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On target? UNECE report highlights need for strengthened commitment to achieve SDGS in the region by 2030

On target? UNECE report highlights need for strengthened commitment to achieve SDGS in the region by 2030

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If the UNECE region follows current trends, by 2030 it will achieve only 23 of the 169 SDG targets. However, only 89 targets can be assessed while for the remaining 80, no assessment can be made due to insufficient data.

For 57 targets, progress needs to accelerate if we are to achieve the targets, and for another 9 the current trend needs to be reversed. These are the main conclusions of UNECE’s annual report on achieving the SDGs in the region: Is the UNECE region on track for 2030? Assessment, stories and insights.

“This report must serve as a wake-up call for the region to accelerate collective action or risk failing on the 2030 Development Agenda”, warned UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova. “With 80 targets out of the total 169 that cannot be adequately measured by official statistics, it is also a reminder of the magnitude of the work still ahead of us to measure the complexity of sustainable development in an internationally comparable manner”.

15 United Nations organizations (UNDP, FAO, UNFPA, IOM, UNHCR, UNCTAD, UNIDO, UNICEF, UN Women, WHO and UNECE) and country teams (UN Kyrgyzstan, UN Moldova, UN Serbia, UN Turkmenistan) from across the region contributed to the analysis with real-life perspectives on the actions that are being taken in the field.  Anchored in data, the insights from these stories help understand the ways that change can be achieved—they offer hope, but some also highlight the major obstacles brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, whose impact is not yet reflected in the statistical data.

Graphic EN Report SDG

Poverty and access to basic services

The region is on track in reducing extreme poverty, undernourishment and malnutrition, and providing access to basic services and adequate housing.

The sustainability of the food supply is uncertain. Risk of extinction among local livestock breeds—an important source of sustainable nutrition—is projected to increase by 2030 (indicator 2.5.2). Likewise, government investment in agricultural productivity and efficiency relative to the contribution of the agricultural sector to the economy (agricultural orientation index, indicator 2.a.1) decreased between 2000 and 2017 in nearly two-thirds of UNECE countries with data.

Health and well-being

As measured before the pandemic, the region is on course to achieve 5 of the 13 health and well-being targets.

Road traffic safety, health impacts of pollution, and the management of health risks have been improving across the region.

Still, more than half of health targets require acceleration, and the pandemic may further stall progress in areas such as mental health, substance abuse, and health workforce development.

Economic activity and cities

For some of these goals, including those on affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, and responsible consumption and production, progress is either on track or could be achieved with accelerated efforts.

But in others, adverse trends in one or more targets mean that the goals are out of reach unless policies are concentrated to change their course. These include in particular targets on economic productivity and innovation and infrastructure development.

Climate and the environment

On climate and the environment, the region is on track to achieve 7 targets.

If the current pace of progress can be maintained, it is likely most countries in the region will reduce fossil fuel subsidies to near zero by 2030 (indicator 12.c.1). Industry is becoming more energy efficient; the region is on track to meet targets around carbon intensity of the gross domestic product (indicator 9.4.1).

However, the region will need to accelerate progress or reverse current trends to meet other critical climate and environment targets like those related to the conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity, sustainable forest management, disaster resilience, waste generation and treatment, and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Peace and justice

While the decline in corruption and strengthening of institutions represent positive progress towards more peaceful and inclusive societies (goal 16) by 2030, the rise in victims of human trafficking (indicator 16.2.2) needs to be reversed.

Consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic

Almost all of the data used in the assessment pertain to the time before the Covid-19 pandemic. The changes that the pandemic has inflicted on the trajectory of progress cannot yet be quantified in this assessment.

Nevertheless, evidence collected since the onset of the pandemic points to negative impacts on several areas of the 2030 Agenda where the assessment indicates that progress is insufficient.

School closures and disparities in access to resources for online learning are likely to slow or reverse progress towards education targets like equal access to education (4.5) and effective learning outcomes (4.1).

The pandemic and the related economic crisis have disproportionately affected women, both at work and at home, causing challenges for families and increasing violence against women and girls (In Kyrgyzstan domestic violence increased by 65 per cent in March 2020 compared to the same period in 2019).

The progress observed before the pandemic towards more equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work and women’s increasing representation in leading positions is at risk of being reversed. These developments threaten to undermine decades of progress towards gender equality and the empowerment of women.

On the positive side, the assessment shows that the targets related to the spread and use of information and communication technology (9.c, 17.6 and 17.8) – the area critically important for operating under the pandemic restrictions – appear well on track in the UNECE region.

Overall, in view of the pandemic, the assessment provided in this report should be seen through the lens of expected slowdown of progress, at least in the short term.

The key role of data

Behind these headline figures lies a mass of data, compiled by countries, aggregated by the United Nations Statistics Division and analyzed for this regional report by UNECE.

The 2021 report, the second annual statistical analysis of progress towards achieving the SDGs in the UNECE region, takes a novel approach. The analyses use an advanced statistical methodology that has been adopted by all five United Nations regional commissions. The Anticipated Progress Index looks at how things have changed since 2000—giving more weight to recent trends than to older patterns—and assesses whether an indicator is on course to be met. If the trend shows that the target is off course, the Index estimates the size of the gap between where the trend is heading and where it would need to be to achieve the target.   

The aggregate-level analysis produced this year complements the country-specific insights highlighted in 2020’s report.

Of course, regional averages can mask wide variation between countries. The UNECE Dashboard for SDGs, now available in Russian as well as English, showcases the latest data for all UNECE countries and can be used to assess progress at the country level. 42 countries of the region disseminate SDG indicators via one stop shops – National Reporting Platforms -, sometimes with targets adapted to reflect national circumstances: UNECE tracks these efforts, along with other steps taken by countries to monitor their own progress and apply the recommendations of the Conference of European Statisticians Road Map on Statistics for Sustainable Development.

Sluggish progress at the regional level reflects uneven progress across and within countries for many targets. Such disparities impede progress towards many targets across all goals, highlighting the importance of regional cooperation to leave no one behind on the way to 2030.

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