs. In some cases, we (even) lack the technical solutions required to achieve the zero targets, suggesting the need for research and development of new approaches.

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