World is off track to meet SDGs, new report finds

Turkana famine

In Kenya, the Red Cross estimates that about 378,000 people in Garissa are staring at starvation because of depressed or lack of rainfall in the past four consecutive rainy seasons.

Photo credit: File

Nearly every indicator of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is off track at the halfway point for achieving them by 2030, a new report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has shown.

The world needs to speed up the pace of progress five times faster or more to meet most of the goals because some of the projections do not account for the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine or the food crisis it kicked off in Africa, the report says.

In 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 ambitious goals (or Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change by 2030. The SDGs or Global Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

But seven years in, the world is not on track to achieve any of the goals, the report notes.

“When development experts around the world hammered out the SDGs seven years ago, they had no idea that in four years’ time, a novel virus would jump into the human population, sparking a once-in-a-century pandemic,” the report says.

“They did not anticipate that wars would begin in Ukraine or Yemen – or that from Afghanistan to the United States, the rights of women would be hurled back decades.”

Among the goals affected are gender equality and food security. In their respective essays, Bill and Melinda Gates call for new approaches to achieving gender equality and food security.

This year’s report, “The Future of Progress”, notes the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, wars in Ukraine and Yemen, ongoing climate and food crises, and macro-economic headwinds on global ambitions to improve and save lives by 2030.

“It’s no surprise that progress has stalled amid numerous crises,” said Bill Gates.

According to data cited by Melinda French Gates, the world will not reach gender equality until at least 2108 – three generations later than previously projected. She calls for approaches that do more than just ensure a woman’s ability to earn a living but to control it.

“When it comes to the future of progress – not just on the global goals related to gender equality but on those on good health, quality education, ending poverty, and more – there is one engine that can drive them all: women’s power,” she writes.

In his essay, Bill Gates asserts that hunger cannot be solved solely through humanitarian assistance. Using a new data visualisation tool to predict the impact of climate change, the report provides bleak projections for future crop yields and agricultural productivity, particularly in Africa.

The impact is already being felt across the Horn of Africa, with a catastrophic hunger crisis pushing nearly one million people to leave their homes in search of food and water in parts of Somalia and Kenya.

In Kenya, the Red Cross estimates that about 378,000 people in Garissa are staring at starvation because of depressed or lack of rainfall in the past four consecutive rainy seasons.

The report includes best- and worst-case scenarios for ending preventable infectious diseases and malnutrition, improving access to quality education, increasing access to financial services, and achieving gender equality.

“At this historical inflection point, how the world responds to setbacks is a choice that will impact what happens now and for generations to come. Millions of lives hang in the balance,” said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman.

Despite significant setbacks caused by overlapping global crises, the report is optimistic, underscoring opportunities to accelerate progress toward ending poverty, fighting inequality and reducing the impacts of climate change.

“But [the setbacks are] not a reason to give up. Every action matters to save lives and reduce suffering. Turning away would be a mistake,” Bill Gates writes.