The SDG series: evaluating Sustainable Development Goals 1-6
In 2015, all member States of the United Nations adopted seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that would help us achieve a more sustainable, inclusive, prosperous and healthy world by 2030. At the beginning of 2020, we are five years in and have ten years left. A good time to reflect on the progress towards each goal so far, in a 3-part series.
Today, we’ll start with SDG 1 to 6. How we are doing in achieving an end to poverty (SDG 1), zero hunger (SDG 2), good health and well-being (SDG 3), quality education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5) and clean water and sanitation (SDG 6)?
SDG 1: No poverty
Ending poverty was one of the most successful Millennium Goals (the predecessor of the SDGs). In 1990, 36% of the world lived in extreme poverty. In 2015, that was reduced to 10%, according to the UN Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019. This was a much better result than the original goal of reducing extreme poverty rates by half. In the SDGs, a more ambitious target was set: “End Poverty in All its Forms Everywhere.” Although the percentage of people living in extreme poverty is still declining, we need faster progress to end poverty in all forms by 2030.
SDG 2: Zero hunger
SDG 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
Although hunger had been declining from 2005 to 2014, the number of people suffering from hunger has been increasing since 2014. In 2017, almost 11% of the global population was undernourished, almost 40 million people more than in 2015. However, there is progress on stunting (inadequate height for age) and wasting (low weight for height) since 2000. Overall, more intensive efforts are required to reach the SDG targets by 2030.
Malnutrition is not simply a matter of calories: it can be caused by not having enough to eat, or by food without enough nutritional value. In sub-Saharan Africa and in Southern Asia, undernutrition is still a big problem for millions of people. In many developed countries, overweight and obesity are threatening people’s health.
SDG 3: Good health and well-being
The third goal focuses on health and well-being for everyone at all ages. Here, major improvements have been made on a number of targets, while progress on other targets stays behind.
On the positive side, maternal and child mortality rates have been reduced, life expectancy continues to increase globally and the fight against certain infectious diseases makes steady progress. But for other diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, the progress is slowing or even stalling. Access to essential health services, availability of trained health workers, and interventions such as immunisation remains problematic.
SDG 4: Quality education
In terms of quality education, there is steady improvement in school enrolment and literacy rates. There is also a steady reduction in gender gaps. According to the UN SDG progress report, the participation rate in early childhood education increased from 63% in 2010 up to 69% in 2017. However, non-proficiency rates remain high, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia. To reach this SDG, the number of children out of school needs to continue decreasing and the gender gap needs to keep shrinking.
SDG 5: Gender equality
Various targets related to gender equality are improving: child marriage continues to decline, the prevalence of female genital mutilation has declined by one quarter since 2000. Besides, more women are serving in leadership roles, although they are still underrepresented. On the other hand, many women and girls still face physical or sexual violence, perform a lot of unpaid domestic work, and face barriers, for instance in reproductive rights. More political effort is required to strengthen the rights of women.
SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation
The proportion of the global population with access to safe drinking water and safe sanitation services has increased since 2000. However, achieving universal access to even basic sanitation services by 2030 will require a doubling of the current annual progress rate .
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