WEF: 10 Countries making the most progress on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals- Ireland no.9

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The Sustainable Development Report tracks countries’ progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from gender equality to clean, affordable energy. For the second year in a row, the world is not making progress on the SDG overall. However, some countries are rapidly transforming into sustainable, equal societies. Watch to know which countries made it to the top ten.

How much progress is being made on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?
Sep 21, 2022

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Centre for Nature and Climate

  • The UN says multiple global crises are putting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in “grave danger”.
  • Its 2022 update says the pandemic, climate change and armed conflicts are threatening humanity’s very own survival.
  • The report says international cooperation must be urgently scaled up to find lasting solutions.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all United Nations’ member states in 2015. It provides “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”. It’s based around 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which the UN describes as an urgent call for action. It says that ending global poverty must focus on strategies that reduce inequality and spur economic growth, while also tackling climate change.

However, the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 paints a worrying picture of progress in almost all areas. It says that “cascading and interlinked crises are putting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in grave danger, along with humanity’s very own survival”. The impact of COVID-19, climate change and conflicts are affecting all the SDGs, the report says, adding that, despite signs of progress in some areas, everything from food, nutrition, health, education and the environment are being impacted.

What’s more, the cost of meeting the targets to fight such issues rose 25% to $176 trillion over the past year, reports Reuters, with performance on several measures reversing.

Here’s a breakdown of where each of the goals is at.

UN Sustainable Development Goals 2022 report card

1. No Poverty

The report says four years of progress reducing poverty has been erased by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rising inflation and the war in Ukraine have caused further setbacks. It’s estimated that as many as 676 million people are living in extreme poverty worldwide, almost 100 million more than the pre-pandemic projection. The UN says unprecedented levels of “pro-poor growth” are needed to achieve the goal of ending poverty by 2030.

Number of people living in poverty between 2015 and 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed an additional 93 million people globally into extreme poverty. Image: United Nations

2. Zero Hunger

The UN estimates as many as 828 million people may have suffered hunger in 2021. The Ukraine crisis has caused dangerous food shortages for the world’s poorest people. The report says the international community must act now to avert a crippling food emergency and the social, economic and political upheaval that could follow.

3. Good Health and Well-Being

COVID-19 is threatening decades of progress on global health. By mid-2022, half a billion people had been infected worldwide. Consequent widespread disruption to health systems has also derailed progress against preventable diseases such as HIV, TB and malaria. The report says urgent and concerted action is needed to achieve goal 3.

Global health statistics.

COVID-19 led to an estimated 15 million related deaths by the end of 2021. Image: United Nations

4. Quality Education

The pandemic has caused severe disruption to education systems. An estimated 147 million children missed over half of in-person teaching in 2020 and 2021. As a result, this generation of children could lose $17 trillion in lifetime earnings. The UN says governments must implement ambitious programmes to recover learning losses.

5. Gender Equality

The UN says the world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. Progress in areas like unpaid care and domestic work and reproductive health is falling behind. Violence against women remains endemic. Bold action is needed to accelerate progress through the promotion of laws, policies, budgets and institutions that promote gender equality.

6. Clean Water and Sanitation

Demand for water is rising due to rapid population growth and increasing pressure from agriculture and industry. Decades of poor management have increased water stress. At current rates, by 2030, 1.6 billion people will lack safe drinking water and 2.8 million people will be without adequate sanitation. More efforts are needed to provide these and to increase cooperation among states across transboundary waters.

7. Affordable and Clean Energy

A projected 679 million people will still be without electricity in 2030 at current rates. Slow progress towards clean cooking solutions means the health of 2.4 billion people is also at risk. Achieving energy as well as climate goals will mean a massive mobilization of public and private capital in renewable energy, especially in developing countries.

Proportion of population with electricity access between 2010 and 2020.

Almost 10% of the global population still doesn’t have access to electricity. Image: United Nations

8. Decent work and economic growth

Global economic revival is being hampered by new waves of COVID-19, rising inflation, supply chain disruptions, and the conflict in Ukraine. Global unemployment is predicted to remain above pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023. Ten percent of children are still engaged in child labour worldwide. Young people, women and people with disabilities will be the last to recover from the economic crisis, according to the report.

9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Global manufacturing production grew by 7.2% in 2021, surpassing its pre-pandemic level. But recovery remains uneven with high-income countries benefitting from massive state help and successful vaccine rollouts. The report says countries with strong infrastructure including internet connectivity are recovering more quickly. Despite the presence of 3G (or higher) broadband in most countries, the cost of devices and lack of literacy and digital skills remain steep barriers to internet adoption.

Population covered by a mobile network in 2021.

88% of the global population is covered by a mobile network. Image: United Nations

10. Reduced Inequalities

Before COVID-19, income inequality was narrowing worldwide. But the report says the effects of the pandemic are reversing any positive trends. The pandemic has also intensified structural and systematic discrimination. The number of refugees globally reached the highest absolute number on record in 2021. The war in Ukraine has created a new major refugee crisis.

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities

Today, more than half the world’s population live in cities. Around one in four of them live in slums or informal settlements. But 99% of the world’s urban population breathe polluted air, resulting in 4.2 million premature deaths in 2019. However, more than 6,000 cities in 117 countries are now monitoring air quality, double the number since 2015. The report says significant investment is also needed in the development of waste management infrastructure, especially in low- to middle-income countries.

12. Responsible Consumption and Production

A growing reliance on natural resources has set the Earth on an unsustainable course. This is causing the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. The UN says transforming our relationship with nature is key to a sustainable future. It calls on governments and citizens to work together to reduce waste and pollution and shape a new circular economy.

13. Climate Action

The world is on the brink of a climate catastrophe and the window to avert it is closing rapidly. To limit warming to 1.5 Celsius, global greenhouse gas emissions must decline by 43% by 2030. However, under current global net-zero commitments, emissions are still projected to increase by almost 14% over the next decade. Therefore immediate and deep reductions are needed to meet obligations agreed in the Paris Agreement.

Implications of climate change.

The UN says our window to avoid climate catastrophe is closing rapidly. Image: United Nations

14. Life Below Water

Continuing ocean acidification and rising sea temperatures are threatening marine ecosystems. Between 2009 and 2018 the world lost about 14% of its coral reefs which support an extraordinary range of biodiversity. More than 17 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean in 2021, threatening marine life. The report says combatting the decline in ocean health requires intensified protection efforts and sustainable solutions.

15. Life on Land

Around 40,000 species are at risk of extinction over the coming decades, while 10 million hectares of forest are destroyed every year and more than half of key biodiversity areas remain unprotected, the report says. Many countries are sustainably managing their forests and enacting national conservation legislation and policies. However, the report points out that biodiversity has been largely neglected in pandemic-recovery plans.

Change of forest area coverage between 2000 and 2020.

The world’s forests are declining at a slower rate than in previous decades. Image: United Nations

16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

A quarter of the global population lived in conflict-affected countries in 2020. As of May 2022, a record 100 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide. There were 320 fatal attacks against human rights activists, journalists and trade unionists in 35 countries in 2021. The UN says ending armed conflicts, strengthening institutions and enacting human rights legislation are all necessary preconditions for sustainable development.

17. Partnerships for the Goals

With record inflation, rising interest rates and growing debt burdens, many developing countries are finding it harder than ever to thrive economically. The report says in order to build back better from the pandemic and rescue the SDGs, a full-scale transformation of the international financial and debt architecture is required. It says to find lasting solutions, international cooperation must be urgently scaled up.

Building momentum on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Making concrete progress on the SDGs is a key component of the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Meetings which are taking place between 19 and 23 September 2022. The meetings will bring together business leaders, policy-makers and international civil society organizations and aim to build momentum on other key upcoming milestones such as COP27 and the Forum’s annual meeting in January 2023.


What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

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