30 June 2020
SDG Index Measures All Countries’ Progress Since 2015
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SDSN's annual Sustainable Development Report and indexes track the performance of all UN Member States on the 17 SDGs, measuring the distance remaining to achieve each target.

The 2020 report focuses on ‘The Sustainable Development Goals and Covid-19’.

According to the country-level index, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Cambodia have progressed most since 2015.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has released the 2020 edition of the Sustainable Development Report, focusing on ‘The Sustainable Development Goals and Covid-19.’ The annual report tracks the performance of all UN Member States on the 17 SDGs, measuring the distance remaining to achieve each target.

The report released on 30 June 2020 was written by lead author Jeffrey Sachs and a team of independent experts working at the SDSN and Bertelsmann Stiftung. It includes the SDG Index along with interactive dashboards to visually represent countries’ performance by SDG. The Index presents progress towards each SDG since 2015, and does not include data from the time since COVID-19 emerged.

Presenting key report findings on 25 June 2020, Guillaume Lafortune, SDSN, said COVID-19 is negatively affecting several Goals: SDG 1 (no poverty); SDG 2 (zero hunger); SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing); SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth); and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). In other areas, the ultimate effects of the pandemic remain unclear. 

The pandemic has brought some “immediate relief” in the areas of SDGs 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action), 14 (life below water), and 15 (life on land). However, the possibility remains that safeguards will be reduced, leading to negative overall impacts on ecosystems.

This concern informs “do’s and don’ts” outlined in the report for an investment-led recovery from the pandemic. For example, the report recommends incentivizing zero-emissions vehicles and low-carbon transport, while warning against rolling back emissions standards for cars and supporting automobile companies without enforcing conditions for zero-emissions transitions. It similarly cautions against rolling back regulations and taxes on the aviation sector, and calls for accelerating research and development in aviation. The report also makes suggestions for “reallocating workers” such as increasing training and investment in STEM fields.

The 2020 Sustainable Development Report provides a pilot index measuring the effectiveness of OECD countries’ early responses to COVID-19. Lafortune reported that preparedness for pandemics is part of SDG target 3.d, and the US and UK had the best ratings in this area. He said the report discusses these two countries’ “gap” in early testing, which may indicate that political leadership did not follow national preparation.

Another key finding of the 2020 report is that negative “spillover” effects generated by high-income countries are undermining other countries’ ability to reach the SDGs. Such transboundary impacts are transmitted through trade, consumption patterns, deforestation, and other dynamics, and some of these factors increase the likelihood of future pandemics.

Country-level and regional findings on SDG progress indicate that:

  • All regions have made progress in the SDG index since 2015. East and South Asia have progressed the most;
  • At the country level, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Cambodia progressed most.
  • Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo regressed most, which the report attributes to conflicts and other economic and social reasons.
  • The greatest progress has been towards SDGs 1 and 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure). The least progress has been seen against SDGs 2 and 15.

SDSN is producing region-specific reports to contextualize the report’s assessments in regions using additional data from regional organizations. The 2019 SDG Index for Latin America and the Caribbean released on 17 June 2020 presents the first comparable monitoring tool among Latin American and the Caribbean countries regarding their progress towards achieving the SDGs.

The SDG Knowledge Hub summary of SDSN’s ‘Sustainable Development Report 2019’, which was published at this time last year, highlights that “major performance gaps” existed on SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land), with no country having achieved a green rating on SDG 14. Trends on endangered species and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were also highlighted as “moving in the wrong direction.”  

The SDSN annual report is one of several SDG assessment reports that are released annually prior to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) meeting, which takes place in July. The UN Secretary-General’s ‘2020 SDG Progress Report‘, which was released in May, identified areas of progress up to the end of 2019 as having included declining global poverty, falling rates of maternal and child mortality, increasing access to electricity, and the development of more national sustainable development policies. [SDSN press release]  [SDR 2020 landing page] [Country rankings] [Publication: Sustainable Development Report 2020: The Sustainable Development Goals and Covid-19] [SDG Knowledge Hub sources]


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