Few of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 targets are likely to be met by 2030. The world is even backsliding on some goals – such as those to eradicate poverty eradication and hunger, to improve health, education and basic services, and to address environmental aims. Eight years after the agenda was adopted, there is no evidence that adopting the SDGs in 2015 has improved the position of the most vulnerable countries in the global economy or global governance.
2023 marks a new phase in the pursuit of global sustainable development, and, as the state of affairs makes clear, this must be a turning point.
Work is now underway to re-energize commitment, scale-up action, and solicit scientific input to support renewed push on the agenda in the run-up to September’s SDG Summit, where states will review the state of the 2030 Agenda and adopt a political declaration to chart the way forward. Key preparations are taking place during spring and summer, at regional events and at July’s High-Level Political Forum, where more than 40 countries presenting their Voluntary National Reviews on their progress in achieving the SDGs.
This sets the stage for the Summit of the Future, planned for September 2024, and its action-oriented outcome document, “A Pact for the Future”. The summit aims to address ways to strengthen global governance structures to respond to urgent and intertwined global challenges as outlined in Our Common Agenda report by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Guterres has underscored the importance of this event, calling it a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvigorate global action, recommit to fundamental principles, and further develop the frameworks of multilateralism so they are fit for the future”.
The course taken from now on will determine whether the SDGs become yet another example of the international community’s poor historical track record on environmental and development targets. It will set an example of how international agendas and global goals fare in terms of leading to a more sustainable future, and leaders should be held accountable. Every bit of progress will matter.
At this crucial point, SEI is embarking on a series of perspective pieces to inform key political processes and to spark meaningful action. We draw on expertise across the Institute, tapping research that intersects with the SDGs, and work dedicated specifically to SDG implementation. This work includes pioneering efforts to address SDG interactions, systems-thinking and policy coherence, priority-setting, and localization, and our work as co-authors of the Global Sustainable Development Report 2023. This series, published by SEI and at the IISD SDG Knowledge Hub, aims to offer insights that can lead to actions that are grounded in science, pragmatism, and decision-makers’ realities. The aim is to help spur on progress and to help usher in a new era of transformative change.
A systems-thinking approach is required to figure out where to prioritize action to accelerate progress across the Sustainable Development Goals.
UN Regional Forums on Sustainable Development in 2023 have been sending a clear message: time is short; progress is less than expected.
This perspective argues that the 2030 Agenda must address its time dimensions by establishing timelines of progress and institionalizing long-term thinking.