A lack of effective collaboration among nations has emerged as a significant factor hindering progress toward the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This concern was prominently raised during the 18th session of the 78th United Nations gathering when the second committee delved into operational activities.
Alcohol as obstacke to development was again absent from the debate. But more evidence is emerging about the harmful impact of the alcohol industry on all dimensions of the 2030 Agenda. And full implementation of alcohol policies has the potential to rejuvenate the SDG Agenda by helping address its core challenges.

A lack of synergy between countries has been revealed as one of the reasons for the world being off-track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This was highlighted during the 78th United Nations General Assembly sessions.

Many speakers elaborated on the need to continue boosting South-South cooperation, especially in relation to the SDGs. Others underscored that South-South cooperation should complement North-South cooperation, and not substitute it. Jamaica’s representative, on behalf of the Caribbean Community, stressed the importance of switching from policy formation to policy implementation. The representative went on to highlight that smaller developing island states and the Caribbean region needed special focus by the UN to achieve these goals.

The Sri Lankan delegate specifically highlighted the need for international solidarity in an unprecedented time of crisis.

Alcohol as obstacle to development and alcohol policy as catalyst for the SDGs was shockingly absent from these deliberations.

However, proper implementation of alcohol policy has the potential to revive the SDG Agenda by addressing the key challenges it faces. For one, the implementation of alcohol policy directly helps countries achieve targets related to 14 out of the 17 SDGs. Additionally, it also helps mobilise the resources necessary to finance the work towards all SDGs.

Eradicating poverty and agriculture development

The 18th session brought particular attention to the difficulties met in eradicating poverty and agricultural development around the world.

A representative who aligned himself with the Group of 77 and China stressed the abnormality of women and men in the 21st century still suffering from the lack of proper nutrition. For example, he noted that 20% of the African population suffered from hunger. This is despite the fact that Africa possesses 60% of the world’s arable land.

The eradication of poverty remains one of the greatest challenges of the SDGs today.

Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, emphasised the need for a combination of interconnected factors geared towards eradication. Another speaker from Cuba, Adiel Rodriguez also emphasised the need for predictable and sustainable funding in this direction.

UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs introduces two new tools

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has launched two new software tools that help measure progress towards the SDGs. The tool helps facilitate informed, data-driven decisions. The tool is developed in partnership with Google.

The platform enables policymakers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and interested members of the public to explore diverse statistical datasets. They can also explore the annual global SDG report and analytics. The DESA press release incorporates a natural language interface that allows users to ask questions easily.

The tool allows users to explore, visualize, and download SDG data based on a specific country, region, or Goal. They can also search for in-depth insights based on SDG data and narratives from the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023 in a single location.

Global warming affects beer – or vice versa?

Alcohol production, distribution, retail, and other parts of the alcohol industry are not only harming health and economy. Alcohol also harm the environmental dimension of sustainable development, for example driving the climate crisis, water and food insecurity and biodiversity loss.

A new study reveals that beer hop harvests are declining due to global warming. The decline in the harvest amounts to close to nearly 20%. Its quality is also declining according to the study.

It shows that alcohol production is putting increasing pressure on natural resources that should better serve for food and drinking water.

In a historic move on July 28, 2022, the United National General Assembly declared the right to a healthy environment a human right.

Movendi International has exposed that alcohol production is a threat to achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the environmental dimension of the Agenda 2030. This includes SDGs 6, 13, and 15.

The increasing severity of droughts in Mexico, while Big Beer continues draining groundwater to produce beer, is a clear example of how beer production is a threat to SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation and a threat to the human right to a healthy environment. A necessary part of tackling climate change is tackling the unsustainable management of resources of Big Alcohol.

Alcohol, particularly beer, fuels the climate crisis, according to calculations of greenhouse gas emissions.

  • The yearly amount of Australian beer consumption is equal in emissions to a car driving 1.94 billion km – the equivalent of 48 000 car rides around the world.
  • Emissions related to beer production and consumption cause the biggest damage to the climate when compared to other beverages such as coffee or tea.

Other aspects of the alcohol industry contributing to global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, high energy use, pollution and waste of natural resources are:

  • Refrigeration in the hospitality sector,
  • Use of fertilizers,
  • Water use,
  • Packaging,
  • Waste,
  • Transport of raw materials,
  • Distribution of the products.

How alcohol affects the SDGs

In 2019, Movendi International released an upgraded and revised resource to present state-of-the-art evidence about how alcohol affects sustainable development. The report illustrates that alcohol adversely affects 14 SDGs and presents extensive scientific proof that all dimensions of the 2030 Agenda are impacted by alcohol as an obstacle to development. A special page on the Movendi International website based on this booklet provides an innovative overview of alcohol’s adverse effects across the Agenda 2030 – on human capital development, economic development, environmental development, social development, as well as development for women and girls.

