Photo credit: Bob Blob | Unsplash - Photo: 2019

New Report Calls for Breathing Life into Global Goals

By Santo D. Banerjee

NEW YORK (IDN) – A new report finds that while the global community talks a lot about sustainability goals, it does not invest enough in implementing them. The industrialized countries play an ambivalent role in their implementation. On the one hand, they come closest to fulfilling the goals, but on the other, they obstruct by incurring environmental and economic costs for third countries due to high living standards and consumer preferences.

Titled the Sustainable Development Report 2019 comprising the SDG Index and Dashboards, it has been released ahead of the Fourth High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF) from July 9 to 18 to review the progress achieved globally and locally on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While not an official monitoring tool, the Sustainable Development Report is complementary to efforts conducted by National Statistical Offices and international organizations to collect and standardize indicators to monitor the SDGs.

The report was launched in June 2019 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung. The SDSN was commissioned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012 to mobilize scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector to support practical problem solving for sustainable development at local, national, and global scales. SDSN operates national and regional networks of knowledge institutions, solution-focused thematic networks, and is building the SDG Academy, an online university for sustainable development.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung is one of the largest foundations in Germany. It works to promote social inclusion and is committed to advancing this goal through programs that improve education, shape democracy, advance society, promote health, vitalize culture and strengthen economies. The Bertelsmann Stiftung is a non-partisan, private operating foundation.

“The Sustainable Development Report 2019 calls for six major transformations in every country to address skills and jobs, health, clean energy, biodiversity and land use, cities, and digital technology. All countries have a big job ahead to create SDG roadmaps and strategies for success,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the SDSN.

“There is not much left of the historic promises made four years ago. We have to breathe life into the UN goals and transpose them into concrete measures. Poverty and unjust educational opportunities do not disappear by lip service, but only by action, ” said Aart De Geus, CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Since its launch in 2016, the annual report has provided the most up-to-date data from official sources (including the World Bank, World Health Organization, and International Labor Organization) and non-official data sources (such as research centers and non-governmental organizations). The revised title reflects the inclusion, along with the index and dashboards, of recommended implementation strategies.

The concept of “transformative change” is gaining momentum in the research, business, and policy communities due to alarming trends in climate change and biodiversity protection that may soon become irreversible. Rising income and wealth inequalities and unequal access to key services, such as health and education, within countries also call for deep transformations of social, territorial, and fiscal policies.

Designing the right mix of transformative policies and balancing short-term and long-term considerations requires the integrated efforts of scientists, engineers, and policy specialists. Broad public support and buy-in are also needed, notes the report. Its key findings are:

World nations obtain their worst performance on SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 14 (Life Below Water), and SDG 15 (Life on Land). No country obtains a “green rating” (the report’s indicator for the achievement of an SDG) on SDG 14 (Life Below Water).

The authors conclude that sustainable land use and healthy diets require integrated agriculture, climate, and health policy interventions. New indicators on nations’ trophic level and yield gap closure highlight where energy and agricultural efficiency can be strengthened to support sustainable food supply while addressing negative environmental, biodiversity, and health impacts of diets.

According to the report, high-income countries generate high environmental and socioeconomic spillover effects such as deforestation as a result of palm oil and other fuel commodity demands, tax havens and banking secrecy that undermine a country’s ability to raise public revenues, and tolerance for poor labor standards in international supply chains that harm the poor and women in particular.

Conflicts in many parts of the world continue to lead to reversals in SDG progress. Modern slavery and the share of waiting detainees in prison remain high, particularly in low-income countries.

Trends in corruption and freedom of press are worsening in more than 50 countries covered in the report, including several middle income and high-income countries. Eradicating extreme poverty remains a global challenge with half of the world nations not on track for achieving SDG 1 (No Poverty). In middle- and high-income countries, rising income inequalities and persisting gaps in access to services and opportunities by income or territorial area remain important policy issues.

The SDG Index and Dashboards summarize countries’ current performance and trends on the 17 SDGs. This year’s index is topped by Denmark, Sweden and Finland, whereas the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and the Central African Republic rank last among the 162 countries assessed. [IDN-InDepthNews – 08 July 2019]

Photo credit: Bob Blob | Unsplash

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