Progress on SDGs Going into Reverse
A member of the expert group charged by the UN with evaluating the progress towards the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), says progress has gone in the wrong direction.
The warning was made by Jean-Paul Moatti, the director-general of the French National Research Institute for Development (IRD), one of the 15-member expert group that is working on the first instalment of a four-yearly Global Sustainable Development Report.
The expert calls to change policies and accelerate efforts towards reaching SDG targets and suggests sustainability science can forge a path ahead.
Backward Trend for Progress on SDG Targets
Key issues in achieving the targets are:
- Progress is going backward and not forward. In cases where the trend was going backwards to begin with, it has not been reversed or slowed down.
- In cases where progress was moving forward , it has halted. For targets relating to climate change, which was moving forward, progress has now halted.
According to Jean-Paul Moatti there is a connection between economic growth and SDGs, where increased economic growth leads to either halting or reversing of progress for SDGs. The main reason for this trend is the inability to grow economically without causing environmental and social harm.
The expert group has identified three SDGs of highest importance. These are Reduction of inequalities (SDG10), limitation and adaptation to climate change (SDG13) and reduction of the environmental and ecological footprint of our modes of production and consumption (SDG 12). These affect the entire 2030 agenda for sustainable development and hold the key to success or failure of the agenda. The expert group has found progress is worst with these three goals. Two of these SDGs, namely, 10 and 12 are both negatively affected by alcohol use. This fact also means that alcohol policy measures hold tremendous potential to help drive progress towards these key SDGs.
The Emerging Field of Sustainability Science
The growing field of sustainability science, defined as science that it is driven by the sustainable development agenda, stemming from the need to tackle major problems that the planet and the various populations are facing, can help in achieving progress in SDGs.
Two types of research are necessary in progress towards SDGs.
- Short-term sustainability science enabling achievement of the 2030 agenda by optimizing existing knowledge.
- Long-term sustainability science focusing on progress beyond the 2030 agenda.
The Way Forward
Jean-Paul Moatti, Director General of IRD, believes while the road is not easy, the 2030 agenda can be achieved. He calls for more university programmes on SDGs, higher mobilization of youth towards SDG implementation and increasing capacity of scientific communities in the global south.
He believes greater inclusion of science, knowledge and experience from the South is of key importance to progress forward in achieving the 2030 agenda.