The UN has a 17-point plan to save the world. So how’s it doing?

SDGs

(Credit: United Nations)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content


In 2015, the United Nations wrote a to-do list to address the world’s biggest problems – designed to tackle everything from poverty to the oceans – and lift people up by 2030 without damaging the planet.

So how’s that list looking now? The UN recently published a report with an update on each of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The good news is that there’s been considerable progress in areas like health of the under-5s, access to electricity and countries taking action against climate change.

Image: UN

But there are many areas that demand what UN Secretary-General António Guterres calls “urgent collective action”.

Crucially, the impacts of climate change will have a knock-on effect on several of the goals, including those aimed at reducing hunger and inequality, and improving access to water – effectively moving the goalposts if we don’t cut greenhouse gas emissions now.

Here’s a brief look at the progress of each goal.

1. We’re not on track to end extreme poverty

Image: UN

Although the number of those living in extreme poverty – on less than $1.90 a day – is still dropping, the pace has slowed.

There are remaining pockets of extreme poverty – particularly countries in sub-Saharan Africa affected by conflict, climate change and political upheaval – that will be a real challenge to overcome.

More than 1 billion people have lifted themselves out of poverty since 1990, when 36% of the world’s population was in extreme poverty. But baseline projections show that 6% will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030.

2. Hunger is affecting more people

Image: UN

The number of people without enough to eat has been growing since 2014 – with an estimated 821 million undernourished in 2017, up from 784 million in 2015 – due to economic slowdowns, conflict, and climate-induced price hikes.

Among children, chronic undernutrition causes stunting, puts them at greater risk of dying of common infections and affects cognitive development.

Although the number of stunted children has been falling since 2000, 22% of the global population of under-5s were still chronically undernourished in 2018, with three-quarters of those living in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

3. Millions of people are more healthy

Image: UN

Child survival is a success story, with millions of children more likely to survive today than in 2000. The under-5 mortality rate fell by 49%, from 77 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 39 deaths in 2017.

Maternal mortality rates have also dropped, and vaccinations have helped in the fight against infectious diseases. But half the world’s population is still without access to essential health services.

4. There’s a global learning crisis

Image: UN

More than half of all children and adolescents worldwide (an estimated 617 million) cannot read or do maths to the minimum level of proficiency – with knock-on effects for their future.

“The learning crisis not only threatens an individual’s ability to climb out of poverty, it also jeopardizes the economic future of entire nations as they struggle to compete in a global marketplace with less-than-skilled human resources.”

There’s been progress in adult literacy, but 750 million adults still cannot read and write a simple sentence – and two-thirds of those are women.

5. Things are improving for women. But more needs to be done

Image: UN

The world is generally a better place for women today as gender equality is increasingly on government agendas.

But women are still underrepresented in managerial positions and at all levels of political leadership and many are denied decision-making power.

They’re still subjected to violence and practices like female genital mutilation that strip them of their dignity and erode their wellbeing – and women and girls in at least 90 countries spend roughly triple the time men do on unpaid care and domestic work.

6. Millions still don’t have access to basic drinking water

There have been improvements – between 2000 and 2017, the proportion of those with access to “safely managed drinking water” rose from 61% to 71%. But in 2017, 785 million people still lacked basic drinking water services.

In 2017, an estimated 3 billion were unable to wash their hands hygienically at home.

7. Energy is becoming more sustainable – and widely available

Image: UN

Electrification is one of the SDG success stories: 89% of the global population now has access to electricity, up from 87% in 2015.

But there’s still a big urban-rural divide, with the majority of the 840 million without electricity living in rural areas.

We’re also making progress in the transition to renewables, with the share of greener energy growing and the international financing in developing countries rising sharply.

8. Slow economic growth is impacting on progress

Image: UN

Globally, real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita – an indication of the average living standard –- has increased and unemployment has returned to pre-financial crisis levels.

But real GDP growth in least developed countries (LDCs) dropped by half between 2007 and 2017.

