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UNECE report shows progress towards the SDGs is slowing in the region, calling for renewed political impetus

UNECE report shows progress towards the SDGs is slowing in the region, calling for renewed political impetus

SDG Report

In the face of multiple intersecting crises in the region, UNECE member States must redouble efforts to avert a further crisis of sustainable development, according to the SDG status report released today.  

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The report, Growing Challenges for Sustainable Development: Can the UNECE Region Turn the Tide in 2023?, paints a sobering picture, finding that the region  – which hosts 16% of the world’s population and accounts for 41.4% of the world’s GDP at purchasing power parity,  and approximately 83% of total Official Development Assistance (ODA) – is on track to achieve only 21 targets (18 per cent of the 115 measurable targets) by 2030. This is down from 26 targets assessed as being on track last year. 

For 79 targets (up from 64 last year), progress must accelerate if the target is to be met, while for 15 targets (as last year), the current trend needs to be reversed. 

Launching the report, UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova commented: “The Sustainable Development Agenda was designed to lead us on a path towards a better world. But right now, the world, and our region, is in many ways worse off than it was back in 2015. What’s more, our region is now further away from fulfilling the Goals than it was a year ago. With the impact of the war in Ukraine not yet reflected in available data, next year’s measurements are bound to be even worse”.  

“The SDG Summit in September must mark a turning point where, as the UN Secretary General has said, member States make clear commitments to rescue the SDGs. This is the only way to live up to our collective promise to leave no one behind.” 

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The share of people living in poverty according to national definitions is decreasing in most UNECE countries, but not quickly enough (target 1.2). In one third of countries with data, more than 20 per cent of the population still lives below the income poverty threshold (indicator 1.2.1). 

Those at the highest risk of poverty, such as persons with disabilities and families with young children, are well covered by social protections in the UNECE region (indicator 1.3.1). Across UNECE countries, less than half of unemployed persons — a population that increased during the pandemic — receive cash benefits (indicator 1.3.1). 

The share of individuals living at below 50 per cent of their country’s median income level (indicator 10.2.1) decreased in 2020 in all countries with data. This shift has reversed the trend for the region since last year’s assessment. 

Progress on gender equality can be measured for less than half of targets only.  

Progress towards shared responsibility within the household and family (target 5.4) is very slow. The share of women participating in political and economic life (target 5.5) is increasing in nearly every country in the region, but women remain underrepresented in leadership and decision-making positions. 

Slow progress towards universal and quality education (target 4.1) is related to persisting inequalities between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Though not yet reflected in the available data, disruptions to education due to the Covid-19 pandemic may have further exacerbated such inequalities. 

Technology is widespread across classrooms in the region (indicator 4.a.1). Still, the share of youth and adults with information and communications technology skills is increasing slowly (indicator 4.4.1). 

Health, well-being and nutrition 

The region is set to achieve targets on child and maternal mortality (targets 3.1 and 3.2), but progress towards other targets has been slow. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the pace of progress on communicable diseases (3.3), premature mortality and mental health (3.4), and sexual and reproductive health (3.7) was sluggish. The prevalence of tobacco use (indicator 3.a.1) and the suicide mortality rate (indicator 3.4.2) have decreased only slightly in the last years. 

The share of the child population receiving recommended vaccinations (indicator 3.b.1) is high across the region, but the region is not on track to achieve universal access by 2030. Across the region, one quarter of women have an unmet need for modern methods of family planning (indicator 3.7.1). 

Alongside other cost-of-living pressures, the relative cost of healthcare for households is increasing in most countries in the region (indicator 3.8.2). The pandemic put stress on health systems and highlighted gaps in public health capacities, an area where progress has been stagnant (target 3.d).  

In some countries in the region, more than a quarter of all adults experience food insecurity. When it comes to children, most have enough to eat. Undernutrition (indicator 2.2.1) is rare. 

The region must act to reverse trends on agricultural productivity and efficiency (target 2.a). The number of plant varieties and animal breeds for which genetic resources are stored is increasing (indicator 2.5.2), but progress has been slow. A high proportion of local breeds are at risk of extinction (indicator 2.5.2). 

