The Long Path Lying Ahead of the SDGs

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The Sustainable Development Goals (Image Credit: The United Nations)

In the last century, the topic of climate change has become increasingly significant in our day-to-day lives. We are beginning to see the true extent of the impacts of global warming as more and more countries see rising temperatures and intensifying natural disasters.

Recently, the United Nations had a meeting in its headquarters in New York, focusing on the UN’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. 

António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, expressed concerns regarding the lack of progress in reducing poverty, hunger, as well as other goals. He highlighted several UN initiatives to accelerate SDG action, including measures to scale up financing for needy countries. Guterres praised the effectiveness of UN Country Teams in supporting sustainable development globally. However, he emphasized that SDG funding fell short, with a financing gap of $4.2 trillion, making it difficult for developing countries to fund projects that go toward the goals. Guterres condemned the high global spending on military forces and compared them to the relatively small investment needed for sustainable development. He also proposed an SDG Stimulus of at least $500 billion annually to help overcome the lack of funding and even called for the overhauling of the international financial architecture to support similar projects like this that may require funding without immediate financial dividends being paid out. 

The Vice President of ECOSOC, Albert Chimbindi, highlighted the challenges posed by COVID-19, conflicts like the Ukraine war, and the climate crisis. He stressed the need for collective action to address these interconnected crises and rescue the SDGs. 

Overall, the conference emphasizes the importance of maintaining and further accelerating SDG progress, labelling it the highest shared priority for the UN Development System.

In the middle of July 2023, the UN Secretary-General released an update on the SDG goals and their trajectory. Unfortunately, the SDGs have not made the necessary improvements. The UN reports that while over half the goals are showing gradual progress (while still underperforming its expectations) 30 per cent have either seen no movement or have even regressed below the 2015 line. Only 12 per cent of the goals outlined have seen improvements. Furthermore, the model predicts that 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030 – and only about one-third of countries will meet the target to halve national poverty levels. Most alarmingly, it was specifically developing countries that have seen the largest regressions in goal progress. “It is clear that the international financial architecture has failed in its mission to provide a global safety net for developing countries,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. 

While climate change will affect all of humanity, it will be developing countries that experience the brunt of the impacts of climate change, while simultaneously dealing with unprecedented inflation and remunerating loan traps from developed countries. Moreover, the gap between the rich and the poor is ever-expanding, leading to limited coverage of the problems faced by the disadvantaged. We have seen moderate policies fail to reverse this imbalance, so a restructuring of the global financial framework may be necessary to bring humanity to its true potential.

Written by Kathy Tung

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