SDG report: Wealthy countries are failing their poorer partners

Travellers wait to cross river in Liberia, one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa. [DFID/Flickr]

Industrialised countries have not respected their commitment to allocate 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) to development. This failure has cost poor countries €1.8 billion since 2002, according to a new report. EURACTIV Germany reports.

By adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, UN member states committed to working to end poverty, hunger and inequality by 2030. The SDGs were also designed to promote education and sustainable ways of life.

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But Europe, along with many of the richest industrialised countries, is a long way off course, according to a report by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Sustainable Development Soltutions Network (SDSN).

And developing countries are having just as much trouble holding up their end of the bargain. They often fail to meet the fundamental objectives like ending hunger and poverty, or providing security.

Sub-Saharan Africa suffering badly

The countries at the bottom of the SDG index, like Central African Republic and Liberia, are almost exclusively in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Many African countries suffer from extreme poverty, violence and undernourishment, particularly south of the Sahara,” said Christian Kroll, one of the authors of the Bertelsmann study.

Basic government services in these countries, like education, infrastructure and healthcare , are provided in only the most rudimentary way.

An extra €1.8 billion

Like other developed countries, Germany pledged to allocate 0.7% of its GNI to international development efforts, but according to the report, its current development budget is only 0.5% of GNI. For France the figure is just 0.36%.

At the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on 18 July, the UN warned of the dangers of under-investing in development.

“If rich countries had achieved the objective of 0.7% fixed in 2002, developing countries would have benefitted from at last an extra €1.8bn,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

Critics within the German government have called for the country to make a meaningful commitment. Klaus Seitz, the director of the association of German development and humanitarian NGOs (VENRO), said, “62 individuals possess as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population put together, about 3.6 billion people.”

For him, it is “absolutely necessary to plug the holes in the tax system and close down illegal financial centres”.

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Jürgen Maier, the director of the German NGO Forum Environment and Development, blamed Germany’s “failed trade policy” in Africa, which he said was increasingly the cause of wealth destruction on the continent.

“One third of [German] milk exports go to Africa in the form of powder. The competition is too strong for local farmers, they have absolutely no future,” he said.

“Those that think they are acting in favour of ‘sustainable development’ by ruining agriculture all over the world and in their own countries by handing over control to agricultural multinationals have not understood the concept of sustainability.”

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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