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UN Releases the First Global Goals Progress Report

In September 2015, the UN ratified the Global Goals — an ambitious plan for tackling the world’s biggest problems by 2030.

It’s the third 15-year cycle of global goals since 1990 and it’s by far the most comprehensive. The 17 goals cover everything from climate change to gender inequality to sustainable cities to life under water.

As the first anniversary of their approval approaches, the UN has released the inaugural progress report. It paints a mixed picture of progress so far, and doesn’t try to hide the scale of challenges.

The report is up-front about what separates success from failure: data. Without regular and comprehensive data collection and verification, the Global Goals will fail.

As the intro states: “The data requirements for the global indicators are almost as unprecedented as the SDGs themselves and constitute a tremendous challenge to all countries.”

With data, the problems can be understood and once the problems are understood, they can be better targeted.

The good news is that the right technology exists for this task. The bad news is, all countries don’t have equal access to it. So the focus of the next few years will be getting every country the same data collection and verification level. It’s possible, but it will be challenging.  

With that in mind, here’s the status of each goal one year in.

Goal 1: End Poverty

Goal 1 calls for all people to enjoy a basic standard of living and social protection benefits. Since 2000, the proportion of workers and their families who live on less than $1.90 a day has dropped from 28 percent to 10 percent. Unfortunately, those who most need social assistance or protection benefits are still less likely to receive it, as just one in five people in low-income countries receive necessary support versus two out of three people in upper-middle-income countries.

Read more: Global Goal 1: End Poverty

Goal 2: End Hunger

The proportion of the global population suffering from hunger has decreased in the last 15 years and now stands at 11 percent. However, 800 million people still lack sufficient access to food. Access to food is particularly poor in sub-Saharan Africa where more than half of the adult population faced moderate or severe food insecurity last year. About 158.6 million children under the age of 5 experienced stunted growth due to malnutrition and lack of food, while 41 million children of the same age were reportedly overweight.

Read more: Global Goal 2: End Hunger

Children Goals Hero 2 Edited.jpgImage: Eric A. Clement

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being 

Since 1990, the worldwide maternal mortality rate has fallen by 44 percent, while the child mortality rate for children under the age of five has been halved. Still, 5.9 million children in that age group died in 2015. Most of these deaths were from preventable causes like HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria — all of which have declined globally in the last 15 years. Around 214 million people contracted malaria in 2015, with 89 percent of those cases occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.

Read more: Good Health and Well-Being

Goal 4: Quality Education

In 2013, 59 million children of primary school age were out of school. While data from 38 developed countries indicated that at least 75% of young people in most of these countries had minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics, the same was true for only 5 of the 22 developing countries studied. There were still 757 million people aged 15 and over unable to read and write, and two-thirds of this number were women.

Read more: Global Goal 4: Quality Education

Goal 5: Gender Equality

In 30 countries where female genital mutilation takes place, more than a third of girls aged 15 to 19 have undergone the procedure. Based on data collected from 59 countries between 2000-14, women spent 19% of their time daily on unpaid labour, whereas men spent 8%. There is some good news on the gender equality front: Globally, the proportion of women aged 20-24 who reported that they were married before they turned 18 has dropped from 32% in 1990 to 26% in 2015. The proportion of seats held by women in single or lower houses of parliament rose by 6% over the last decade to reach 23% in 2016.

Read more: Global Goal 5: Gender Equality

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

In 2015, while 91% of the global population used an improved drinking water source as compared to 82% in 2000, an estimated 663 million people were still using unimproved sources of water. Between 2000 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using improved sanitation increased from 59% to 68%, but 946 million people were still left without facilities, forced to defecate in the open. Water stress affects more than 2 billion people globally, and this figure is expected to rise. Integrated Water Resources Management plans are under way in every region of the world.

Read more: Global Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation


Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Recent progress, especially in Southern Asia, Southeastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, has provided 85% of the global population with access to electricity. Despite this increase from the 79% in 2001, there are still 1.1 billion people living without electricity. Just over 18% of the world’s energy generated by renewable energy sources, and this number increases every year.

Read more: Global Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

From 2010 to 2014, the global average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita was 1.6%, which is down from the period 2000 to 2004 and a far cry from the Global Goal of a 7% GDP. Workers in the world’s poorest regions are only about 5% as productive as those in developed regions, when measured as a percentage of GDP, and women are 15% more likely to be unemployed than men. Nearly 2 billion adults worldwide still lack an account at a financial institution, which hinders their financial stability.

