More from UNDESA Vol 21, No. 08 - August 2017

Pace of progress must accelerate to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

If the world is to eradicate poverty, address climate change and build peaceful, inclusive societies for all by 2030, key stakeholders, including governments, must drive implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a faster rate, says the latest Sustainable Development Goals Report launched on 17 July.

Using the most recent data available, the report provides an overview of the world’s implementation efforts to date, highlighting areas of progress and areas where more action needs to be taken to ensure no one is left behind.

This year’s report finds that while progress has been made over the past decade across all areas of development, the pace of progress has been insufficient and advancements have been uneven to fully meet the implementation of the SDGs.

“Implementation has begun, but the clock is ticking,” stated Mr. Guterres. “This report shows that the rate of progress in many areas is far slower than needed to meet the targets by 2030.”

Despite advances, acceleration is needed

While nearly a billion people have escaped extreme poverty since 1999, about 767 remained destitute in 2013, most of whom live in fragile situations. Despite major advances, an alarmingly high number of children under age 5 are still affected by malnutrition.

In 2016, an estimated 155 million children under 5 years of age were stunted (low height for their age). Between 2000 and 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio declined by 37 per cent and the under-5 mortality rate fell by 44 per cent. However, 303,000 women died during pregnancy or childbirth and 5.9 million children under age 5 died worldwide in 2015.

In the area of sustainable energy, while access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking climbed to 57 per cent in 2014, up from 50 per cent in 2000, more than 3 billion people, lacked access to clean cooking fuels and technologies, which led to an estimated 4.3 million deaths in 2012.

From 2015 to 2016, official development assistance (ODA) rose by 8.9 per cent in real terms to 142.6 billion US dollars, reaching a new peak. But bilateral aid to the least developing countries fell by 3.9 per cent in real terms.

Progress is uneven

The benefits of development are not equally shared. On average, women spent almost triple the amount of time on unpaid domestic and care work as men, based on data from 2010-2016. Economic losses from natural hazards are now reaching an average of 250 billion to 300 billion US dollars a year, with a disproportionate impact on small and vulnerable countries.

Despite the global unemployment rate falling from 6.1 per cent in 2010 to 5.7 per cent in 2016, youth were nearly three times more likely than adults to be without a job. In 2015, 85 per cent of the urban population used safely managed drinking water services, compared to only 55 per cent of rural population.

“Empowering vulnerable groups is critical to ending poverty and promoting prosperity for everyone, everywhere,” stated Mr. Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

Harnessing the power of data

Effectively tracking progress on the SDGs requires accessible, reliable, timely and disaggregated data at all levels, which poses a major challenge to national and international statistical systems. While data availability and quality have steadily improved over the years, statistical capacity still needs strengthening worldwide.

The global statistical community is working to modernize and strengthen statistical systems to address all aspects of production and use of data for the SDGs.

For more information: Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017

Wealth of economic knowledge from 70 years holds key lessons for realizing the SDGs

A careful review of 70 years of the United Nations’ economic advice reveals that the analysis still remains relevant to guiding countries through a difficult current global economic situation and for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, according to the World Economic and Social Survey launched by UN DESA on 13 July.

Individual countries have pursued widely different development paths during a period that has witnessed the fastest growth in global output and trade than any other period in the history of humanity—and have achieved varying results from the bleak to the miracle. An in-depth review of the UN economic analysis over the past seventy years has found that the free trade, development-friendly, country-specific advice of the Survey has proven to be accurate and prescient.

First published in January 1948, in the direct aftermath of World War II, the Survey is the oldest annual economic and social report of its kind and has promoted a broader understanding of development that emphasizes the importance of advancing the structural transformation of the economy, making progress in social development and ensuring environmental sustainability.

“This year’s Survey reviews 70 years of this flagship publication and draws lessons for the pursuit of sustainable development as we look ahead,” noted United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in the Survey’s preface.

“Despite significant changes in global development over the years, many parallels can be drawn between the current challenges facing the international community and those that confronted the world in the past,” he added, underscoring that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development “is a moral and economic imperative—and an extraordinary opportunity.”

Drawing on its long history of analysis, this year’s Survey, argues that development progress requires robust global economic growth, solid expansion of trade, and steady access to financial resources for development. The Survey contends that the current growth trajectory in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis does not provide the enabling environment for supporting progress in achieving the SDGs.

According to the Survey, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires greater and deeper international coordination in key policy areas including fiscal, monetary and trade.

But the Report finds that such challenges are not insurmountable. In the last 70 years, the world has witnessed episodes of economies experiencing remarkable economic development, which include: Germany and Japan in the 1950s and 1960s, followed by the Asian Tigers (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, Republic of Korea, Singapore and Taiwan Province of China). In recent decades, some ASEAN countries, Botswana, China and India, among others, have also experienced high and sustained economic growth and improved standards of living.

For more information:

World Economic and Social Survey 2017

Watch the video: 70 Years of World Economic and Social Survey 

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