The key messages

  1. Alcohol is an obstacle to development by jeopardizing human capital. In fact, alcohol is a major risk factor for lost human potential throughout the life course.
  2. Alcohol’s social damage, its harm to people’s health and well-being, and to public and global health, and alcohol’s costs on the criminal justice system, all create a heavy burden on the economy of any society. Alcohol costs any society more than the alcohol trade adds to it.
  3. Alcohol’s health, social, and economic harms are well known. However, alcohol’s adverse effects on the environment, water and food resources, and climate are less well known. Nevertheless, they are real, severe, and growing.
  4. Exclusion, deprivation, inequality, exploitation: Alcohol’s massive social harm. Alcohol harm is a Human Rights issue. The harm to health is only part of the total alcohol-related damage. It is especially a Women’s Rights, Child Rights, and Indigenous People’s rights issue.
  5. Societal norms, gender-based violence, and sexual reproductive health and rights are major components of achieving full gender equality. Alcohol is a key driver of harmful societal norms and a major risk factor for violence against women and girls. Alcohol is also a substantial hindrance to sexual reproductive health and rights for women and girls.
  6. The alcohol industry is a vector of poverty, disease, and social, environmental, and economic harm. Alcohol is no ordinary product and Big Alcohol is no ordinary industry. The concentration of market power in the alcohol industry is clearly threatening sustainable human development.

Resetting SDGs prioritising poverty, health, and climate

The SDG agenda is meant to tackle a wide range of global challenges, from poverty and health to environmental protection and fairness. Nevertheless, the world has not made as much progress as was hoped for with the SDGs.

In this light, one study reported on by Movendi International highlights the need for systemic change that addresses global power imbalances. It also points to the need for a unified worldwide effort to fix problems of health, inequality, and the environment.

The paper argues that mere adjustments to individual SDG targets are insufficient. It underlines the need for a reform of the SDGs.

Inadequate Progress of SDGs
The UN Sustainable Development Report reveals that only 15% of the 140 targets set within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are currently on track for achievement.

The study proposes four key areas for areas for reform:

  • Promoting a well-being economy,
  • Recognising power inequalities,
  • Prioritising planetary health, and
  • Reforming global financing.

Overall, these key areas help address a central constructional flaw of the SDGs. This is the equation of prosperity with growth in gross domestic product (GDP) and the ensuing neglect of equity.

A new value-based narrative will be essential, such as that presented by proponents of a well-being economy and the World Health Organization (WHO) Council on the Economics of Health for All.

The SDGs do not adequately address the underlying systemic inequities and uncertainties that perpetuate the very issues it seeks to address. Hopefully, new tools such as the new software tools introduced by DESA help create this new value-based narrative. The fiscal resources necessary to bring about lasting change are also a fact that needs urgent addressing.

Financing sustainable development

Alcohol taxation is one of the most cost-effective interventions for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030, a new expert study shows.

Alcohol contributes to a large number of diseases and causes an additional 700,000 accidental deaths globally, as well as immense social damage.

Alcohol has a negative impact on sustainable human development, hindering progress in 14 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It affects all three dimensions of development, including economic, social, and environmental aspects, and permeates through all aspects of society. And poverty is in many ways – at least 7 – connected to alcohol and impacts all levels from individuals and families to communities and societies in general.

2 Mio
Alcohol deaths in LMICs
Alcohol kills 300,000 people in low-income countries and 1.6 million in lower-middle-income countries, every year.

This indicates that addressing alcohol-related harms is crucial for achieving sustainable development.

In a new peer-reviewed paper, researchers of the Copenhagen Consensus Center examined the benefit-cost analyses of various NCD interventions in low-income (LICs) and lower–middle–income (LMCs) countries. The analyzed 30 interventions recommended by the Disease Control Priorities Project, including six intersectoral policies, such as taxes and 24 clinical services. Using a previously published model to estimate intervention costs and benefits through 2030, researchers found that intersectoral policies often provided great value for money.

They conclude that there are several cost-beneficial opportunities to tackle NCDs in LICs and LMCs. In countries with very limited resources, the best-investment interventions could begin to address the major NCD risk factors, especially tobacco and alcohol, and build greater health system capacity, with benefits continuing to accrue beyond 2030.

Social benefits thanks to alcohol policy
Each dollar spent on alcohol policy development will deliver $76 of social benefits.
Social benefits from alcohol taxation alone
An alcohol tax increase alone can generate large social benefits at $53 back on the dollar.

Alcohol policy as catalyst for development

Clearly, alcohol policy in general and alcohol taxation in particular are very sound investments in reaching the SDGs.

Alcohol policy and alcohol taxation, as the single most cost-effective alcohol policy solution, help reduce population-level alcohol use and harm. The study shows they are very cost-beneficial interventions for promoting development. The Copenhagen Consensus think tank has been working for years together with several Nobel laureates and more than a hundred leading economists to identify where each policy dollar can do the most good. Alcohol policy and alcohol taxation in particular are among the top options for governments.

Low- and middle-income countries need interventions that use fewer resources while producing the largest effect – targeting the biggest obstacles to development.

According to several studies that have been reviewed, there is clear evidence for the effectiveness of increasing the prices of alcohol and implementing alcohol taxes. This is because encourages people to consume less alcohol, resulting in fewer alcohol-related harms.

That is why alcohol policy in general and alcohol taxation in particular are powerful tools to help get the global get back on track for the 2030 Agenda.


BBC: “Climate change could make beer taste worse

IISD: “DESA Tools Help Track Progress on SDGs

KCRA3: “The climate crisis is coming for your hoppy beer

UN Meetings Coverage and Press Releases_ “Sustainable Development under Grave Threat, Requiring Strengthened Multilateralism, Representative Underlines, as Second Committee Takes Up Operational Activities

For Further Reading