Breaking through to a better future


It was in 2016 that the United Nations announced 17 sustainable development goals accompanied by 169 targets. Each goal matters on its own and they all interconnect, incorporating social, economic and environmental sustainability.

According to a UN report, of the approximately 140 targets, half of them show moderate or severe deviations from the desired trajectory. Furthermore, more than 30 per cent of these targets have experienced no progress or, even worse, regression below the 2015 baseline.

Let’s start with something that’s working very well.

Progress in some areas illustrates the potential for further advances. The share of the global population’s access to electricity increased from 87 per cent in 2015 to 91 per cent in 2021, with close to 800 million additional people connected.

Additionally, the number of people using the Internet has grown by 65 per cent since 2015, reaching 5.3 billion people of the world’s population in 2022.

The latest UN report shows that 133 countries, by 2021, had met the target on under-5 mortality, and an additional 13 are expected to do so by 2030. Despite the global manufacturing growth slowdown, medium-high- and high-technology industries demonstrated robust growth rates.

Regarding funding, donors including governments and charity organisations have made strong commitments to aid and other forms of support for the poorest, using the goals to guide where they spend the money.

France, the Netherlands, the United States and China have recently increased their funding for health in low-income countries. The Gates Foundation said it would increase its total giving by 50 per cent to $9 billion a year by 2026. This will be mainly for health and development.

Although we have made progress in some of the targets since the declaration of the goals, there is still more to be done. We are far away from where we should be. The Covid-19 crisis, climate change and conflicts in some countries have all created spin-off impacts and hampered the progress towards the goals.

This means the stakes are huge as only seven years remain for the implementation of the goals. As such a fundamental shift is needed mainly in commitment, solidarity, financing and action.

Looking at the events of the past three years, trust in public institutions has declined. Changes in the world of work, globalisation and technological breakthroughs – which raise aspirations, but also fear – left many people in a perilous position.

Interestingly, even after record commitments from donors, one report recently found that the funding for the goals will be short of at least $10 to $15 trillion each year for the rest of this decade.

The world’s poorest and most vulnerable are experiencing the worst effects of these unprecedented global challenges!

“If present trends persist, by 2030, a staggering 575 million people will remain trapped in extreme poverty and an estimated 84 million children and young people will still be out of school,” the report warns.

“Failure to redouble global efforts to achieve the goals – the promise of a better world for all – may fuel greater political instability, upend economies and lead to irreversible damage to the natural environment,” a special edition of the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023 warns.

Having so many targets in the goals wouldn’t necessarily be an issue if the world step up through the combination of collective action and strong political will, and the effective use of available technologies, resources and knowledge.

This will ultimately lift hundreds of millions out of poverty, improve gender equality, put the world on a low-emissions pathway and secure human rights for all.

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