Report finds progress on UN Sustainable Development Goals, countries need to do more to tackle gaps


SDG Progress ReportThe UN Secretary-General has released the unedited version of the 2019 progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals titled ‘Special Edition: Progress towards the SDGs: Report of the Secretary-General’ .

Despite the efforts and “wealth of action” undertaken by governments, cities, civil society, young people, academia and the private sector to align with and advance SDG implementation, the “global response has not been ambitious enough.”

The report cautions that a failure to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change will “directly threaten attainment of all other SDGs” and encourages all countries and partners to “do more and faster” to tackle systematic gaps.

The Good News

The Report finds that progress has been made on a number of SDGs and targets over the past four years:

  • On SDG 1 (no poverty), extreme poverty continues to fall.
  • On SDG 3 (good health and well-being), child mortality rates continue to decrease, and progress has been made against hepatitis.
  • On SDG 5 (gender equality), the report finds an increase in implementing gender-responsive budgeting.
  • On SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), the poorest countries have increased access to electricity, and energy efficiency continues to improve.
  • On SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), unemployment has returned to pre-financial-crisis levels, and labor productivity has increased.
  • On SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), the proportion of the urban population living in slums has fallen.
  • On SDG 14 (life below water), the proportion of waters under national jurisdiction covered by marine protected areas (MPAs) has increased more than two-fold since 2010.

Slow Progress

The SDG Progress Report demonstrates slow progress on many Goals.

  • It projects that in 2030, the extreme poverty rate will be 6%, missing the target.
  • On SDG 2 (zero hunger), hunger increased for the third consecutive year, and millions of children experience undernutrition.
  • On SDG 4 (quality education), 262 million children and youth were out of school in 2017, and more than 50% of children and adolescents do not meet minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.
  • On SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), billions lack safe water, sanitation and handwashing facilities, and data suggests that the world needs to double its current annual rate of progress to achieve universal access to even basic sanitation.
  • On SDG 13 (climate action), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to increase.
  • On SDGs 14 and 15 (life on land), biodiversity is being lost “at an alarming rate” with one million species facing extinction, many within decades. Invasive species and illegal wildlife trafficking continue to undermine efforts to protect and restore ecosystems and species.
  • Progress on SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) is uneven, with millions deprived of security and rights.
  • On SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), the report finds slow-paced progress. It cautions that the most vulnerable countries and people suffer the most. Rural and urban differentials persist, such as on higher out-of-school rates for primary and secondary schools in rural areas. The report notes that gender inequalities also persist, cautioning that there is “no way” the world can achieve the 17 SDGs without achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls.

Other challenges addressed in the report include: challenges in multilateral cooperation; intensified conflict and instability, which have reversed progress made; and increased challenges as a result of disasters, particularly among vulnerable developing countries.

Actions to progress in the future

Specific actions called for in the report include:

  • Placing special focus on the most vulnerable to ensure that no one is left behind;
  • Ensuring adequate and well-directed financing;
  • Strengthening institutions and making them more inclusive and effective;
  • Enhancing local action to accelerate implementation;
  • Bolstering economies and building resilience;
  • Improving collection, access and use of data for the SDGs; and
  • Harnessing science, technology and innovation (STI) with a greater focus on digital transformation for sustainable development.



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