On 1 January 2016, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all 193 member states of the United Nations, and is comprised of 17 major goals to tackle global issues. The first target is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. Others include ensuring education for everyone, achieving gender equality, fighting climate change, and reducing all forms of violence.
While the Goals were launched only seven months ago, too short a period for a proper assessment of progress, the First Sustainable Development Goals Report, which was presented on the 20th of July by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, looks at trends over the last years in some of the areas, as well as the gaps in addressing global challenges, and provides a clear picture of what is needed to achieve the Goals and ensure that no one is left behind.
The document is based on a master set of 230 global indicators, which has been developed by experts representing 28 national statistical systems. However, this body of evaluation guidelines, not yet been approved by Economic and Social Council or the General Assembly, are not meant to guide national-level policymaking, but rather to allow the international community a way to track global progress on the 169 targets supporting the SDGs.
“We have the chance to truly set the world on a different sustainable path leaving no one behind,” stated Mr. Wu Hongbo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. Groups at risk of being left behind include people with disabilities, ethnic and religious minorities, women and girls, sexual minorities, and migrants. Going beyond rhetoric in this regard will be no simple matter because even from the limited data currently available, it is clear that the benefits of development are not equally shared.
The first SDG report shows countries are making progress, but much more work lies ahead. According to the document, about one in eight people still live in extreme poverty, nearly 800 million people suffer from hunger, 5.9 million children die before they reach the age of five, 2.4 billion people live without improved sanitation, among them were 946 million people without any facilities at all, who continued to practise open defecation. Still, one in two children have not been registered by their 5th birthday in less developed countries, and 1.1 billion people are living without electricity, and water scarcity affects more than 2 billion.
Given the current trend of rising global migration patterns, in terms of refugees, displaced persons and economic migrants, it is imperative that policymakers and stakeholders enhance their capacity to effectively manage migration. In this regard, the Agenda clearly recognises that migrants contribute positively to the development of their countries of origin and destination through their work and the remittances they send home. As the data given in the report shows that currently total remittances to developing countries increased slightly in 2015 to 431.6 billion US dollars (up 0.4 per cent from 2014), but the cost of sending money across international borders remains high.
“However, disaggregated data addressing all vulnerable groups—including children, youth, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV, older persons, indigenous peoples, refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants, as specified in the 2030 Agenda, are sparse”, says the report. The result is that accurate and timely information about certain aspects of people’s lives are unknown, numerous groups and individuals remain “invisible”, and many development challenges are still poorly understood.
“The data requirements constitute a tremendous challenge to all countries, if the correct information is not given full implementation of the commitments made in the SDGs will not be possible”, pointed out Mr. Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary- General for Policy Coordination and Inter- Agency Affairs.
However as participation in Agenda 2030 is voluntary, this year only 22 countries have released the voluntary national reviews, a mechanism that allows Governments to voluntarily present what they and their societies are doing to implement the 2030 Agenda. “But we expect that all countries to will be required in the future to report on their progress, and the actions they are taking”, said Ms Francesca Perucci, Chief of the Statistical Services Branch in the Statistics Division.
Progress reports are expected every year for the next 14 years and will be presented to the High-level Political Forum, which is the UN’s central platform for the follow-up and review of the SDGs.
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