Adopted in September , the SDGs — also known as the Agenda — are a universal call to action to end poverty and protect the planet. They cover wellbeing, education and sanitation as well as infrastructure development, economic growth, sustainable cities and gender equality. The agenda even recognises the importance of strong institutions and governance. Each goal is underpinned by a range of indicators to help countries monitor progress. It is a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.
Fast forward three years and the world is looking different in many ways. The boy band One Direction, which provided one of many celebrity endorsements at the launch of the SDGs, has sadly split up, but in more important ways we are looking at a changed global context, environmentally and politically. Last year was the costliest hurricane season on record, while people across many parts of the world, from Europe to Japan, spent the summer complaining about unprecedented heat levels.
Australia was hit with extreme drought, and India faced deadly floods in its southern Kerala state. The south-eastern US has just taken a battering from Hurricane Florence, while the Philippines and southern China are dealing with the devastation caused by Typhoon Mangkhut. The political sphere has also seen a few unexpected turns. All of which has contributed to mounting international tensions. So, three years on, has there been any progress towards making the world a better place?
Is the world on track to achieve the target and are countries still in it together as much as they were in ?
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And does this new political climate threaten success? This summer, the UN released its annual report on progress towards the goals. The findings, frankly, were not encouraging. Hunger is on the rise again, and the number of undernourished people reached million in , up from million in Goal 2 ; men are earning Scandinavian nations Sweden, Denmark and Finland topped the index but still have work to do, particularly on sustainable consumption and climate action.
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A lack of data makes it hard to measure the actual progress of the agenda since its inception. According to many of the experts that PF spoke to, a lot of the assessments of progress have been based on historic trends and what little data is available. Countries can choose to present voluntary national reviews at the annual UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development — last year, 46 countries did this — which allows them to share implementation plans, progress and put the goals into a national context.
Many countries are still struggling to get the basics down and develop a plan of action, experts agree, and measuring progress is simply not on their list yet.
So, the question is, where can you change business as usual? A major problem is the lack of funding for countries that do not have the resources to finance delivery of the goals — or the capacity and knowledge to make fundamental changes. But Marcus Manuel, senior research associate at the Overseas Development Institute, suggests global financing trends are shifting in the wrong direction. We have known for a while which countries need financial support and we are, if anything, moving away from supporting them. There are different figures floating around on how much achieving the SDGs will cost.
But low- and middle-income and developing countries do need more money and to raise their own revenue, such as taxes, to fund the development agenda. Experts say that both public and private investments need to be aligned with the goals in one way or another, including incentives to attract the private sector to invest sustainably.
ODI research published in September found that although there has been some progress towards eliminating poverty — the first and arguably most important of the 17 SDGs — 48 countries would still struggle to cover the costs of health, education and social protection, even if they maximised their tax intake. Of these, 29 countries, including the Central African Republic, Niger, Mali and Senegal, are so financially challenged that they would not even be able to cover half the costs, Manuel adds. While funding is vital, countries also need to ensure they prepare for how to achieve the goals.
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Significantly, the UN and other international partners recognise the importance of strong institutions and good governance to delivery of the SDGs. Good governance is important for institutions across the board, private and public sector, domestically and internationally, she added. McArthur agrees. I think we need to focus not just on the shape of the Lego tower but the components of it. The pieces that go into each strong institution are crucial. Governments cannot achieve sustainable development goals by themselves, but they need to involve all government sectors and also all stakeholders and work together.
It calls for a reduction in violence, the promotion of the rule of law, combating corruption and crime, as well as developing strong, accountable and transparent institutions. But measuring the progress of Goal 16, even taking the indicators into account, can be a challenge. The OECD has also set up a network to look at governance around the world and offer support to countries that need it. More than 30 events are already confirmed to to take place alongside the UN General Assembly in September. Plans for Global Goals Week were announced today for the third annual week of action where the United Nations and partners from around the world come together to drive action, raise awareness and hold leaders to account in order to accelerate progress to the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs , also known as the Global Goals.
It has grown each year and continues to recruit more partners in the build up to , a key milestone for the Goals agenda.
All activations will be connected through social media using the hashtag GlobalGoals. In the conversation around the SDGs during the UN General Assembly reached million people, with almost 4 billion combined social media and media impressions and more than 2 million actions taken.
The HLPF highlighted that while positive progress is being made, it is not at sufficient speed to achieve the Goals by Therefore it is more critical than ever that both the public and world leaders reaffirm their commitment to the Goals agenda. Amina J. The last two weeks at the United Nations have showcased progress made by all countries.
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However, we must do much more in all constituencies, at all levels everywhere, to deliver for people and planet. With over 30 events already confirmed, the week is on track to be the biggest Global Goals week yet. Organizations like World Economic Forum, Bloomberg and the UN Global Compact will include strong participation from the private sector and will explore the opportunities of public private partnerships in meeting the Global Goals. Global Goals Week is a response to that challenge — creating opportunities for partners from many different areas to work together to drive change.
The power of collaboration is at the heart of Global Goals Week, with organizations and individuals from across government, the private sector, civil society, media and the UN coming together to cultivate ideas, identify solutions, and generate meaningful partnerships for the Global Goals. Whether as individuals, families, communities or countries - everyone is welcome to become part of this global movement dedicated to our common future.
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