Countries embrace efforts to achieve SDGs amid mounting global challenges
A fast-changing climate, conflict, inequality, persistent pockets of poverty and hunger and rapid urbanization are challenging countries’ efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to UN DESA’s report launched in New York on 20 June. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018 found that conflict and climate change were major contributing factors leading to growing numbers of people facing hunger and forced displacement, as well as curtailing progress towards universal access to basic water and sanitation services.
For the first time in more than a decade, there are now approximately 38 million more hungry people in the world, rising from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016. According to the report, conflict is now one of the main drivers of food insecurity in 18 countries. In 2017, the world experienced the costliest North Atlantic hurricane season on record, driving the global economic losses attributed to the disasters to over $300 billion.
At the same time, the Report found that more people are leading better lives than they were just a decade ago. The proportion of the world’s workers living with their families on less than 1.90 per person a day declined significantly over the past two decades, falling from 26.9 per cent in 2000 to 9.2 per cent in 2017.
The under-five mortality rate dropped by almost 50 per cent and in the least developed countries, the proportion of population with access to electricity has more than doubled between 2000 and 2016. However, in 2015, 2.3 billion people still lacked even a basic level of sanitation service and 892 million people continued to practice open defecation. In 2016, there were 216 million cases of malaria compared to 210 million cases in 2013 and close to 4 billion people were left without social protection in 2016.
The SDG Report presents an overview of progress toward achieving the Goals, which were unanimously adopted by countries in 2015.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin said “Transitioning towards more sustainable and resilient societies also requires an integrated approach that recognizes that these challenges—and their solutions—are interrelated.”
As the global community moves forward to achieve the SDGs and address existing challenges, reliable, timely, accessible and disaggregated data is critically needed. This requires technology and innovation, increased resources and political commitment to build strong data and statistical systems in all countries.
Other findings of the Report include:
- Rates of child marriage have continued to decline around the world. In Southern Asia, a girl’s risk of marrying in childhood has dropped by over 40 per cent between 2000 and 2017.
- Nine out of 10 people living in cities breathe polluted air.
- In 2016, the absolute number of people living without electricity dropped below the symbolic threshold of one billion.
- Land degradation threatens the livelihoods of over one billion people.
For more information: Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018
How higher education initiatives contribute to the 2030 Agenda
Higher education institutions are one of the key actors that contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Established in 2012 in the lead up to the Rio+20 Conference, the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI), offers higher education institutions an opportunity to share their innovative work towards the realization of the SDGs with the support of several prominent UN agencies. On 11 July, during this year’s High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, HESI partners will be showcasing how the SDGs are being integrated into sustainability strategies, research, teaching, pedagogy and campus practices.
Through its strong association with the United Nations, HESI provides higher education institutions with a unique interface between higher education, science, and policy making. It amplifies the voices and outreach efforts of higher education institutions, as well as incorporates their contribution to the goals. It also offers one of the most comprehensive and concrete opportunities to connect young people to the 2030 Agenda, ensuring that the future generation has the knowledge and capacity to achieve the SDGs. Through education of new knowledge and technology of sustainable development, higher education institutions will bring up future leaders and citizens with full awareness of the SDGs, building more sustainable societies.
All the higher education institutions part of HESI have committed to teach sustainable development across all disciplines of study; encourage research and dissemination of sustainable development knowledge; green campuses and support local sustainability efforts; and engage and share information with international networks. Their commitment ranges from building sustainable campuses, include the SDGs in their curricula, engage in local sustainable development projects to report and share their best practices.
During the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the HESI partners will be organizing an event for higher education institutions to showcase how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is being integrated into sustainability strategies, research, teaching, pedagogy, and campus practices, and to position higher education institutions as key drivers for achieving the SDGs. Participants of the HESI event will include government officials, academia, university administrators, UN representatives, sustainability professionals, major groups and other relevant stakeholders.
The event, held on 11 July, will feature workshops on ‘Leveraging innovative partnerships with higher education institutions towards sustainable and resilient societies and ‘Student engagement towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. The event’s plenary segment will be held in the afternoon and will include sessions on ‘Highlighting innovative collaborations between Higher Education Institutions and the United Nations’ and ‘How are Higher Education Institutions mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals into curricula, research and programmes.’
HESI is a partnership between UN DESA, UNESCO, UN Environment, UN Global Compact’s Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) Initiative, United Nations University, UN-HABITAT, UNCTAD and UNITAR.
For more information: Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI)