• Ending hunger, poverty and improving health are what most people want globally.
  • A new survey shows over half of the global public say these should be the priorities.
  • But people think their governments are not doing enough.

If you could change three things about our world, what would they be? A global survey has just provided the answer - end hunger, poverty and improve the health of everyone on the planet.

The World Economic Forum and Ipsos asked 20,000 people in 28 countries which of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) they thought were most important. There was near unanimity about the top three priorities.

Zero hunger came top in 20 of the 28 countries, followed by ending poverty which was number one in four nations and in the top three for 19 others. In third place, people chose good health and wellbeing which was ranked number one in four nations and in the top three in 12 others.

a chart showing what respondents considered most important
No hunger and no poverty were respondents' top priorities.
Image: World Economic Forum-Ipsos

The results show that world leaders were pretty much in tune with the global public when they chose the SDGs in 2015. The ranking the leaders picked was “No poverty” (1), “Zero hunger” (2) and “Good health and wellbeing” at number three.

The poll, conducted in partnership with the World Economic Forum, asked people to rank their next three priorities. The top choices were: “Clean water and sanitation”; “Decent work and economic growth”; and “Quality education”.

Only five other goals made it into the top three in any country, all coming in at number 3. They were: “Climate action” (UK); “Life below water” (Germany); “Peace, justice and strong institutions” (South Korea); “Reduce inequality” (Belgium); and “Gender equality” (India).

health and healthcare, COVID

How has the Forum navigated the global response to COVID-19?

One year on: we look back at how the Forum’s networks have navigated the global response to COVID-19.

Using a multistakeholder approach, the Forum and its partners through its COVID Action Platform have provided countless solutions to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, protecting lives and livelihoods.

Throughout 2020, along with launching its COVID Action Platform, the Forum and its Partners launched more than 40 initiatives in response to the pandemic.

The work continues. As one example, the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs is supporting 90,000 social entrepreneurs, with an impact on 1.4 billion people, working to serve the needs of excluded, marginalized and vulnerable groups in more than 190 countries.

Read more about the COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, our support of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemics Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI), and the COVAX initiative and innovative approaches to solve the pandemic, like our Common Trust Network – aiming to help roll out a “digital passport” in our Impact Story.

a chart showing public opinion on meeting the sdgs
People feel governments are not doing enough to address these challenges by the target date of 2030.
Image: World Economic Forum-Ipsos

Failing to act

The survey found that, having set the goals, people feel governments are not doing enough to make them a reality by the target date of 2030. Over half of those questioned (53%) said their government was taking less than its share of responsibility for achieving the SDGs.

Feelings were strongest in Hungary, where 71% said the government was not doing enough, Colombia (69%), South Africa (69%) and Brazil (67%). More than half of people in Canada, Chile, Colombia, Hungary, Italy, Turkey and Great Britain also thought business was failing to act.

Not everyone was critical of business. Overall, globally over half of people thought business was either doing more than its share or the right amount to advance the goals and 53% also thought most individuals in their country were committed to achieving them.

In its 2019 report From Funding to Financing: Transforming SDG finance for country success, the World Economic Forum identified a $2.5 trillion shortfall in the investment needed to achieve the SDGs across the globe.

As a result, the Forum established the Global Future Council on SDG Investment to “reconnect the dots” between countries, donors, multilateral institutions, development banks, commercial finance and digital innovators in a less global, more indebted post-COVID world.