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2019 SDG Report Urges Deeper, More Ambitious Response
Photo by Anastasia Palagutina on Unsplash


9 July 2019: The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) released ‘The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019,’ which finds progress in a number of areas, but stresses that “monumental challenges” are making progress slow and uneven. The annual report concludes that a “much deeper, faster and more ambitious response is needed” to unleash the economic and social transformation necessary to achieve the SDGs.


DESA launched the report on 9 July 2019, on the sidelines of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). It was prepared by the UN Statistics Division within DESA, based on data available as of May 2019 on selected indicators from the global SDG framework.


On human well-being, the report states that the world is “moving too slowly in our efforts.” At current rates, the report predicts that 6% of the world’s population will still live in extreme poverty by 2030 (SDG 1). Global hunger is increasing (SDG 2), half of the world’s population lacks essential health services (SDG 3), more than half of children do not meet reading and mathematics standards (SDG 4) and women “in all parts of the world continue to face structural disadvantages and discrimination” (SDG 5). Further, poverty, hunger and disease remain “concentrated in the poorest and most vulnerable groups of people and countries,” and inequality is increasing among and within countries (SDG 10). People living in fragile States, for instance, are “twice as likely to lack basic sanitation” (SDG 6).


The most urgent area for action is climate change, the impacts of which will be catastrophic and irreversible.


Despite concrete action to protect our planet, the report states that the natural environment “is deteriorating at an alarming rate.” Land degradation affects one-fifth of the world’s land area, ocean acidification is accelerating, sea levels are rising, and one million plants and animals species risk extinction. The report states the “most urgent area for action is climate change” (SDG 13), cautioning that the impacts of climate change will be “catastrophic and irreversible” and will “affect the poor the most.” In addition, nine out of ten urban residents breathe polluted air (SDGs 11) and the global material footprint is “rapidly growing,” outpacing population and economic growth (SDG 12).


The report identifies areas that can drive progress across all the SDGs. It recommends focusing on: financing; sustainable and inclusive economies; more effective institutions; resilience; local action; harnessing science, technology and innovation (STI), with an increased focus on digital transformation; and better use of data. In all actions, the report stresses the importance of policy choices that leave no one behind and effective international cooperation that supports national efforts, with a commitment to crisis prevention and diplomacy. The report underscores the importance of investing in accurate and timely data collection and analysis to inform decision making and ensure full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Further, the report states that examining interlinkages across the Goals offers opportunities to accelerate progress. For example, climate action requires a shift towards clean energy (SDG 7), changing production and consumption patterns (SDG 12) and reversing forest loss (SDG 15). Similarly, promoting sustainable agriculture (SDG 2) offers an opportunity both to reduce hunger (SDG 2) and poverty (SDG 1).


Launching the report, DESA head Liu Zhenmin highlighted positive trends, including a decrease in extreme poverty by one-third since 2000 (SDG 1) and a decrease in under-five mortality by nearly half since 2000 (SDG 3). Liu cautioned, however, that “not all trends are moving in a satisfactory direction.” He said “climate change continues to be the main obstacle to our shared prosperity,” and also expressed concern about increasing inequality.