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SDGs Glossary of Terms

Birth registration:

Birth registration is the process by which a new-born child is registered with the authorities of the country where it was born. It provides legal recognition of the child and it gives children the right to obtain a birth certificate and other legal rights and documents. It enables a child to go to school, receive medical treatment, gain employment when they grow up, and more.

Child mortality:

Child mortality is used to indicate the death of children under the age of five years old, or between one month and four years old, depending on the definition. Many such deaths currently go unreported because the children in question have not been registered at birth. Infant mortality is used to indicate deaths in children under one year of age. SDG 3 includes targets relating to reducing child mortality.

Children’s institution:

  • An institution is a residential care facility for children. It is sometimes referred to as an orphanage. There is a difference between high quality residential care (provided in very small homes with highly qualified staff) and institutions. An institution is a residential care facility that has a regimented and institutional approach to the children in its care, including:
  • Children who live there are isolated from the mainstream community, providing little opportunity for inclusion in normal everyday life and experiences;
  • It houses relatively large groups of non-family members who are compelled to live together;
  • It results in prolonged periods of separation from the child’s family, friends and community;
  • Days are organised according to a regimented routine that cannot respond to the individual needs and wishes of the children; so children cannot form psychological attachments crucial to healthy physical, mental and emotional development
  • It segregates children from the community owing to a diagnosis of disability or chronic illness.

Read more about the number of children in institutions around the world and the risk that institutionalisation poses onto children.


A convention is a formal agreement between countries. Conventions are usually open for any State to join. Conventions are often negotiated under the leadership of an international organisation (eg. the United Nations) such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Convention on the Rights of Child:

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a human rights convention that sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health, education and cultural rights of children. The convention contains a wide range of articles which are important in the protection of children who live in institutions, or those who are at risk of being institutionalised. The CRC states that parents have the primary responsibility to raise their children, but also that the State is obliged to support parents so that they can fulfil their responsibility. It says that children have the right to receive an education, to receive adequate health care, and to be protected from abuse, violence and other harm.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) sets out the rights of adults and children with a disability. It firmly states the rights of children with disabilities to be raised in their families and to be included in their schools and communities alongside their peers.


A disability refers to a long-term impairment which affects a person’s ability to perform day to day tasks. This can include a mental or a physical impairment, or both at once. Long-term normally means more than a 12-month period, and a progressive disability might worsen over time.

European Union (EU):

A group of 28 countries that operates as a cohesive economic and political block.

Gender equality:

Gender equality is achieved when males and females benefit from the same opportunities and rights – economically, politically and socially. It also means that the opinions and needs of both men and women are favoured and respected equally. SDG 5 seeks to achieve and promote gender equality.

Goals and targets:

The SDG development agenda includes 17 goals and 169 targets. The goals set the aspiration of what the SDGs are trying to achieve. The 169 targets are the areas of change that need to be reached in order to achieve the 17 goals. Indicators are used to measure the progress in reaching the goals (see SDG indicators).

Inclusive education:

In an inclusive school, children with and without disabilities study in the same classroom. Children learn together in one classroom, using materials that are appropriate to their various needs and educational level, participating in the same lessons and recreation activities, with additional support provided to children who need it in order to participate fully.


Institutionalisation has many definitions. When we refer to the institutionalisation of children, we are talking about the act of placing children and young adults in an institution or orphanage. 80 years of research have shown that institutionalising a child in this manner has a serious negative impact on their health, development and future life chances.

However, not all residential care results in institutionalisation. Some children with very complex needs or challenging behaviours benefit from a placement in specialised, therapeutic residential care. This is ideally provided in small groups and within community settings. A highly-trained and professional workforce supports these children and, wherever possible, strong relationships with the birth and extended family are maintained.

To read more, take a look at one of our factsheets on the global picture of children in institutions.

Millennium Development Goals:

These are the development goals that were set in 2000 by world leaders with an aim to: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education: promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and build global partnerships for development. The MDGs expired in 2015 and were replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals.


The dictionary definition of the word orphan is a child who has lost both parents. However, UNICEF defines orphan as any child who has lost at least one parent: a maternal orphan is a child whose mother has died, a paternal orphan is a child whose father has died, and a double orphan is a child who has lost both parents. When Lumos says that 80% of children who currently live in institutions or orphanages are not orphans, it follows the more commonly understood meaning of the term – that is, that 8 out of 10 children in institutions and orphanages have at least one living parent.

Orphanage : See Children’s Institutions


When someone is stateless, there is no recognised link between an individual and a state, meaning the person has no citizenship or nationality. As a result, stateless people are likely not to be allowed to go to school, get medical treatment, work, open a bank account, get married or buy a house.

Statistical Commission:

The UN Statistical commission is the highest body of the global statistical system. It brings together Chief Statisticians from UN member countries from across the world. It takes decisions about international statistical activities, including setting standards, developing new concepts and methods, and ensuring their implementation at national and international level.

SDG Indicators:

To monitor the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals, a way of measuring progress is needed. The indicator is the element that is measured. For example, if the goal is to end violence against children, it is important to know many children currently experience violence. The indicator to measure this is “the proportion of children aged 1-14 who experience any physical punishment and/or psychological aggression by caregivers in the past month”. If you measure this proportion in 2016 and again in 2018, you can compare both and identify whether efforts to reduce violence have been successful.

Sustainable development:

The UN World Commission on Environment and Development wrote in 1987 that development is sustainable if “it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Sustainable Development Goals:

The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs for short, are an intergovernmental set of development goals. All United Nations members have committed to work towards the achievement of all the goals by their target date 2030. The SDGs are made up of 17 goals and 169 indicators. The SDGs have replaced the Millennium Development Goals.


UNICEF stands for the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund. It is part of the United Nations.

United Nations (UN):

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organisation promoting international cooperation. It was established after World War II, replacing the League of Nations, to prevent another such conflict. When it was founded it had 51 members, today it has 193. Its members are countries of the world.

UN Secretary General:

The secretary general is the head of the United Nations Secretariat, which is the executive arm of the UN. They are also the leader and spokesperson of the United Nations. UN Secretary General is sometimes abbreviated to UNSG or SG.

Youc can download a glossary of terms here