2017 in sustainable development – a look back

As we bid farewell to an eventful, tumultuous year 2017, we look back at some of the encouraging headway the world has made towards a brighter, fairer and cleaner future for all by 2030.

Two years since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, progress towards achieving the Global Goals is uneven, but the momentum is growing around the world. From ocean and climate action, to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples, 2017 brought key milestones towards a sustainable world, where no one is left behind. But to realize this common vision for humanity, we will need even more, even faster.


Better data better lives

The year kicked off with the first-ever UN World Data Forum, which convened in January, in South Africa with the goal of improving people’s lives through better data. Organized by UN DESA’s Statistics Division and the South African government, the four-day gathering resulted in a global action plan to foster innovative ideas and solutions, and to boost the collaboration, resources and policies.

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Indigenous peoples raise their voices

The world’s indigenous peoples were in the spotlight throughout the year, as they celebrated the 10th anniversary of the landmark UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The past decade has seen some states taking steps to put the Declaration into action, but “progress has been far too slow; much more needs to be done,” according to the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine.

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Saving our ocean

In June, the world agreed on decisive and urgent actions to save the world’s ocean from increasing human pressures, such as marine pollution, overfishing, acidification and lack of high seas governance. “The Ocean Conference has changed our relationship with the ocean,” said the then President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson. In addition to the Call to Action, the conference also resulted in over 1,400 voluntary commitments of action for the oceans.

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Advancing the rights of persons with disabilities

Also in June, the unprecedented conference on rights of persons with disabilities was underway at United Nations Headquarters to ensure the full implementation of the landmark treaty – the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  “The Convention is one of the most progressive human rights treaties, recognizing the role of the people it is trying to impact,” Georgi Panayotov, the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the UN and the President of the 10th session of the Conference of States Parties to CRPD said.

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SDGs two years on – where are we?

In July, the UN High-Level Political Forum to review the progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) opened to a record number of participants, with 44 countries reporting on their progress under the Voluntary National Reviews. While UN DESA’s 2017 SDGs report showed that progress on the Global Goals was uneven, the outgoing Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo showed optimism about achieving them by 2030.



The renewed urgency of climate action

In November, all eyes were on the UN Climate Conference, COP 23, in Bonn. “The need for urgency is obvious. Our world is in distress from the extreme weather events caused by climate change – destructive hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts, melting ice, and changes to agriculture that threaten our food security”, said COP 23 President and Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama. “Our job as leaders is to respond to that suffering with all means available to us. [We] must not fail our people.”

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New Data: Population, Migration, Economy

Throughout the year, UN DESA’s experts have been producing cutting-edge research that helps us better understand the world today and prepare for the future. Among others, we learned what the global population is and how it will continue its growth, how many migrants are there in the world and where they are headed, and what our planet’s economic prospects are for the nearest future.






Looking forward

In 2018, the world will continue to face multiple complex challenges and threats. But we face it with a shared plan and vision for humanity that all countries have pledged to work towards.

“We have to realize that economic globalization has gone too far to turn back now,” says Liu Zhenmin, appointed as the new head of UN DESA this year. “For better or for worse, we are all part of it and instead of isolating ourselves, we should look for ways to make globalization work for everyone and leave no one behind. Ultimately, this is what the 2030 Agenda is striving to accomplish.

“As head of UN DESA, it is my job to ensure the Department does its utmost to support Member States in their efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda.”

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