10 January 2024
Reflecting on SDG Knowledge Hub’s Top 10 Most Read Stories of 2023
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
story highlights

The most read news story of 2023 discussed the expansion of the BRICS alliance.

Several of the top stories focused on the moves various political blocs made to position themselves on the global arena.

Stories about the UN’s organizational priorities for the year, and breakthrough moments in environmental governance also generated a lot of interest.

By Elena Kosolapova and Lynn Wagner, SDG Knowledge Hub

In 2024, we face a critical juncture marked by the triple planetary crisis, increasing geopolitical tensions, and major setbacks in SDG implementation. Gatherings of world leaders will be watched closely to see how they will seek to guide us through these global challenges. But will the Summit of the Future, Conferences of the Parties to all three Rio Conventions – the UNFCCC, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) – the G7 and G20 meetings, and other high-level events succeed in reinvigorating the multilateral system and its institutions for better governance and better cooperation to address global challenges effectively? Will they unite countries in their resolve to deliver the 2030 Agenda?

Heading into the new year, we find it useful to reflect on our readers’ priority needs for knowledge and information so we can best support them by providing relevant coverage. We do so by looking back at the news that drew the greatest number of pageviews in 2023.

Some of last year’s most read stories on the SDG Knowledge Hub address issues and events that impact global SDG governance and progress, describe shifts in political blocs’ positions, and outline the UN’s organizational priorities for the year. Stories about breakthrough moments in environmental governance attracted a lot of interest as well.  

The ten most read news stories published in 2023, beginning with #10, are as follows:

10. UN Secretary-General’s Report Outlines Rescue Plan for People and Planet

The year 2023 marked the mid-point in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In April, the UN Secretary-General released an advance version of his annual progress report on SDG implementation. The report painted a sobering picture: only about 12% of some 140 targets with data were on track. Nearly half of the targets were found to be moderately or severely off track, and approximately 30% had either stagnated or “regressed below the 2015 baseline.” The report outlined a “rescue plan for people and planet” around three breakthroughs in governance, policymaking, and finance. Its findings informed the 2023 UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July and the SDG Summit in September.

9. Summit Proposes Roadmap for More Inclusive International Financial System

Multilateral finance emerged as a refrain in the majority of our most read stories. In June, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a two-day Summit for a New Global Financing Pact, which resulted in a roadmap of key milestones on the international agenda to take stock of announcements and commitments made at the Summit and to identify areas where further progress is needed. The outcome, which later became known as the ‘Paris Pact for People and the Planet,’ garnered the support of 43 countries, mostly from the Global South.

8. UNGA Decides on Elements for “A Pact for the Future”

In September, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a decision on the scope of the 2024 Summit of the Future and on the elements to be reflected in the Summit’s outcome document. The Assembly requested the UNGA President to appoint two co-facilitators for ‘A Pact for the Future,’ as well as two pairs of co-facilitators to conduct consultations on a global digital compact and a declaration on future generations. Negotiations on the three mandated outcomes will continue in 2024.

7. SDG Summit Reaffirms Shared Commitment to Turn the World to 2030

A major highlight of 2023 was the SDG Summit – a meeting of the HLPF convening under the auspices of the UNGA once every four years to take stock of progress made and of remaining gaps and challenges. The pre-negotiated Political Declaration adopted during the Summit’s opening segment represented what the co-facilitators called “broadest possible agreement,” which to some was a reflection of “how low the bar is in terms of expectations.” But perhaps the most important takeaway was that at the half-way point to the deadline for achieving the Global Goals, the global commitment to the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs as the roadmap for sustainable development remained steadfast.

6. Historic Global Framework on Chemicals Adopted Following Years of Talks

At the beginning of 2023, we identified chemicals and waste as an area to watch throughout the year. In just three months, our story about the Global Framework on Chemicals adopted on 30 September became one of the most read stories of 2023. Through its five objectives and 28 targets, the successor to the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) will “help scale up solutions to prevent pollution, strengthen capacity building, and create stronger linkages across diverse sectors.”

5. UN Secretary-General Outlines Priorities for the UN for 2023

As in previous years, our story about the UN Secretary-General’s agenda for the year generated a great deal of interest. In his speech before the UNGA in February, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a “course correction” to move towards long-term thinking and develop a strategic vision to act decisively “in deep and systemic ways.” A New Agenda for Peace, social and economic rights and the right to development, and the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment were among the priorities Guterres set for the year.

4. G20 Recommit to SDGs to Shape the World We Want for Future Generations

Three of our top stories of 2023 are about the moves various political blocs made to position themselves on the global arena. Our story about the Group of 20 (G20) New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration highlights the members’ pledge to “leverage the G20’s convening power and its collective resolve to fully and effectively implement the 2030 Agenda and accelerate progress toward the SDGs.” Our summary of the 37-page outcome document points to the leaders’ resolve to act through partnerships to, inter alia: accelerate strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth; pursue low-carbon, climate-resilient, and environmentally sustainable development pathways; and pursue reforms for better, bigger, and more effective Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), to address global challenges and maximize impact.

3. G7 Leaders Recommit to Achieve SDGs by 2030, Net Zero by 2050

Similarly popular was our story about the Group of 7 (G7) Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima in May. In a leaders’ communiqué, G7 members reaffirmed their commitment to revitalizing international cooperation and strengthening multilateralism to reverse the setbacks in progress towards the SDGs, and highlighted the importance of addressing development, humanitarian, and peace and security issues together. Recognizing the interrelated and mutually reinforcing nature of global goals on reducing poverty, responding to the climate crisis, and addressing debt vulnerabilities in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), the leaders underscored their determination to “mobilize the private and public resources needed to meet these challenges and support a just transition.”

2. WHO Declares End to COVID-19 as Global Health Emergency

In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that COVID-19 was “an established and ongoing health issue,” no longer constituting “a public health emergency of international concern… .” After nearly seven million deaths and more than three years of restrictions and closures, many heaved a sigh of relief. The pandemic led to intergovernmental negotiations towards an agreement to strengthen global pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response that are currently underway in WHO.

1. BRICS Countries Expand Partnership for Sustainable Development

Our most read news story of 2023 is about the expansion of the BRICS alliance that originally comprised Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa. Following the 15th BRICS Summit, which convened on the theme, ‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism,’ members announced their decision to expand the bloc to include Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The announcement came some three months before the UAE hosted the UN climate talks in Dubai.

At the SDG Knowledge Hub, we will be keeping a close eye on these and other trends and developments, and on how global governance shapes up in 2024 and beyond.

Happy New Year!

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