Energy and climate 

As measured before the current energy crisis, reliance on renewable energy was increasing (indicator 7.2.1) and energy efficiency was improving (indicator 7.3.1), but not quickly enough to meet 2030 targets. 

Fossil fuel subsidies continue to increase in about half of countries with data (target 12.c), making it unlikely that the region will achieve its targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (target 13.2). The region must accelerate progress on the sustainable use of natural resources (target 12.2) and waste reduction and treatment (targets 12.4 and 12.5). 

Water and environment 

Access to safely-managed drinking water (target 6.1) is nearly universal in the UNECE region. However, on average, 21 per cent of the population do not use safely-managed sanitation services (indicator 6.2.1). 

The proportion of water bodies with potentially harmful levels of pollution is increasing in one third of countries with data (indicator 6.3.2). 

Transboundary water cooperation is strong in the region (indicator 6.5.2), but the rate of implementation of integrated water resources management (indicator 6.5.1) needs to increase. 

Recent data show that progress towards reducing marine pollution (target 14.1) and conserving coastal areas (target 14.5) has slowed. Previously on track to be achieved, these targets now require acceleration. 

The region is progressing towards sustainable forest management and forest area is increasing in most countries in the region (target 15.2), but not quickly enough to reach the 2030 targets. The region is failing to halt the loss of biodiversity (target 15.5). Fewer than one third of countries have lowered species’ extinction risk since 2015. 

Economy and industry 

The region is set to achieve targets on access to adequate housing and basic services (target 11.1), reducing air pollution in cities (target 11.6), and adopting and implementing strategies for disaster risk reduction (target 11.b). The economic impact of disasters is becoming less severe (indicator 11.5.2), but the number of people in the region affected by disasters (indicator 11.5.1) continues to increase. 

The share of medium- and high-tech manufacturing value is increasing in the UNECE region (indicator 9.b.1), but not quickly enough. To accelerate progress, investments in research and development (target 9.5) are necessary and access to finance for small-scale industries (target 9.3) has to improve. 

To achieve sustainable and inclusive economic development, the region needs to reverse trends on infrastructure development (target 9.1). 

The region has progressed with inclusive and sustainable industrialization (target 9.2). The carbon-intensity of economic production (target 9.4) is decreasing, and access to information and communications technology (target 9.c) is widespread. If the current pace of progress can be maintained the region should achieve these three targets. 

Peace and partnerships 

The region is on track to reduce corruption and bribery (target 16.5) significantly by 2030. 

Decision-making bodies across the region are becoming more reflective of the populations they represent (target 16.7) but acceleration is needed to achieve proportionate representation of women and young people in parliaments and judiciaries by 2030. 

Critically, the region must reverse trends in order to eliminate human trafficking (target 16.2) and strengthen public institutions (target 16.6). 

The share of the domestic budget funded by domestic taxes (target 17.1) declined in 2020 in nearly every country with data. Progress towards development assistance to least developed countries (target 17.2), technology transfer (target 17.7), more open trade (target 17.10) and improved market access for developing countries (target 17.12) is slow. 

Data availability for monitoring SDGs is improving. Progress for the UNECE region can be measured towards 115 of the 169 targets, which is an increase from 105 targets in last year’s assessment. Still, the region needs to intensify its investment in statistical capacity (targets 17.18, 17.19). Nearly a third of targets cannot be measured for the region due to insufficient data or other measurement challenges. For four goals (5, 11, 12, 13), progress can be assessed for half or fewer targets. 

Note to editors 

The UNECE SDG progress report, the fourth annual assessment of the state of the region in its progress towards fulfilling the SDGs, is the flagship document informing the deliberations of the upcoming Regional Forum on Sustainable Development    

Data collected in 2020 or later make it possible to include trends since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic for 125 out of the 156 indicators used in this year’s assessment. Data for 2022 are not available for the majority of targets and indicators, so the impact of the war in Ukraine is therefore not yet reflected in the analyses. 

The analysis, which compares estimated indicator values for 2030 with indicator target values, employs the same methodology used in previous reports and in assessments across the five United Nations regional commissions.   

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

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