Four years after signing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, countries have taken action to integrate the Goals and targets into their national development plans and to align policies and institutions behind them. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019 uses the latest available data to track global progress on the SDGs and to take stock of how far we have come in realizing our commitments. The report shows that, while advances have been made in some areas, monumental challenges remain. The evidence and data spotlight areas that require urgent attention and more rapid progress to realize the 2030 Agenda’s far-reaching vision.
Member States agree that these challenges and commitments are interrelated and call for integrated solutions. It is therefore imperative to take a holistic view of the 2030 Agenda and to identify the highest impact areas in order to target interventions.
The most urgent area for action is climate change. If we do not cut record-high greenhouse gas emissions now, global warming is projected to reach 1.5°C in the coming decades. As we are already seeing, the compounded effects will be catastrophic and irreversible: increasing ocean acidification, coastal erosion, extreme weather conditions, the frequency and severity of natural disasters, continuing land degradation, loss of vital species and the collapse of ecosystems. These effects, which will render many parts of the globe uninhabitable, will affect the poor the most. They will put food production at risk, leading to widespread food shortages and hunger, and potentially displace up to 140 million people by 2050. The clock for taking decisive actions on climate change is ticking.
The other defining issue of our time is increasing inequality among and within countries. Poverty, hunger and disease continue to be concentrated in the poorest and most vulnerable groups of people and countries. Over 90 per cent of maternal deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Three quarters of all stunted children live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. People living in fragile States are twice as likely to lack basic sanitation, and about four times as likely to lack basic drinking water services as people in non-fragile situations. Youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Women and girls perform a disproportionate share of unpaid domestic work and lack autonomy in decision-making.
Just as problems are interrelated, the solutions to poverty, inequality, climate change and other global challenges are also interlinked. Valuable opportunities exist to accelerate progress by examining interlinkages across Goals. For example, tackling climate change requires a shift to clean energy, reversing the trend in forest loss, and changing our production and consumption patterns. Promoting sustainable agriculture can help reduce both hunger and poverty, since close to 80 per cent of those who are extremely poor live in rural areas. Increasing access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene can save millions of lives per year and improve school attendance. Improving proficiency in reading and mathematics of some 200 million children who are falling behind in sub-Saharan Africa will help them climb out of poverty and ultimately enable the region to better compete in the global marketplace.
This report also highlights the importance of investing in data for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Most countries do not regularly collect data for more than half of the global indicators. The lack of accurate and timely data on many marginalized groups and individuals makes them “invisible” and exacerbates their vulnerability. While considerable effort has been made to address these data gaps over the past four years, progress has been limited. Increased investment is urgently needed to ensure that adequate data are available to inform decision-making on all aspects of the 2030 Agenda. Towards that end, the Dubai Declaration, launched at the second World Data Forum in October 2018, outlines a demand-driven funding mechanism under Member States’ oversight that will respond quickly and efficiently to the priorities of national statistical systems.