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The Cape Town-Aachen Partnership was originally based on the Agenda 21 principles. All efforts and projects within the Partnership referred to these principles of Agenda 21. With the new Memorandum of Agreement (MoA, signed in 2017) the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were added as foundation of the Partnership.

Agenda 21 is an action plan of the United Nations (UN) related to sustainable development and was an outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, in 1992. It is a comprehensive blueprint of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the UN, governments, and major groups in every area in which humans directly affect the environment.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the UN and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030.