Four years ago, world leaders came together at the United Nations and adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Though the availability of timely, disaggregated data across all countries and all targets and indicators to inform the present report remains a challenge, a clear picture is emerging of the state of implementation of the SDGs four years on. First, progress is being made and some favourable trends with regard to the implementation of the SDGs are evident. Second, notwithstanding these positive trends and the breadth of action and initiatives that the 2030 Agenda has inspired, the shift in development pathways to generate the transformation required to meet the SDGs by 2030 is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required. Third, there is no escaping the fact that the global landscape for SDGs implementation has generally deteriorated since 2015, hindering the efforts of Governments and other partners.
SDG 1 No Poverty: The decline of global extreme poverty continues, but has slowed. The deceleration indicates that the world is not on track to achieve the target of less than 3% of the world living in extreme poverty by 2030. People who continue to live in extreme poverty face deep, entrenched deprivation often exacerbated by violent conflicts and vulnerability to disasters.
SDG 2 Zero Hunger: Hunger is on the rise again globally and undernutrition continues to affect millions of children. Public investment in agriculture globally is declining, small-scale food producers and family farmers require much greater support and increased investment in infrastructure and technology for sustainable agriculture is urgently needed.
SDG 3 Good Health and Well-being: Major progress has been made in improving the health of millions of people, increasing life expectancy, reducing maternal and child mortality and fighting against leading communicable diseases. However, progress has stalled or is not happening fast enough with regard to addressing major diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, while at least half the global population does not have access to essential health.
SDG 4 Quality Education: Despite the considerable progress on education access and participation over the past years, 262 million children and youth aged 6 to 17 were still out of school in 2017, and more than half of children and adolescents are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.
SDG 5 Gender equality: While some indicators of gender equality are progressing, such as a significant decline in the prevalence of female genital mutilation and early marriage, the overall numbers continue to be high. Moreover, insufficient progress on structural issues at the root of gender inequality, such as legal discrimination, unfair social norms and attitudes, decision-making on sexual and reproductive issues and low levels of political participation, are undermining the ability to achieve SDG 5.
SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation: Despite progress, billions of people still lack safe water, sanitation and handwashing facilities. Data suggests that achieving universal access to even basic sanitation service by 2030 would require doubling the current annual rate of progress.
SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy: Access to electricity in the poorest countries has begun to accelerate, energy efficiency continues to improve and renewable energy is making gains in electricity sector. Despite this progress, some 800 million people remain without electricity while access to clean cooking fuels and technologies needs dedicated attention.
SDG 8 Decent Work and economic Growth: Inclusive and sustainable economic growth can drive progress and generate the means to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Globally, labour productivity has increased and unemployment is back to pre-financial crisis levels. However, the global economy is growing at a slower rate.
SDG 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Aspects of the prevailing global economic environment have not been conducive to rapid progress on SDG 9. While financing for economic infrastructure has increased in developing countries and impressive progress has been made in mobile connectivity, countries that are lagging behind, such as least developed countries, face serious challenges in doubling the manufacturing industry’s share of GDP by 2030, and investment in scientific research and innovation remains below the global average.
SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities: Inequality within and among nations continues to be a significant concern despite progress in and efforts at narrowing disparities of opportunity, income and power. Income inequality continues to rise in many parts of the world, even as the bottom 40% of the population in many countries has experienced positive growth rates.
SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities: Substantial progress has been made in reducing the proportion of the global urban population living in slums, though more than 1 billion people continue to live in such situations.
SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production: Worldwide material consumption has expanded rapidly, as has material footprint per capita, seriously jeopardizing the achievement of SDG 12 and the Goals more broadly.
SDG 13 Climate Action: With rising greenhouse gas emissions, climate change is occurring at rates much faster than anticipated and its effects are clearly felt worldwide. While there are positive steps in terms of the climate finance flows and the development of nationally determined contributions, far more ambitious plans and accelerated action are needed on mitigation and adaptation.
SDG 14 Life below Water: The expansion of protected areas for marine biodiversity and existing policies and treaties that encourage responsible use of ocean resources are still insufficient to combat the adverse effects of overfishing, growing ocean acidification due to climate change and worsening coastal eutrophication.
SDG 15 Life on Land: There are some encouraging global trends in protecting terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity. Forest loss is slowing down, more key biodiversity areas are protected and more financial assistance is flowing towards biodiversity protection. Yet, the 2020 targets of SDG 15 are unlikely to be met, land degradation continues, biodiversity loss is occurring at an alarming rate, and invasive species and the illicit poaching and trafficking of wildlife continue to thwart efforts to protect and restore vital ecosystems and species.
SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: Advances in ending violence, promoting the rule of law, strengthening institutions and increasing access to justice are uneven and continue to deprive millions of their security, rights and opportunities and undermine the delivery of public services and broader economic development. Attacks on civil society are also holding back development progress.
SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals: Progress on some means of implementation targets is moving rapidly: personal remittances are at an all-time high, an increasing proportion of the global population has access to the Internet and the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries has been established. Yet, significant challenges remain: ODA is declining, private investment flows are not well aligned with sustainable development, there continues to be a significant digital divide and there are ongoing trade tensions.