G20 countries risk falling short of achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Sweden, Denmark and Finland hold the best scores with SDG achievement rates above 83%. [United Nations Photo / Flickr]

High income countries are falling short of the goals set three years ago by the United Natons, with Scandinavian countries a notable exception. EURACTIV.fr reports.

Three years after the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by UN member states, the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDNS) paint a mixed picture of the progress made so far in their annual assessment.

Unsurprisingly, OECD countries are leading the way in achieving the SDGs and are in the top 20. Sweden, Denmark and Finland hold the best scores with SDG achievement rates above 83%.

However, authors of the report stressed that high-income countries are still far from achieving the goals set. “Even countries with good results on the index, score well below the maximum of 100”, which equates to full achievement of the goals.

OECD countries struggle with four objectives related to development of sustainable consumption and production patterns, climate action, aquatic life and life on land. They also cause significant spillover effects, such as pollution, which affect other countries and “undermine [their] efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Regarding developing countries the report notes that “most have made significant progress towards ending extreme poverty in all its forms”. However, reversals have been observed in countries experiencing conflict.

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Different levels of government  commitments

“Achieving the SDGs will require deep transformations […] These transformations require strong government leadership working in partnership with business and civil society,” stated the president of the Bertelsmann foundation and the director of the SDSN, in the foreword of the published report.

New indicators have been added to the 2018 report such as the assessment of G20 government efforts to achieve the SDGs. The report once again highlights stark differences although ”almost all G20 countries have undertaken some efforts to implement the SDGs”.

Some countries such as Brazil, Italy and Mexico have institutionalised the implementation of the SDGs with action plans, strategies and coordination units within the government.

On the contrary, in countries such as Russia or the United States, there has been significantly smaller levels of political commitment to these goals, this is clearly shown by “the absence of public statements made by the head of state on how the country plans to implement the SDGs”.

Overall, the report points to shortcomings in G20 countries on important dimensions for the implementation of the SDGs, particularly on the implementation of government accountability mechanisms or their effective integration into national budgets (through review expenditures and attribution of funds based on results).

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INFOGRAPHIC: What are the SDGs about?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN members will use to frame their policies over the next 15 years. If approved at the UN summit in September, they will become globally applicable beginning in January 2016.

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