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UN Officials Highlight Findings of 2019 SDG Progress Report


20 May 2019: UN Member States heard a briefing on the Special Edition of the UN Secretary-General’s annual SDG Progress Report. An advance, unedited version of the report was released earlier in May. Based on the report’s findings, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, stressed the urgency to step up efforts, adding that the SDG Summit in September 2019 should send a clear message that world leaders are committed to taking action to meet the SDGs.


The UN system’s Task Team on the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) contributed to the preparation of the report. The Task Team is co-chaired by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).


During the briefing organized by UN Deputy-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed on 20 May 2019, in New York, US, Liu noted that the report was based on the global SDG indicator framework and on information collected by organizations in the UN system. He said the report addresses gaps and identifies cross-cutting actions to achieve progress.


Highlighting observations from the report, Liu referred to a shift in development pathways to generate the transformation required to meet the Goals by 2030, and said this shift is not occurring at the speed or scale required. As a result, he said: the SDG target to eradicate extreme poverty might not be reached by 2030, and children are over-represented among the poorest people; people with disabilities and those living with HIV/AIDS continue to face multiple disadvantages; gender inequalities persist; and for many small island developing States (SIDS), extreme environmental and climate vulnerability is exacerbated by their economic exposure. This exposure relates to less diversified economies, high debt burdens and a lack of access to concessional finance.


Liu added that 14 out of the world’s 20 most water-stressed countries are in the Arab region; and landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) face infrastructure deficits, with only 52% of their population having access to electricity, compared with the world average of over 87%. Other key findings of the report are provided in this SDG Knowledge Hub summary.


Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, noted that while the Secretary-General’s report provides empirical data on progress, localization of the SDGs will determine their success. At the national level, Steiner said progress is defined by informed and well designed policy-making, and governments should have the institutional capacity and ability to deliver integrated solutions. He added that the ability to connect various levels of governments through the SDGs is an “accelerator.”


Steiner also noted an “unevenness” in addressing the ambition to leave no one behind, which he said “remains fundamental to the success of SDGs.” He remarked that a deliberate risk management approach and building resilience can impact development gains, and called for development to be more “risked informed.”


Steiner identified enablers that can drive progress, including data, which he described as “a multiplier” to deliver on the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. He also called for harnessing science, technology and innovation (STI) to accelerate development, and for mobilizing financing, noting the importance of international cooperation, official development assistance (ODA), and connecting access to finance and those left behind.


The 20 May briefing also updated Member States and stakeholders on the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR).