Agreed upon by the general assembly in 2015, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are 17 targets for all countries to aspire to that promote prosperity and protect the planet. The goals seek to tackle climate change, end poverty through environmental goals, strengthen economic growth, and address social needs to achieve the goals by 2030.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are:
- No Poverty
- Zero Hunger
- Good Health and Well-being
- Quality Education
- Gender Equality
- Clean Water and Sanitation
- Affordable and Clean Energy
- Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
- Reduced Inequality
- Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Responsible Consumption and Production
- Climate Action
- Life Below Water
- Life on Land
- Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
- Partnerships to achieve the Goal
SDG Progress Slipping Due to Covid-19
Released on June 14th, the latest report includes an updated SDG index and detailed findings of each UN member’s progress towards the SDGs.
For the first time since its inception in 2015, the report found global average SDG progress had declined, driven by an increase in poverty and unemployment across nations. The slip in SDG index scores is attributed by the report primarily to the covid-19 pandemic.
Significantly, the report claims the pandemic may have pushed a further 83-132 million people into chronic hunger over the course of 2020, with health services disrupted in 90% of countries.
Alarmingly, despite the global lockdowns and decrease in activity over 2021, SDG 13 (climate action) is still struggling to make progress across the board, with greenhouse gases (GHG) still increasing in 2020.
Like most high-income countries, Ireland still saw a slight increase in SG score despite the global average falling, growing from 79.4 in 2020 to 81.0 in 2021’s report, a 2% increase. Topping the index was Finland, with a score of 85.9, up from 83.8 in 2020. Regions making the most progress were East and South Asia, with Brazil, Venezuela, and Tuvalu showing the most significant drops in SDG scores.
The report claims that SDG progression is strongly linked to financial well-being and fiscal space. Developing countries, the report claims, have been unable to respond to the pandemic as readily as high-income countries for lack of well-planned emergency responses and investment-based plans for recovery. \While high-income countries have been able to borrow their way out of the pandemic, lower-income countries have not had the same luxury due to their “lower market creditworthiness.” The upshot of this is “rich countries are likely to recover from the pandemic more quickly than poor countries.”
The report gives Ireland a country ranking of 13 out of 165 and an index score of 81, 3.8 points above the average for the global region. Despite the pandemic’s effect on the economy, Ireland is one of the stronger countries in the UN’s SDG rankings with no definitive downward trends.
On track, according to the report, is Ireland’s goal of ending poverty (SDG 1), implementing peace, justice, and strong institutions (SDG 16), providing decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), and protection of life on land (SDG 15). However, the latter two are still stuck in the “challenges remain” category.
The report claims Ireland is still struggling in eliminating hunger (SDG 2) and responding to climate change (SDG 13), where “major challenges” still remain, and progress is only classed as “moderate.” Additionally, despite the report claiming “significant challenges,” solid progress is still being recorded for affordable and clean energy (SDG 7).
Where Ireland is struggling the most, according to the 2021 report, is in forming partnerships towards these goals, with a progression indicator of “stagnating” being reported.
With Ireland not formally allocating any national budget towards SDG attainment, the report suggests countries make financial provisions to help further progression.
In response to early, unedited statistics, the UN Secretary-General’s own report stresses that SDG progress was not on track even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and would likely not have achieved the 2030 target either way. For the world’s poorest countries, SDG progress is now considered to have been pushed back by ten years.
In response to the SDG statistics, the report’s authors suggest high-income countries aid in providing access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, strengthening the financial position of developing nations. It also suggests the pandemic recovery be used to adopt cleaner, low-carbon energy, creating jobs and furthering SDG 5, gender equality at the same time. The report also recommends greater comparison of data on SDGs to ensure no country is getting left behind.
The report, therefore, stresses the importance of the next 18 months and how the nations of the world respond to the fallout of the pandemic, which may have been a “much-needed wake-up call.”