The Sustainable Development Report (SDR), including the SDG Index and Dashboards which track progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), was released last week. The report shows that multiple and simultaneous international crises have halted progress on the universal goals adopted by all UN member countries during the historic 2015 summit.
“Fifty years after the first UN Conference on the human environment in Stockholm in 1972, the bedrock SDG principles of social inclusion, clean energy, responsible consumption, and universal access to public services are needed more than ever to respond to the major challenges of our time. Poor and vulnerable countries are being hit particularly hard by multiple health, geopolitical and climate crises and their spillovers. To restore and accelerate SDG progress, we need global cooperation to end the pandemic, negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine, and secure the financing needed to achieve the SDGs,” says Prof. Jeffrey D. Sachs, President of the SDSN and first author of the report.
For the second year in a row, the world is no longer making progress on the SDGs.
Multiple and simultaneous health, climate, biodiversity, geopolitical and military crises are major setbacks for sustainable development globally. The SDG Index world average has slightly decreased in 2021 for the second year in a row, largely due to the impact of the pandemic on SDG1 (No Poverty) and SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and poor performance on SDG11-15 (climate, biodiversity, and sustainable urban development goals). Besides their massive humanitarian costs, military conflicts – including the war in Ukraine – have major international spillovers on food security and energy prices, which are amplified by the climate and biodiversity crises. They also crowd out space for long-term thinking and investments. Peace, diplomacy, and international cooperation are fundamental conditions for the world to progress on the SDGs towards 2030 and beyond.
The 2022 SDG Index is topped by Finland, followed by three Nordic countries –Denmark, Sweden and Norway – and all top 10 countries are European countries. Yet even these countries face major challenges in achieving several SDGs. Overall, East and South Asia is the region that progressed most on the SDGs since their adoption in 2015. Bangladesh and Cambodia are the two countries that progressed most on the SDGs since 2015. By contrast Venezuela has declined the most on the SDG Index since their adoption in 2015.
A global plan to finance sustainable development is urgently needed.
Achieving the SDGs is fundamentally an investment agenda in physical infrastructure (including renewable energy, digital technologies) and human capital (including health, education). Yet the poorest half of the world lacks market access to capital on acceptable terms. Poor and vulnerable countries have been hit hard by the multiple crises and their spillovers. Rising budget pressures, increased military spending and major shifts in strategic priorities, especially in European countries, might squeeze development funds available to support sustainable development globally. In this context, the report presents a five-point plan for financing the SDGs globally. It underlines the key role of the G20, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to expand SDG financing globally.
At mid-point on the way to 2030, policy efforts and commitments for the SDGs vary greatly.
At mid-point on the way to 2030, the integration of the SDGs into policies, regulations, budgets, monitoring systems, and other government policies and procedures still varies greatly across countries. Among G20 member states, the United States, Brazil, and the Russian Federation exhibit the least support for the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. By contrast, Nordic countries demonstrate relatively high support for the SDGs, as do Argentina, Germany, Japan and Mexico (all G20 countries). Some countries, such as Benin and Nigeria, for example, have large gaps in their SDG Index yet also earn relatively high scores for their policy efforts. Interestingly, Benin and Mexico have both issued SDG Sovereign Bonds in recent years to scale up their sustainable development investments.
For the second time since their adoption in 2015, UN Member States will meet in September 2023 on the side-line of the UN general Assembly for the SDG Summit to define priorities for restoring and accelerating SDG progress by 2030 and beyond. Ambitious and sound national targets, strategies, and plans are crucial to turning the SDGs into an action agenda.
Other findings of the Sustainable Development Report 2022:
- Rich countries generate negative international spillovers notably through unsustainable consumption. The 2022 international Spillover Index included in this report underlines how rich countries, generate negative socioeconomic and environmental spillovers, including through unsustainable trade and supply chains.
- New partnerships and innovations that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in scientific cooperation and data, should be scaled-up to support the SDGs. Science, technological innovations, and data systems can help identify solutions in times of crises and can provide decisive contributions to address the major challenges of our times. These call for increased and prolonged investments in statistical capacities, R&D, and education and skills.
Since 2015, the SDR provides the most up-to-date data to track and rank the performance of all UN member states on the SDGs. The report was written by a group of independent experts at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), led by its President, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs. The report is produced by SDSN, published by Cambridge University Press, and co-funded by Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Sachs, J., Lafortune, G., Kroll, C., Fuller, G., Woelm, F. (2022). From Crisis to Sustainable Development: the SDGs as Roadmap to 2030 and Beyond. Sustainable Development Report 2022. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.