25 May 2022
Secretary-General’s SDG Progress Report Proposes Actions to “Rescue” SDGs
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The report warns that “years, or even decades, of development progress have been halted or reversed” as a result of COVID-19, the climate crisis, and the conflict in Ukraine.

It calls for “capitaliz[ing] on the opportunity afforded by the recovery to adopt low-carbon, resilient and inclusive development pathways".

The report recommends addressing the vaccine inequity, ensuring transformation of the international financial and debt architecture, and improving data capabilities.

The UN Secretariat has released an advance version of the Secretary-General’s annual report on SDG progress. The report recommends actions to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and “rescue the SDGs.” It will inform discussions during the July 2022 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

Published in May, the 2022 edition of the ‘Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals’ report is based on inputs from more than 50 international and regional organizations and on available data on the global indicators for the 17 SDGs.

By way of introduction, the report highlights the “multiple and interlinked global crises” the world is facing – COVID-19, the climate crisis, and ongoing violent conflicts, including the war in Ukraine. It warns that “years, or even decades, of development progress have been halted or reversed” as a result, and “the very viability of achieving the SDGs by 2030” is at risk.

The report indicates that as of end of 2021, more than 5.4 million people globally had died due to COVID-19, with some estimates suggesting excess deaths of almost 15 million. The overwhelmed health systems and disrupted health services “undermin[ed] years of progress fighting other deadly diseases.”

The report shows that while the global economy started to rebound in 2021, it slowed down again towards the end of the year due to new COVID-19 variants and continued vaccine inequity, along with rising inflation, supply chain disruptions, policy uncertainties, and unsustainable debt in developing countries. The report estimates that an additional 75 million to 95 million people will have been pushed into extreme poverty in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels.

At least 50 countries import at least 30% of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia, with 36 – mostly African and least developed countries (LDCs) – importing at least 50%.

The authors also note that the world is facing the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945, and that the war in Ukraine has created “one of the largest refugee crises of modern time,” disrupted supply chains, and caused distress in financial markets. With Russia and Ukraine together accounting for more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and about 30% of the world’s wheat, the conflict is likely to cause a global food crisis and “deal a significant blow to SDG progress.” Additionally, “those with the highest exposure to the three-dimensional food, energy and financial crisis are being hit the hardest.”

The report further notes that despite the temporary reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 due to the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19, global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 6% in 2021. It stresses that based on current national commitments, global emissions will increase by almost 14% over the current decade, leading to a “climate catastrophe,” unless governments and stakeholders “work together to take immediate action” in the spirit of “renewed commitment to multilateralism and international cooperation.”

To “rescue” the SDGs and keep the 1.5°C goal “alive,” the report calls for “capitaliz[ing] on the opportunity afforded by the recovery to adopt low-carbon, resilient and inclusive development pathways that will reduce carbon emissions, conserve natural resources, transform our food systems, create better jobs and advance the transition to a greener, more inclusive and just economy.” It recommends, inter alia:

  • Addressing the vaccine inequity by ensuring that 70% of people in all countries are vaccinated by the middle of 2022;
  • Ensuring transformation of the international financial and debt architecture to provide countries with the adequate fiscal space and liquidity, including by re-channeling unused Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to countries in need in the immediate term and lowering the cost of borrowing on the market in the longer term; and
  • Improving data capabilities.

The report includes several paragraphs on the status of each of the 17 SDGs. Below the SDG Knowledge Hub summarizes the status of progress on the five SDGs that will be reviewed at the July 2022 session of the HLPF.

On Goal 4 (quality education), the report estimates that “147 million children missed more than half of their in-class instruction over the past two years.” This generation of children, it underscores, could lose up to USD 17 trillion combined total lifetime earnings in present value.

On Goal 5 (gender equality), the report flags that the “world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030 and has been pushed further off track by the socioeconomic fallout of the pandemic.” It notes that “over 100 million women aged 25-54, with small children at home, were out of the workforce globally in 2020.” Additional pandemic-related challenges women and girls face are derailed education, increased burdens of unpaid care work and domestic violence, and disruptions in the provision of and access to sexual and reproductive health.

On Goal 14 (life below water), the report finds that increased acidification, eutrophication (excessive nutrients in water), and plastic pollution, including from single-use plastics from personal protection equipment (PPE), continue to endanger the world’s oceans and billions of people whose livelihoods depend on them. Declines in fish production of 40-80% in most countries and a dramatic reduction in tourism present additional challenges, with small-scale fisher, coastal, and island communities impacted the most.

On Goal 15 (life on land), the report cites major risks to human survival and sustainable development posed by continued global deforestation, land and ecosystem degradation, and biodiversity loss.

On SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals), the report shows that in spite of a “strong rebound of global foreign direct investment (FDI) and remittance flows,” developing countries are “finding it harder than ever to recover economically.” It identifies an urgent need to scale up international cooperation to find lasting solutions spanning the areas of finance, information and communications technology (ICT), trade, and data, monitoring, and accountability. [Publication: Advance Unedited Version: Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Report of the Secretary-General] [HLPF 2022 Documents]

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