SDG Progress “Halted,” Partnerships Needed: SDSN Report

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) published the seventh edition of its annual Sustainable Development Report, which includes the 2022 SDG Index, the 2022 International Spillover Index, and Dashboards. The report warns that “[f]or the second year in a row, the world is no longer making progress on the SDGs.” It shows that the “multiple and simultaneous” crises spanning the areas of health, climate, biodiversity, and geopolitics have hit poor and vulnerable countries hardest, and presents a global plan to finance sustainable development.

The SDSN’s 2021 report documented the first reversal in progress since the SDGs were adopted in 2015. This year’s report reveals a further decrease in the global average country score on the SDG Index, mainly due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and poor performance on SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 14 (life below water), and SDG 15 (life on land).

The report’s authors – SDSN President Jeffrey Sachs, Christian Kroll, Guillaume Lafortune, Grayson Fuller, and Finn Woelm – argue that in addition to “massive humanitarian costs,” military conflicts, including the war in Ukraine, affect food security and energy prices and “crowd out space for long-term thinking and investments.” “Peace, diplomacy, and international cooperation are fundamental conditions for the world to progress on the SDGs towards 2030 and beyond,” they underscore.

Peace, diplomacy, and international cooperation are fundamental conditions for the world to progress on the SDGs towards 2030 and beyond.

The 2022 SDG Index ranks Finland, Denmark, and Sweden first, second, and third, and all top ten performers are European countries. None of them, however, are on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030, given major challenges on several Goals. The 2022 International Spillover Index included in the report also reveals that rich countries generate negative socioeconomic and environmental spillovers, including through unsustainable trade, consumption, and supply chains.

The region that made the most progress on the SDGs since their adoption is East and South Asia, with Bangladesh and Cambodia topping the ranks in terms of progress achieved. Venezuela has declined the most since the SDGs’ adoption in 2015.

The report also notes that, halfway to 2030, countries vary greatly in terms of SDG integration in budgets, policies, and programmes. Among the Group of 20 (G20), the US, Brazil, and the Russian Federation show the least support for the Goals. Nordic countries, on the other hand, as well as Argentina, Germany, Japan, and Mexico exhibit relatively high levels of support for the 2030 Agenda.

Citing decreased development budgets, squeezed by shifts in strategic priorities, especially in Europe, the report outlines a five-point plan to finance the SDGs globally. It recommends that:

  • The G20 commit to channeling “far larger flows of financing” to developing countries to support their economic development and help them achieve the SDGs;
  • The G20 “greatly increase” the multilateral development banks’ (MDBs) lending capacity and annual flows through greater paid-in capital and greater leverage of their balance sheets;
  • The G20 bolster SDG finance for the low income countries (LICs) and lower middle income countries (LMICs) through increased official development assistance (ODA), large-scale philanthropy, and refinancing of debts falling due;
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and credit rating agencies redesign the assessments of debt sustainability based on developing countries’ growth potential and need for “far larger capital accumulation”; and
  • Developing countries work with the IMF and MDBs to improve their debt management and creditworthiness by taking measures to prevent future liquidity crises.

The report highlights the SDG Summit 2023 as an opportunity to “define priorities for restoring and accelerating SDG progress by 2030 and beyond,” and underlines that “[a]mbitious and sound national targets, strategies, and plans are crucial to turning the SDGs into an action agenda.” To support the SDGs, it stresses the need to scale up partnerships and innovations in scientific cooperation and data through increased and prolonged investments in statistical capacities, research and development, and education and skills.

The report was released on 2 June 2022 at a Stockholm+50 associated event, ‘Mobilizing International Financing to Restore and Accelerate SDG Progress.’ The event was organized by SDSN, in partnership with the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD-DAC).

SDSN works to mobilize expertise for problem solving for sustainable development. Its yearly resources provide data to track and rank the performance of all UN Member States on the 17 SDGs. [Publication: Sustainable Development Report 2022: From Crisis to Sustainable Development: the SDGs as Roadmap to 2030 and Beyond] [Key Findings] [Interactive Data] [SDSN Press Release]