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First UNECE regional report on SDGs shows some good progress and many gaps ‎

First UNECE regional report on SDGs shows some good progress and many gaps ‎

UNECE has today launched a first Regional report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This comes at a key juncture in the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda since its adoption in 2015, and will help to sharpen efforts as we enter the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs.


It describes the levels and trends of selected indicators relevant for the region, and highlights measurement challenges, to inform the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE Region on 19 March. In total, the report reviews 49 indicators across all 17 SDGs. For most indicators, the report looks at change over recent years.


UNECE countries are fulfilling targets or making good progress in many of the topics covered in this report. These include targets directly aimed at people, such as eradicating extreme poverty, covering the population with social protection, providing modern means for family planning, and having low levels of maternal, infant and child mortality; as well as actions geared towards preserving the planet – such as expanding forest cover, providing safely managed sanitation, lowering the energy intensity of the economy and complying with environmental agreements.


On the other hand, in areas such as air pollution, protection of marine areas, development assistance, and disaster-risk reduction strategies, more needs to be done to meet the targets.

Key trends include:

Only ten countries in the region have levels of air pollution with fine particulate matter below the limit recommended by the WHO air quality guidelines for PM2.5 (annual average concentration of 10 µg/m3): Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Estonia, the United States, Norway, Portugal, Ireland and Spain.  


In most countries, the proportion of underweight children below the age of five is low, ranging between 2 and 4 per cent, while the overweight rates are much higher, ranging from 5 to 15 per cent. This pattern is especially pronounced in some Western Balkan countries. For example, there are ten times more overweight children than underweight children in Albania, eight times more in Montenegro and around seven times more in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in North Macedonia.

Gender equality

In most countries, women spend considerably more time in domestic and care work than men. The largest differences are observed in Albania, where women spend 5.2 hours and men 0.8 hours per day; Turkey (4.6 and 0.9 hours); and Kazakhstan (4.3 and 1.4 hours). The gap between women and men is smallest in the Nordic countries – Sweden (3.9 hours for women and 3.1 for men), Norway (3.8 and 3.0) and Finland (3.5 and 2.4).


Sweden, Finland, Spain and Norway each have more than 40 per cent women among members of parliament, and a further 17 countries have more than 30 per cent women. In 36 countries across the region the share of women parliamentarians increased between 2015 and 2019. However, the share of women among local government representatives is close to gender parity in only four UNECE countries: Belarus, France, Iceland and Sweden.


The proportion of women among managers has increased since 2012 in 32 countries, but very few countries are approaching gender parity: only in Latvia, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Poland, Slovenia, Ukraine and the United States did the share of women among managers exceed 40 per cent in 2017.


From 2007 to 2017, the total number of fatalities in road traffic accidents decreased by 30 per cent in the region, to approximately 105,000. Yet this positive trend still means that nearly 290 people die each day on the region’s roads. In addition to these deaths, over 5 million people were injured in 2017. 


There are marked sub-regional differences in both the fatality rate (defined as road fatalities per million inhabitants) and the trend over time: EU and EFTA countries reported a decrease of 42 per cent in road traffic deaths during 2007-2017; Central Asia and Eastern Europe reported a decrease of 37 per cent and North America 11 per cent.


Passenger cars remain the dominant form of mobility in the region, with the share of journeys by car ranging from 70 per cent in Turkey to 92 per cent in Uzbekistan.


While the levels of CO2 emissions per unit of GDP vary significantly across the UNECE region, almost all countries observed an improvement between 2011 and 2016. The largest fall is seen in Uzbekistan (from 0.83 to 0.45 kg of CO2 per constant 2010 US dollar), followed by Turkmenistan (from 1.09 to 0.79) and Ukraine (from 0.75 to 0.62). CO2 emissions per unit of GDP in 2016 were lowest in Switzerland (0.08), Sweden (0.08) and Malta (0.09), which observed a significant improvement on an already low level in 2011 (from 0.22 to 0.09).


Overall across the UNECE region, forest cover has been expanding over the past two decades. The net increase between 2000 and 2015 was 28.1 million hectares. This contrasts markedly with the situation worldwide, where the share of forest in total land area decreased from 31.1 to 30.7 per cent between 2000 and 2015.


Countries with the greatest water stress are in Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), the Mediterranean (Israel, Malta, Spain, Turkey) and the Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan). Three countries – Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Israel – abstract more water than is renewed in the same period, resulting in a level of water stress above 100 per cent.

Development assistance

Of the 25 countries with available data, only five meet the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income allocated to official development assistance: Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark and the United Kingdom. The lowest values, below 0.2 per cent, were reported for Spain, the United States, Slovenia, Portugal, Hungary, Czechia, Poland, Greece and Slovakia.

Economy and social protection

Only a few countries – Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany and Ireland – have unemployment benefit coverage reaching or exceeding 95 per cent of the population. In three quarters of UNECE countries, the share of unemployed people receiving unemployment benefits is below 60 per cent, with the lowest coverage – below 2 per cent – reported in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan.


Currently all UNECE countries have pension provisions for persons above statutory retirement age. In 2016, the proportion of older persons covered by pension schemes was universal (100 per cent) in about half of UNECE countries, while the lowest coverage was reported for Montenegro (53 per cent) and Croatia (57 per cent). The proportion of older women receiving pension remains lower in a number of countries.

The report is available here.

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