Progress and setbacks in implementing UN’s Agenda 2030 goals – a strong commitment to shared objectives
Annika Lindblom, Secretary-General of Finland's National Commission on Sustainable Development, comments on the newly released Agenda 2030 report. The report shows that progress has been made in such areas as maternal health, whereas growing inequalities are a cause for concern.
As the UN’s sustainable development goals were formulated in 2015, many doubted that the voluntary nature of the Agenda would persuade national policymakers in the Member States to make sufficiently strong commitments. These doubts have proven groundless, however, notes Annika Lindblom, Secretary-General of Finland's National Commission on Sustainable Development, who will attend the annual forum monitoring the progress of the goals in New York this week.
“Good headway has been made in goal implementation in the last three years: all in all, more than one hundred countries have reported on their national sustainable development actions. Finland was one of the first countries to issue its report in 2016, while this year, the number of reporting countries is 47.”
The global monitoring report published in May, The Sustainable Development Goals 2018, describes progress in many key areas of Agenda 2030. The new goals are only taking their first steps, but their monitoring is supported by UN's Millennium Development Goals, which preceded them. For example, the under-five mortality rate has dropped by 47 per cent and the global maternal mortality ratio by 37 per cent since 2000. In South Asia, a girl’s risk of marrying in childhood has declined by over 40 per cent. In the least developed countries, the proportion of the people with access to electricity has more than doubled.
“There has also been a global improvement in employment rates and labour productivity, and more than 100 countries have launched national sustainable consumption and production policies and initiatives”, says Lindblom.
Solutions should be looked at as a whole
However, many phenomena that slow down development have also been exacerbated in the last few years, requiring special attention from the international community. After a prolonged decline, the number of undernourished people rose from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016, mainly due to expanding conflicts.
Climate change and disasters linked to it are also a cause for concern. Periods of severe drought, for example, threaten food and water supplies, increasing pressure for civil unrest. Natural disasters are also costly: the North Atlantic hurricane season in 2017 caused economic losses of historic proportions.
Achievement of the development goals is also hampered by growing inequalities. Based on estimates, only 45 per cent of the world’s population are covered by at least one social protection cash benefit, and only one out of five of the unemployed receive a benefit. Youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. The quality of education in many countries is so poor that more than half of children and adolescents are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.
“More action by the international community is needed in these areas, and the urgency of this action has indeed been acknowledged”, says Lindblom.
This year’s Agenda 2030 high-level political forum will focus special attention on the goals related to water, energy, the environment and international cooperation. In its addresses, Finland will emphasize especially the need to identify the links between the goals when considering alternative solutions.
“In the worst case, failing to do so may export our problems to other countries or result in a situation where progress made with an individual goal hampers advancement in another area.”