The report finds that the region overall is not on track to achieve any of the SDGs by 2030, and may achieve fewer than 10% of the 169 SDG targets.
The 2021 edition of the SDG Progress Report includes a guide to a new tool to enable countries to assess their own progress.
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) released the 2021 edition of the SDG progress report for the region and its five sub-regions. It analyzes how the COVID-19 pandemic might have already affected regional progress towards the SDGs, and it provides a guide to a national SDG tracker for governments to assess their own progress.
Big cities in the Asia-Pacific region produced 154-280 tons more medical waste per day than before the pandemic.
Progress on health in Asia and the Pacific over the past decade may explain part of the region’s relative success in reducing health impacts of COVID-19, the authors suggest. SDG 3 is one area where the region may be able to achieve the targets by 2030. Another promising area for achievement by 2030 is in industry, innovation, and infrastructure (SDG 9).
The report finds that some sub-regions in Asia and the Pacific are well positioned to achieve some of the SDGs (SDG 1 on “no poverty” and SDG 6 on “clean water and sanitation” in East and North East Asia, and SDG 9 in South-East Asia). However, the region overall is not on track to achieve any of the SDGs by 2030, and may achieve fewer than 10% of the 169 SDG targets, with the current trajectory. For over half of the goals, progress has been either very slow or stagnant.
Four of the sub-regions are regressing on climate action (SDG 13) and SDG 14 (life below water). These two goals are also among the most “data-poor” in the region.
ESCAP reports that as countries prioritize SDG monitoring, more data are becoming available. But more than half of the SDG indicators still lack enough data to track progress in the region. For 39 indicators, the region has “no data whatsoever.” Data collection activities were affected additionally by the impact of lockdowns and social distancing measures, especially collection of data from vulnerable groups.
In other findings, the Asia-Pacific region is responsible for more than half of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The sub-regions’ economic growth depends on “intensive use of natural resources, resulting in a heavy material footprint” that threatens achievement of SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production).
On the potential impact of COVID-19 on achieving the 2030 Agenda, the report authors expect some problems to increase, including maternal mortality in 14 countries and deaths of under-five children, which could increase by more than half a million in six months. On decent work, the report finds that unemployment increased by 15 million in the region in 2020, and in April 2020 alone, lockdown measures impacted some 829 million informal workers across the region. The report finds a rise in countries closing their borders “without exceptions for people seeking asylum.”
The authors also report that big cities in the region produced 154 to 280 tons more medical waste per day than before the pandemic. Examining recovery measures of 13 Asia-Pacific countries, the authors find that 11 had “very little or almost no” consideration of the environmental dimension. ESCAP describes this finding as a “missed opportunity to build back better.”
Launching the report on 16 March 2021, ESCAP Executive Secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana called to “let [the SDGs] provide our compass for building back together, better and greener.”
The 2021 edition of the SDG Progress Report includes a guide to a new tool launched by ESCAP on 10 March 2021 to enable countries to assess their own progress. Using the ‘National SDG Tracker,’ governments can produce visual, graphical snapshots of progress towards the SDGs and targets. They can use global data, including disaggregated data, and regional targets, but they can also edit the underlying data, target values, and indicators to line up with their respective national SDG approach. The tool is available through the Asia-Pacific SDG Gateway, and is part of ESCAP’s commitment to help countries with national-level follow-up and review of the SDGs. [ESCAP press release] [Publication: Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2021]