Global leaders need to make a revolutionary effort to achieve a new set of development goals to be adopted at the United Nations later this week, as the world is already going backwards on a few of them, a leading thinktank said.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim, within 15 years, to end poverty and hunger, ensure equality, improve health and curb climate change, among other challenges.
But new research from the London-based Overseas Development Institute says 14 of the 17 key targets it assessed – one for each goal – will need a “revolution” in effort and approach to speed up progress.
On the three other targets analysed, the world is doing better. It is on track to make more than half the progress required to end extreme poverty, promote economic growth in the least developed countries, and halt deforestation.
“On current trends … the world will not meet any of the SDGs by 2030,” the study said.
“But if the goals do their job and spur on the global community to deliver a truly transformational agenda, then progress across a range of development issues can and should be faster, smarter and more effective than in recent years.”
Susan Nicolai, one of the report’s authors and head of an ODI project on development progress, said countries need to start acting early on the SDGs, and integrate the 169 targets set out within the goals into their plans, ensuring they reach everybody, as the goals promise.
“There needs to be some pretty serious attention on implementation, and that looks different across the goals and in different regions,” she said.
For example, sub-Saharan African nations will need major support to advance faster on nearly all the goals, whereas in South Asia the focus should be on reducing maternal deaths, the report said.
Meanwhile, some of the main problems facing the big emerging economies and the developed world are cutting down on waste and planet-warming emissions.
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Targets that will need a reversal in current trends to be met are reducing income inequality, lowering the number of people living in slums, protecting coral reefs, mitigating climate change and producing less waste, the ODI report said.
Others that are heading in the right direction but must see progress speed up dramatically include eradicating hunger, ending child marriage, reducing violent deaths, secondary-school education for all, and access to sanitation.
But the research also points out that remarkable progress can and has been made on some areas, advising governments to learn from other countries’ successes.
Over the past two decades, Vietnam lifted more than 60 percent of its population out of extreme poverty, and Nepal cut its maternal mortality rate by nearly 50 percent, for example.
The world could effectively end extreme poverty if it emulated the achievement of the top 10 performing countries in recent years, which averaged a 92 percent reduction between the early 1990s and the late 2000s, the report noted.
Amina Mohammed, the U.N. Secretary-General’s special adviser on post-2015 development planning, said she hoped the more than 150 world leaders due at the Sept. 25-27 U.N. summit on the SDGs would make clear commitments to invest in the new global goals and put them into practice.
“The problems are huge so the response has got to be huge,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in New York.
The SDGs may not solve everything, but are “not an opportunity to be missed”, she said in an interview.
This article is published in collaboration with [was first published by] the Thomson Reuters Foundation (trust.org). Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Megan Rowling covers aid and climate change issues, with a focus on social, economic and environmental justice.
Image: Women labourers work at the construction site of a road in Kolkata January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri.