IN September, the UN General Assembly in New York will provide the backdrop for national governments to agree the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

These new, high-level aims are part of a global approach to tackling poverty and inequality between now and 2030 and form what the UN has called “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity that also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom”.

The SDGs themselves offer a vision of the world that I believe people in Scotland share. From ending poverty to combating inequality, the aims set out by the UN form an agenda for tackling some of the world’s greatest problems.

Unlike their forerunner – the Millennium Development Goals – these new aims will not be restricted to developing countries. Instead they will be universal, applying to all countries – including Scotland.

And that is why I am delighted to confirm that Scotland has become one of the very first nations on Earth to publicly sign up to these goals and provide leadership on reducing inequality across the globe.

And by committing to the SDGs, we as a government will be required to demonstrate how we will work to achieve these targets by 2030.

Fortunately, many of the goals chime with what we in Scotland are already doing to tackle poverty and inequality, not just at home through our internationally lauded National Performance Framework but globally too.

Since I became First Minister, I have made clear my priority to alleviate poverty and tackle inequality in Scotland. Ensuring that everyone can do better in life will not only make Scotland fairer, but it will also make it a more prosperous place. We are seeing some progress but there is still more work to do.

But tackling poverty does not stop at the border. It is hugely important for Scotland to take its share of responsibility for addressing this problem globally and providing international leadership.

The Scottish Government’s international development work began in 2005 with a £3 million budget focused solely on Malawi, reflecting the historic links between our two countries. Today, our international development budget is £9 million a year, supporting more than 40 projects in Malawi, in health, education, civic governance and sustainable economic development, including renewable energy.

Our Sub-Saharan programme supports projects to improve food security in Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia, and our South Asia programme works to improve maternal healthcare, food production, clean water, and help mitigate the impacts of climate change in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

I am proud that this work is making a real difference to some of the world’s poorest people.

Our international development policy harnesses the existing links that Scotland has, and our model of civil society-led partnerships is already of international interest.

Scotland’s relationship with Malawi is perhaps unique – with almost every town or village in Scotland having some connection.

This pioneering reciprocal approach to development lends itself well to meeting the “people” and “partnership” themes that permeate the new SDGs.

That partnership and people-focused approach is similarly embedded in our world leading Climate Justice Fund, which addresses the fact it is people who have done the least to contribute to climate change who suffer its consequences most harshly.

All of this has helped countries such as Malawi and Rwanda achieve some of their objectives related to the Millennium Development Goals and these projects will contribute to the new SDGs.

Of course, aid is only one small part of international development. Some of the greatest benefits to the world’s poorest can be achieved through policy changes by developed countries. That is why Scotland has introduced world-leading climate change targets that will impact positively on developing countries.

It is also incumbent upon developed nations like Scotland to share our knowledge, skills and technical expertise in areas such as water, climate change, energy and education. We have a wealth of experience in the field of renewable energy in particular.

Our international development and climate justice work is only one aspect of Scotland’s international activity. Our international framework and economic strategy sets the direction, underpinned by the fact that the world is increasingly global and Scotland must remain internationally relevant, helping development where we can and looking for international opportunities to promote growth at home.

We are using the lessons of our international collaborative working to improve our partnership with the wider public sector in Scotland, institutions, businesses and particularly communities themselves.

For example, this week, we will hold the first of six community consultation events around Scotland as part of our Fairer Scotland Conversation, an engagement plan that puts in to action my aspiration that this should be the most open and accessible government in Scotland ever. We will achieve this by involving people in conversations on what a fairer Scotland looks like.

This collaborative approach will also underpin our approach to implementing the SDGs in Scotland. Partnership working between countries, civil society and the private sector is at the heart of the UN’s agenda.

We are in the fortunate position that Scotland’s aims and ambitions, enshrined in our National Performance Framework and Scottish National Action Plan on Human Rights – such as tackling inequality and ensuring access to high quality education and healthcare – are already a key part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

So, by becoming one of the first countries in the world to sign up to the Sustainable Development Goals, Scotland is leading the way on addressing some of the major issues of our time.

We need to grasp the opportunity that following this path offers to create a fairer Scotland and a better world both now and for generations to come.