2016 Global Sustainable Development Report

Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) – 2016 edition (Advance unedited version)

At the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the United Nations have released an advanced unedited version of the 2016 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR).

Building upon the 2014 and 2015 reports, the current report responds to the mandate from the Rio+20 Conference to contribute to strengthening the science-policy interface for sustainable development in the context of the high-level political forum on sustainable development (HLPF).

Missed chance: Alcohol as obstacle to development NOT addressed

The preparation of the report involved an inclusive, multistakeholder process drawing upon scientific and technical expertise from within and outside the United Nations. 245 scientists and experts based in 27 countries, including 13 developing countries, contributed to the report. 62 policy briefs were submitted in response to an open call. Twenty agencies, departments and programmes of the UN system contributed to the report with inputs, comments, suggestions or revisions.

The GSDR, however, does not mention alcohol (or NCDs) once – which is not in line with latest evidence showing that alcohol is a massive obstacle to the achievement of 12 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

New development agenda: Agenda 2030

Major international conferences and summits in 2015 – on financing for development, sustainable development, and climate change – have defined a new sustainable development agenda for the next 15 years.

At all levels, from global to local, attention is turning to implementing this ambitious agenda. This is the context in which this year’s GSRD appears. Given the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with its sustainable development goals (SDGs), the report adopts the SDGs as its scope.

The report endeavors to present a range of scientific perspectives and to be policy-relevant but not policy-prescriptive. Like its predecessors, it continues to explore possible approaches and vantage points from which to examine the science-policy interface, as well as scientific approaches that can inform policies building upon integration and interlinkages across sustainable development goals, sectors, and issues.

Leaving no one behind

The report was prepared specifically to inform the discussions at the high-level political forum on sustainable development in 2016. The theme chosen for the HLPF is ‘ensuring that no one is left behind’. This theme is a recurring thread in the report. The first chapter asks what ‘ensuring that no one is left behind’ means in relation to the 2030 Agenda, and provides a framing for other chapters of the report.

The concept of equality – or inequality – is also prominent in the 2030 Agenda. It has a standalone goal, SDG 10, which aims to reduce inequalities within and among countries, and is also directly reflected in goals and targets across the Agenda, including in the goals for health, education, gender, and others.

Identifying emerging issues for the HLPF

The identification of new and emerging issues warranting policy makers’ attention is a critical function of the science-policy interface. Building on the 2014 and 2015 reports, this year’s report provides an overview of existing approaches to identify emerging issues for sustainable development.

Policymakers are exposed to a broad range of analyses, rankings, and advice concerning emerging issues; consequently a categorization of existing material, informed by a sustainable development perspective, could contribute to improved policymaking. The process of identifying emerging issues can be usefully guided by criteria during the “scanning” phase of issues across a range of sources.

The report presents a sample of emerging issues from a variety of sources, such as global UN initiatives and national academies of sciences. The latter coordinate and define research priorities in all scientific fields of interest and importance to the particular country. Leading academic journals are an important source for the emerging issues as well, as they contain peer-reviewed academic contributions.

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