First year (&first outcomes) of the Sustainable Development Goals

First year (&first outcomes) of the Sustainable Development Goals

By on Sep 26, 2016 in Sustainable Development Goals |

By Paloma Durán, Director of the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDGF).

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is celebrating its first anniversary. Adopted by all Member States during the United Nations General Assembly last year, it includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) broken down into 169 specific targets that address the most urgent challenges for people and the planet in the next 15 years. And this Agenda has another distinctive quality: it not only seeks to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, ensuring health, education, water and sanitation or economic progress, but also provides a comprehensive, universal approach that balances the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. Today, one year after their approval and ten months after their entry into force, we take the opportunity to review where we are with the SDGs.

As the first annual progress report of the SDGs indicates, it is clear that although there has been great progress since 2000, some of it has been uneven. Consider the fact that one out of every eight people still live in extreme poverty and almost 800 million people suffer from hunger. In addition, the births of almost one quarter of all children under the age of five have not been recorded, over one billion people are living without electricity, and the lack of clean water affects 700 million people. It is a troubling picture that is further exacerbated by climate change and its potential growing effects in all areas of development. Moreover, the report also reflects that the tremendous economic progress achieved in the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has not benefited everyone equitably and the ongoing fight against inequality remains one of the great challenges of the 2030 Agenda.

While available data confirms many existing and pending challenges, the 2030 Agenda provides a clear roadmap and many countries are already integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into their national strategies. This is precisely what was envisioned for a universal Agenda: all nations must adapt and apply the SDGs to their national policies and plans, including the richer countries, where key challenges remain in matters such as women empowerment, eliminating discrimination and the aforementioned fight against inequality. At this year’s High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, it was encouraging to learn that at least 50 member states have already integrated the SDGs into their national plans and strategies for development.

At least 50 member states have already integrated the SDGs into their national plans and strategies for development

However, governments and international organizations do not hold entire responsibility for the achievement of the SDGs.  Other actors such as NGOs, academia, businesses and civil society groups play a key role in the realization of the 2030 Agenda. This is especially true of the private sector, which is an important engine for job creation and economic progress in many regions, as recently stated by David Nabarro, the UN Special Adviser for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The importance of engaging the private sector in sustainable development was also clearly recognized in the Addis Ababa Agreement on Financing for Sustainable Development, which estimated that billions of dollars in financing and investment will be required to make the SDGs a reality. Therefore, the joint collaboration of all stakeholders is not merely rhetoric, but provides a clear imperative for action to achieve the goals. In the coming months we will continue to see new global partnerships for development be implemented and revitalized.

Another key milestone was reached just a few weeks ago, with the formal ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change by China and the United States which, according to official reports, are the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters. This signifies a major step forward in the fight against climate change, as both countries combined account for 39% of the 55% of emissions required for the agreement to come into effect. Environmental issues remain critical in the 2030 Agenda, and their impact on the rest of the development goals—food security, water and sanitation, health and economic growth—is especially concerning in the most vulnerable regions of the planet, particularly the Small Island Developing States. For example, in Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu, where the SDG Fund operates, we are focusing on organic farming. One of the  main reasons is that, by retaining between 20% and 40% more fertile soil, this form of agriculture builds greater resilience to damages produced by cyclones and leads to less economic losses than other crops.

The SDG Fund contributes to improving the lives of more than one million people in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East

At the Sustainable Development Goals Fund—the United Nations mechanism established to implement the SDGs—we are eager to take stock of the progress achieved to date. With a number of new joint programs launched this year in the Pacific, as well as Cuba and Nigeria with our Food Africa project, we have increased the number of countries where we implement development projects to 23. We have also contributed to improving the lives of more than one million people in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

Our joint programs work with over 14 specialized UN agencies, as well as national and local partners, and involve key collaboration with both public and private sector actors. In fact, local partners play a central role in the design and implementation of programs and provide over half of the budget in matching funds. These funds serve a two-fold purpose as they double the impact of the joint programs, and work to increase a sense of national ownership and empowerment among our many community partners.

In summary, the results of the SDGs over this first year confirm that the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is now an encouraging reality.

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