Image source: Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023. - Photo: 2023

Sustainable Development Goals in Peril

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK. 13 July 2023 (IDN) — Failure to redouble global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals—the promise of a better world for all —may fuel greater political instability, upend economies and lead to irreversible damage to the natural environment, according to The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023: Special Edition.

World leaders made a historic promise to secure the rights and well-being of everyone on a healthy, thriving planet when they agreed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Developmentand its 17 SDGs in 2015. However, the combined impacts of the climate crisis, the war in Ukraine, a gloomy global economic outlook and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed systemic weaknesses and significantly hampered progress towards the Goals.

The stakes are huge, with only seven years remaining to implement the Goals. The report presents a sobering picture of the SDGs as the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (10 to 19 July), where countries will showcase concrete actions they are taking to achieve the SDGs, kicks off today. The Forum comes ahead of the SDG Summit (18 to 19 September), a defining moment for world leaders to urgently reverse course and turbo-charge the SDGs.

Half of the approximately 140 targets evaluated show moderate or severe deviations from the desired trajectory. Furthermore, more than 30 per cent of these targets have yet to experience progress or, even worse, regression below the 2015 baseline.

According to the report, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic stalled three decades of steady progress in reducing extreme poverty, with the number of people living in extreme poverty increasing for the first time in a generation.

If present trends persist, by 2030, a staggering 575 million people will remain trapped in extreme poverty, and an estimated 84 million children and young people will still be out of school. Based on data collected in 2022 in 119 countries, 56 per cent of the countries have lacked laws prohibiting direct and indirect discrimination against women.

Global temperature rise has already hit 1.1 °C above pre-industrial levels and is likely to reach or surpass the critical 1.5 °C tipping point by 2035. The report also warns that while lack of progress is universal, the world’s poorest and most vulnerable are experiencing the worst effects of these unprecedented global challenges.

Potential for breakthrough

But progress in some areas since 2015 illustrates the potential for further advances. The share of the global population with access to electricity has increased from 87 per cent in 2015 to 91 per cent in 2021; close to 800 million additional people have been connected.

The report also illustrates that by 2021, 133 countries had already met the SDG target on under-5 mortality, and an additional 13 would do so by 2030. Despite the global manufacturing growth slowdown, medium-high- and high-technology industries demonstrated robust growth rates. Developing countries installed a record-breaking 268 watts per capita renewable energy-generating capacity in 2021.

Furthermore, the number of people using the Internet has grown by 65 per cent since 2015, reaching 5.3 billion people worldwide in 2022.

These important development gains demonstrate that a breakthrough to a better future for all is possible through the combination of collective action, strong political will, and the effective use of available technologies, resources, and knowledge.

This advance can lift hundreds of millions out of poverty, improve gender equality and put the world on a low-emissions pathway by 2030. Strengthening data ecosystems will also be key to understanding where the world stands and what must be done to achieve the SDGs.

Additional key facts and figures:

Given historical trends, only one-third of countries will have halved their national poverty rates by 2030 from 2015.

Nearly 1 in 3 (2.3 billion people) were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021.

Between 2015 and 2022, rising access to safely managed drinking water safely managed sanitation, and basic hygiene resulted in an additional 687 million, 911 million, and 637 million people gaining access to these essential services, respectively.

Effective HIV treatment has significantly reduced global AIDS-related deaths by 52 per cent since 2010, and at least one neglected tropical disease has been eliminated in 47 countries.

As of 2020, nearly 1.1 billion people lived in slums or slum-like conditions in urban areas.

The number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies has doubled since 2015, indicating increased awareness and preparedness for managing and reducing the impact of disasters. [IDN-InDepthNews]

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Image source: Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023.

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