19 March 2020
UNECE Releases Statistical Portrait of Region’s SDG Progress
Photo by Luis Del Río Camacho
story highlights

The first annual 'Towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the UNECE region’ reviews trends in progress on 49 indicators under each of the 17 SDGs.

The report shares progress on people, planet, prosperity, and partnership.

The report calls for investing in data for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has launched a first regional report on SDG progress. The report aims to inform the 2020 session of the UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (RFSD).

The report titled, ‘Towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the UNECE region: A statistical portrait of progress and challenges,’ reviews trends in progress on 49 global SDG indicators. UNECE selected the indicators based on their relevance to region and availability of data, and they cover all 17 SDGs. The report shares progress on people, planet, prosperity, and partnership.

On people, the report finds UNECE countries are making good progress on ending poverty (SDG 1) and hunger (SDG 2) and ensuring that all people can fulfill their potential with equality and dignity and in a healthy environment. Social protection schemes cover a large majority of the population, with about half of UNECE countries providing universal pension schemes for older persons, and 30 out of 41 countries with data providing a disability cash benefit for everyone with severe disabilities.

Almost all UNECE countries have maternal, infant and child mortality rates (SDG 3) below the global SDG targets; in the few countries with rates above the targets, these rates have “fallen substantially over recent years.” The report also highlights progress on: family planning; disaster-related mortality (SDG 13); proficiency levels in reading, mathematics and information, communications and technology (ICT) skills (SDG 4); and some gender equality targets (SDG 5), such as narrowing the gender gap in domestic and care work and increasing the proportion of women among parliamentarians and managers. Still, very few countries are approaching gender parity.

In some areas, “little or no progress has been made.” The UNECE region has high overweight rates among children, and the proportion of local governments with disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies varies widely. Births to adolescents remain relatively high in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Although countries have made progress in reducing road fatalities since 2007, progress has stalled or reversed in recent years, and the region is “far from reaching the  global target.” Air pollution remains the “most significant environmental risk to human health,” and only ten UNECE countries have levels of air pollution with fine particulate matter below the recommended limit (SDG 11).

Forest cover increased by 28 million hectares between 2000-2015.

On planet, the region has “greatly expanded” protection of marine key biodiversity areas (SDG 14) and forest cover has expanded over the past two decades (SDG 15), with a net increase of 28 million hectares between 2000 and 2015. UNECE countries are fulfilling their obligations under multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), complying with agreements on protecting the ozone layer and disposing of hazardous waste, and implementing international instruments to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Two-thirds of UNECE countries provide safely managed sanitation services for over 80% of their population (SDG 6), with 40 countries showing improvements since 2000. Most UNECE countries have decreased their energy intensity (SDG 7), and the authors suggest that more countries are becoming more energy efficient: Central Asia and Eastern and South-eastern Europe show the largest reductions. 

Although renewable energy consumption has increased in UNECE countries, the region remains below the global average. Additional planetary-related challenges in UNECE countries include a limited number of countries with operational arrangements covering their transboundary waters, water scarcity, and water equality in open water bodies and river water bodies. Six countries treat less than 50% of their wastewater. Twenty-seven countries face challenges in addressing persistent organic pollutants.

On prosperity, half of UNECE countries have increased the share of value add from medium and high-tech industry, and all countries have increased the share of the population with fixed internet broadband subscriptions. UNECE countries have “relatively stable” economic growth (SDG 8), but the share of youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) has declined in recent years. Progress on SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) remained stable in some countries and decreased in other countries. In addition, the number of homicide victims is decreasing and progress has been made on other targets related to peace, justice and strengthened institutions (SDG 16).

On partnership, only five UNECE countries met the target of allocating 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) to assistance to developing countries.

The report concludes by reflecting on the importance of relevant, comparable and timely statistics to track SDG progress, observing that the report’s production highlighted several challenges related to measuring SDG progress. Challenges include the lack of an internationally-agreed methodology for many indicators and a lack of data on several indicators for a large number of countries. The report calls for “investing in data for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

The UNECE Statistical Division prepared the first annual SDG progress report to inform the 2020 RFSD. The 2020 RFSD virtual meeting will take place on 19 March 2020, per this update on changes to UNECE meetings due to COVID-19. [UNECE press release] [Report webpage] [Publication: Towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the UNECE region] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on UNECE SDG Dashboard and 2020 RFSD]

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