Read more: Global Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

There are vast manufacturing inequalities in the world that prevent many countries from growing. For example, in 2015, manufacturing value added (MVA) per capita was less than $100 a year in the least developed countries compared to $4,926 in developed regions. The proportion of the world’s energy use covered by mandatory energy efficiency regulations has almost doubled in a shift to less energy intensive industries from 14% in 2005 to 27 percent in 2014. Research developments have increased, but the poorest countries are still falling behind. Technological advances have also connected the world. 95% of people living in the least developed countries are covered by a mobile-cellular signal.

Read more: Global Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Goal 10: Reduce Inequalities

Goal 10 aims to reduce inequalities in income – not to mention those based on sex, age, disability, race, class, ethnicity, religion, and opportunity. Between 2007 and 2012, income inequality declined in many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as several countries in Asia. This means that these countries saw gains for the poorest 40 percent of households. Additionally, the share of imports from LDCs and developing countries that enter developed countries duty-free has risen. Lastly, the cost of sending money across international borders has declined. This is good news for migrants, whose remittances to developing countries stimulate their home country’s economy.

Read more: Global Goal 10: Reducing Inequalities

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

By 2030, it is projected that 60% of the total human population will live in cities. Currently, almost a third of the urban population in developing regions live in slums. Although this percentage has declined over the last decade, concentrated action will be needed to address this issue. On top of this, cities all over the world have dangerously high levels of air pollution. Air pollution caused about 3.7 million premature deaths in 2012 worldwide. On the bright side, nearly three-quarters of countries have implemented or are working to implement federal urban policies.

Read more: Global Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities


Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

In order to have sustainable growth and development, it is necessary to minimize the natural resources and toxic materials used as well as the waste and pollutants generated from production and consumption. As developing regions industrialized between 2000 and 2010, their use of raw materials increased, while per capita consumption of natural resources declined in developed regions. Almost every country in the world is part of at least one international environmental agreement on hazardous wastes and other chemicals.

Read more: Global Goal 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production

Goal 13: Taking Climate Action

Clarifying the need to take action against climate change to the SDG agenda was one of the biggest changes from the MDGs. In April 2016, 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement on climate change, agreeing to reduce carbon emissions and keep rising global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius. Natural disasters can increase due to climate change, and countries especially those in Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean still need policy, legislature and infrastructure to help handle these events.

Read more: Global Goal 13: Taking climate action

Goal 14: Life Below Water

Between 1974 and 2013, the level of sustainable fish populations decreased by 31 percent. Global Goal 14 makes taking care of the ocean the world’s responsibility. The good news on this goal is the downward trend in fish harvesting has slowed over the past few years. The bad news is that coastal eutrophication and pollution affect 780 million people relying on coastal habitat. Let’s keep limiting harmful agricultural practices that cause algal blooms which pollute water.  

Read more: Global Goal 14: Protecting the Oceans

Goal 15: Life On Land  

While we wish this goal was all about saving the world’s cutest furry friends, it’s about preserving their habitats. In Eastern Asia, forests are growing while in Sub-saharan Africa, Latin America, South Eastern Asia, and the Caribbean deforestation continues. Threatened species numbers are rising. The good news —  protection of key biodiversity regions is increasing.

Read more: Global Goal 15: Protecting Life on Land


Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

A large portion of the world has seen sustained gains in levels of peace and justice over the past few decades. Despite this, many countries, ethnic groups, and regions still face protracted conflict and violence. Too many nations feature weak institutions and far too many people lack access to justice, information, and other fundamental freedoms. For example, 30 percent of prisoners worldwide are being held without formal sentencing. Two thirds of this group are in the developing world. Efforts are underway to improve national and international institutions and citizens’ ability to utilize them to promote peace and justice. Gaps in data on various forms of violence, particularly against children and other vulnerable groups, present significant challenges to coordinating development efforts.

Read more: Global Goal 16: The Quest for Peace and Justice

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Actors from across national governments, civil society, the private sector, and international institutions must come together to support and implement the SDGs. Central to the success of the overall SDGs will be funding them through the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda. To this end, global official development assistance (ODA) continued to grow in the last year about 7% to more than $130 billion dollars. A concern is that aid to the countries who need it most specifically stagnated. This progress is mirrored in the lowering of trade barriers and expanding exports from least developed economies but barriers on crucial industries like textiles continue to impede development. Similar to data gaps complicating previous goals, Goal 17’s progress is being slowed by the lack of accurate census data in critical regions as well as outdated national statistics from many governments.

Read more: Global Goal 17: Laying the Foundation for Global Partnerships