And in 2018, one-fifth of young people globally were not in education, employment or training, impacting on their future – and the future progress of their countries.

9. Global infrastructure is improving but industrialization is slowing

Image: UN

Industrialization in LDCs is not progressing fast enough to meet the 2030 target, and the growth of manufacturing slowed in 2018.

Global spending on research and development has hit $2 trillion, but there are huge disparities between countries, with five times as much investment in North America and Europe as in sub-Saharan Africa.

By 2018, 96% of the world’s population lived within range of a mobile signal but many are unable to afford the means to access this.

10. Income inequalities still persist, even as income increases for the poorest

Image: UN

In more than half of the 92 countries with comparable data, income grew quicker for the poorest 40% of the population than the national average.

But in many countries, the top 1% are receiving an increasing share of income.

11. Cities are growing faster than we can cope with

Image: UN

By 2030, it is forecast that 60% of the world’s population will inhabit cities – putting further pressure on services and infrastructure and leading to more people living in slums.

Slums and informal settlements are now home to more than 1 billion people, with the vast majority (80%) living in three regions and more in Asia than the rest of the world combined.

Air pollution has also reached dangerous levels: In 2016, 90% of urban residents were living in areas where pollution was above the World Health Organization’s safe levels.

12. Consumption is unsustainable

Image: UN

Economic growth and industrialization has taken a toll on natural resources and the environment, and more needs to be done to move towards a sustainable, circular economy.

The global material footprint – the amount of raw materials needed to meet our consumption demands – has more than doubled since 1990.

The generation of waste is growing and one-third of the food produced each year is lost or wasted, mostly in developed countries.

13. Climate change is the greatest challenge to sustainable development

Image: UN

To limit global warming to 1.5°C – and avoid catastrophic impacts of climate change – by 2030, global carbon emissions need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels.

Governments are stepping up their efforts: By May 2019, 182 countries and the European Union had set their first nationally determined contributions, and are increasing financing to tackle climate change.

14. We’re doing more to protect the oceans

Image: UN

Oceans make up Earth’s biggest ecosystem, providing food and livelihoods and helping to soak up carbon dioxide. But they’re suffering from human impact.

Acidification, caused by increasing CO2 levels, is threatening marine life and fisheries, and the ocean’s capacity to absorb more CO2.

But countries are doing more to protect the oceans, including: improving coastal water quality, stabilizing fish stocks, and doubling the extent of marine protected areas since 2010.

15. Species are more at risk of extinction

Image: UN

The Red List Index – which tracks the planet’s species – shows the risk of extinction has increased in the past 25 years. This is due to unsustainable agricultural practices, climate change and deforestation.

Forests are still declining but at a slower rate. Between 2010 and 2015, the net annual rate of forest loss was around 25% slower than between 2000 and 2005.

16. No substantial advances have been made towards ending violence

Image: UN

Goal 16 is aimed at promoting a peaceful world, with justice for all, that enables sustainable development. But achieving it is still a long way off – and those who are trying to help are being killed.

Between January and October 2018, an average of nine people on the front lines of building a more inclusive, fairer society (including journalists and human rights defenders) were murdered each week, an increase from seven in 2015-2017.

17. Support for the SDGs is growing. But development assistance is falling

Image: UN

Achieving such an ambitious list of goals is possible, but only with financial support and international cooperation.

Overseas aid or Official Development Assistance, which is the biggest source of external financing for LDCs, dropped 2.7% to $149 billion between 2017 and 2018.

Another critical factor in spreading the word and achieving the goals is access to the internet.

More than 80% of people in developed countries were online in 2018, compared to just 20% in LDCs, so there’s more to do to foster an inclusive global information society.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Ukraine undecided over a strategic partnership with the EU

One billion people have preventable eye conditions, increasingly linked to lifestyle choices: UN health agency

Car clocking: MEPs call for new legislation to combat odometer fraud

Conference on the Future of Europe: Plenary meets for the first time

Independent Ethics Body: improving transparency and integrity in EU institutions

Future EU-UK Partnership: European Commission takes first step to launch negotiations with the United Kingdom

Britain and Germany change attitude towards the European Union

What if big-tech companies became non-profits?

Africa is helping the drone industry get off the ground. Here’s how

“Financial crisis will not happen in China!”, the Chinese Premier underlines from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

Medical students, climate change and health: an unorthodox combination

This is how the tech giants are helping tackle coronavirus

Attack on UN compound in Somalia may be ‘violation of international humanitarian law’

EU summit: step up work for recovery, and update migration and asylum system

OECD joins with Argentina to fight financial crime

Why your next car is a bike

This is what countries are doing to fight plastic waste

Security Union: A Counter-Terrorism Agenda and stronger Europol to boost the EU’s resilience

The impact of mobile and rapid digital adoption on how India consumes

Can the COVID-19 response lead to an immunization renaissance?

European Junior Enterprises to address the significant skills mismatch in the EU between school and employment

European Year of Rail: Connecting Europe Express now leaving the station

A new arrangement between Eurozone’s haves and have-nots

Strength in unity: Commission makes recommendations for the EU’s next strategic agenda 2019-2024

Sex education: the application of sexual and reproductive rights in the fight against HIV

Bid to raise $5.5 billion for millions of Syrians and their host communities

Where do Americans stand on immigration? They’re not as divided as you might think

The US pipeline attack shows the energy sector must act now on cybersecurity. Here are 6 ways how

Lebanon: EU delivers additional emergency assistance following the explosion in Beirut

Scientists studied microbes feeding on Antarctica’s first methane leak – here’s what they found

The EU might as well go down the drain if foreign meddling corrupts May’s elections

Climate experts pledge to scale up high-altitude fight against mountain melt

At this Italian bookshop, children swap their recycling for something to read

“Is Europe innovative? Oh, Yes we are very innovative!”, Director General of the European Commission Mr Robert-Jan Smits on another Sting Exclusive

OECD, BSR and Danone launch 3-year initiative to strengthen inclusive growth through public-private collaboration

UN-based World Summit Award (WSA) presents its master list on digital innovation with impact on society from 24 countries

Foreign fighters: ‘One of the most serious dimensions’ in global counter-terrorism struggle

Young and unemployed the perfect victims of ‘vultures’

At UN, Somalia’s President spotlights country’s progress, but cautions eradicating terrorism ‘will not be easy’

Military escalation will have ‘serious consequences’ for Yemeni civilians, warns UN Special Envoy

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Latest news from Monday’s World Health Organization briefing

The EU wants to create 10 million smart lampposts

Nine children killed or maimed in Afghanistan every day: UN Children’s Fund

Technological innovation can bolster trust and security at international borders. Here’s how

Remarks by Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius on the Zero Pollution Action Plan

The ECB ‘accidentally’ followed IMF‘s policy advice for growth and job creation by printing more money

COVID-19: first go-ahead given to the new Recovery and Resilience Facility

Investment, not debt, can kick-start an entrepreneurial Europe

UN will do ‘utmost to prevent and mitigate any risk of violence’ in DR Congo, pledges Mission chief

Unanswered questions for Europe’s youth in President Juncker’s State of Union

Deep science: what it is, and how it will shape our future

Germany loves a strong euro; the new Fiscal Councils can deliver despite the Greek chaos and a wider questioning of austerity

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wins Nobel Peace Prize

G20 LIVE: “International communities and leaders have great expectations for 2016 G20 summit in Hangzhou China”, Mr Wang Xiaolong, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s special envoy stresses live from G20 in Antalya Turkey

Council strongly criticised over failing to act to protect EU values in Hungary

Urban Waste Water: Commission decides to refer Slovenia to the European Court of Justice over waste water treatment

Additional and more flexible funding to help those most in need

Why exchange programs are essential for the medical students of the 21st century

Europe had a record year for Measles – and it’s partly down to anti-vaccine campaigners

Pollinating insects: Commission proposes actions to stop their decline

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: