4 July 2019
Fourth Edition of SDG Index and Dashboards Highlights Performance Gaps on SDGs 12, 13, 14, 15
Photo by Lynn Wagner
story highlights

The SDG Index ranks country performance on the SDGs, and Denmark scored the highest.

The report states that trends on endangered species and GHG emissions are moving in the wrong direction and identifies challenges related to poverty eradication, income and wealth inequalities and gaps in health and education outcomes.

The report warns that high-income countries are generating environmental and socio-economic spillovers.

28 June 2019: The Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) released the fourth annual review of countries’ performance on SDGs. The ‘Sustainable Development Report 2019’ features the global SDG Index and Dashboards, which rank countries using green (SDG achievement), yellow (challenges remain), orange (significant challenges remain), red (major challenges remain) and gray (data not available).

More than half of the world’s countries are not on track to meet Goal 1 (no poverty).

The report finds that “no country is on track for achieving all 17 Goals” and highlights “major performance gaps” on SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land). No country achieved a green rating on SDG 14, and trends on endangered species and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are moving in the wrong direction. The report identifies additional challenges related to poverty eradication (SDG 1) – with more than half of the world’s countries not on track to achieve this Goal – as well as income and wealth inequalities (SDG 10) and gaps in health (SDG 3) and education (SDG 4) outcomes in both developed and developing countries.

The report further cautions that land use and food production “are not meeting people’s needs,” and agriculture is destroying biodiversity and forests, squandering water and releasing 25% of global GHG emissions. The report states that 78% of countries for which data is available scored a red rating on sustainable nitrogen management, which is the worst performing indicator across all indicators analyzed in the report. Further, the report states that two billion people are deficient in micronutrients, 800 million people are undernourished (SDG targets 2.1 and 2.2), obesity is rising and 33% of food is wasted (SDG target 12.3). To address these challenges, the report calls for transformations towards sustainable land use and food systems that balance biodiversity conservation and restoration, efficient, resilient agriculture and forestry, and healthy diets.

The SDG Index ranks country performance on the SDGs from a score of 0 (worst outcome) to 100 (best outcome). Denmark scored the highest, at 85.2%, which the Index suggests means that country is 85.2% of the way to the best possible outcome across all SDGs. Other countries in the top ten performers are: Sweden (85.0), Finland (82.8), France (81.5), Austria (81.1), Germany (81.1), Czech Republic (80.7), Norway (80.7), Netherlands (80.4) and Estonia (80.2). The ten worst performing countries are: Mali (50.2), Afghanistan (49.6), Niger (49.4), Sierra Leone (49.2), Haiti (48.4), Liberia (48.2), Madagascar (46.7), Nigeria (46.4), Democratic Republic of the Congo (44.9), Chad (42.8) and Central African Republic (39.1).

Despite high-level political commitment to the SDGs, the report states that many governments “have not taken the critical steps to implement the SDGs.” For example, many countries have endorsed the SDGs in official statements, but in only 18 out of 43 countries surveyed do central budget documents mention the SDGs. Another challenge identified in the report is a reversal in progress on human rights and freedom of speech in many countries, with more than 50 countries showing worsening trends in freedom of the press and corruption. The report cautions these trends impede progress on SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).

In addition, the report warns that high-income countries are generating environmental and socio-economic spillovers, pointing to international demand for palm oil and other commodities that drive tropical deforestation. Further, banking secrecy and tax havens undermine other countries’ ability to generate public revenue to finance the SDGs, and poor labor standards in international supply chains have negative impacts on the poor and women in many developing countries. The report presents evidence that high-income countries “generate negative impacts on fatal accidents at work,” generally by importing products and services from countries with poor labor conditions and standards.

The report recommends operationalizing the SDGs through six SDG transformations, which it says address key synergies and trade-offs across interventions critical to achieving the SDGs. The authors also emphasize that the six transformations align with the way governments are businesses are organized. The transformations are:

  1. Education, Gender and Inequality;
  2. Health, Wellbeing and Demography;
  3. Energy Decarbonization and Sustainable Industry;
  4. Sustainable Food, Land, Water, Oceans;
  5. Sustainable Cities and Communities; and
  6. Digital Revolution for Sustainable Development.

In addition to the global SDG Index and Dashboards, SDSN has produced regional editions of the SDG Index and Dashboards for Africa, the Arab States, Europe and Latin America. The 2019 edition contains indicators not included in previous editions and revisions to the data and methodology; consequently, Bertelsmann Stiftung and SDSN emphasize that the 2019 Index and Dashboards are not comparable with the 2018, 2017 and 2016 editions.

SDSN is preparing a report on the six transformations that will feature tools for designing and implementing the transformations. [Press Release] [Report Webpage] [Report Summary] [Publication: Sustainable Development Report 2019] [Key Findings]

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