A year of Agenda 2030: The progress and challenges of the SDGs so far

Over a year on from the adoption of the SDGs and there has been definite progress. But more indicators and data are needed to measure this more effectively. [UN Photo/ JC McIlwaine]

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been in place for over a year and one of the biggest challenges remains the collection of useful data. EURACTIV’s partner El País – Planeta Futuro reports.

At a conference held last week (8 November) in Madrid, experts agreed that in order to better measure progress, better data has to be collected. However, they did concede that this is a constantly evolving process.

According to Gabriel Ferrero, a senior advisor at the UN’s Agenda 2030 office, many countries are moving in the right direction, towards turning the agenda into reality and setting the first standards of good practice.

At least 50 countries have already taken tangible policy action and committed to the highest levels of government, while 50 more are in the process of doing so, albeit with less demonstrable evidence.

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Ferrero praised the speed with which the agenda is being implemented, especially in comparison to its predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals. The UN official was particularly impressed by policy integration mechanisms, as well as implementation measures being established at a more local level.

Another positive factor seen in the first year of implementation, according to Ferrero, is the compromise shown by the private sector to integrate the objectives into their work.

However, he warned that the agenda is put at risk when OECD countries, mistakenly, believe that the only resource available to help them achieve the SDGs is development aid.

Damien Demailly, programme coordinator at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) in Paris, had a more pessimistic outlook. The expert warned that it is not always made clear that the SDGs concern more than just NGOs and development ministries or that it is an exclusive competence of developing countries.

Demailly, who holds a PhD in economics, believes it is necessary to increase cooperation between parties and emphasise the importance of clearly setting priorities and solving problems, in order to keep going in the right direction.

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He called on NGOs to commit to monitoring any progress made and to demand accountability from national governments by creating new ties and commissioning independent reports.

María Larrea, of Spain’s development cooperation ministry (SGCID), warned that adapting and collecting data remains a problematic hurdle for the SDGs. The European Union, which faces the challenge of implementing the goals at a domestic level, has so far established 50 indicators at a regional level to monitor progress.

Although the Spanish government has made progress in setting up coordination mechanisms in the international cooperation sector and cemented ties with its national statistics office, there is still work to be done on data analysis and only 45% of global indicators have so far been prepared. The political upheaval that has recently afflicted the country may also hamper progress.

Carlos García, an NGO coordinator, claimed that Spain’s caretaker government used its interim position “as an excuse not to be ambitious”. He insisted that “now is the time to make progress”.

The development economist suggested granting the new government 1,000 days to prove that it had adequately responded to the challenge ahead of it.

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“We’re giving them until September 2018. In this time, we want integrated policies, transparent systems, a long-term vision and consolidated coordination mechanisms, across the board. If we want to take this seriously, we have to rethink our action in many areas, including taxation, food sustainability and migration,” he insisted.

El País - Planeta Futuro

El País - Planeta Futuro

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