Global sustainability report-2023: new initiatives to accelerate SDGs

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During last seven years, global community has acquired periodical sustainable development reports providing most up-to-date data to follow and rank the performance of all UN member states on Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. Recent report made at the mid-point of the UN Agenda-2030 acknowledges very modest progress made and formulates priorities to restore and accelerate SDGs implementation.  

    The UN-SDG-2023 report also specifically discusses some priorities to scale up the development of financial resources and offers several priorities for reform of the Global Financial Architecture for the SDGs. These financial novices are issued by members of the SDSN Leadership Council, a group of global experts and leaders in sustainable development across academia, business, civil society and the public sector.

    Presently, the global SDG-community has acknowledged that “for the third year in a row, global progress on the SDGs has stalled”. The bad news is, as the global SDG report-2023 demonstrates, that “at the midpoint in the 2030 Agenda none of the 17 SDGs are on track to be achieved”. Besides, there is a risk that the gap in SDG outcomes between high-income countries (HICs) and low-income countries (LICs) will be larger in 2030 than when the goals were universally agreed upon in 2015.
However, the report acknowledges that the global community has “at least to double” efforts on the SDGs progress by endorsing deep reform of the global financial architecture and implementing the SDG-stimulus to close the significant financing gap facing developing and emerging countries. Among 193 UN member states that joined the SDGs seven year ago, only three states – Finland, Sweden and Denmark- in 2023 occupy top places in the global rankings.

    Science-based instruments are needed at all levels to guide SDG action and strengthen accountability. SDSN’s new flagship initiative launched recently, i.e. the SDG Transformation Center specifically aims to provide adequate science-based instruments and serve as a platform for peer-to-peer learning and exchange among scientists, practitioners, and investors on the next generation of SDG policy tools, analytics and long-term policy and investment pathways.

    As the repot’s executive summary confirms, at the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda, “all of the SDGs are seriously off track”. From 2015 to 2019, the world made some progress on the SDGs, although this was already vastly insufficient to achieve the goals. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 and other simultaneous crises, SDG progress has stalled globally.
In most high-income countries (HICs), automatic stabilizers, emergency expenditure, and recovery plans mitigated the impacts of these multiple crises on socio-economic outcomes. The disruptions caused by these multiple crises has aggravated fiscal-space issues in low-income countries (LICs) and in lower-middle income countries (LMICs), leading to a reversal in progress on several goals and indicators.
Despite this alarming development, said the executive summary, “the SDGs are still achievable and none of their objectives are beyond reach…”

     Only limited progress is being made on the environmental and biodiversity goals, including SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 14 (life below water), and SDG 15 (life on land); it occurred even in countries that are largely to blame for the climate and biodiversity crises.

Suggested priorities
SDG-2023 report also highlights six priorities to reform the complex system of public and private finance that channels the world’s savings to its investments; the system is popularly called the “Global Financial Architecture, GFA”:

1. Greatly increase funding to national and sub-national governments and private businesses, especially in LICs and LMICs, to carry out needed SDG investments.
2. Revise the credit rating system and debt sustainability metrics to facilitate long-term sustainable development.
3. Revise liquidity structures for LICs and LMICs, especially regarding sovereign debts, to forestall self-fulfilling banking and balance-of-payments crises;
4. Create ambitious but internationally-agreed criteria for sustainable finance that are mandatory for all public financial institutions.
5. Align private business investment flows with the SDGs, through improved national planning, regulation, reporting, and oversight.
6. Reform current institutional frameworks and develop new mechanisms to improve the quality and speed of deployment of international cooperation, and monitor progress in an open and timely manner.

Source: Sachs, J.D., Lafortune, G., Fuller, G., Drumm, E. (2023). Implementing the SDG Stimulus. Sustainable Development Report 2023. – Paris: SDSN, Dublin: Dublin University Press, 2023. 10.25546/102924

Next steps and lessons
The report suggests 5 next steps to accelerate SDGs implementation:
1. Science-based instruments to guide SDG action and strengthen accountability and governments’ capacity to implement SDGs, i.e. including integrated assessment models, policy trackers, science panels and geo-political tools. For example, the SDSN’s new initiative, the SDG Transformation Center, aims to provide science-based instruments and serve as a platform for peer-to-peer learning and exchange among scientists, practitioners and investors on the “next generation SDG policy tools”.
2. Additional investments in capacity-building for statistics to eliminate persisting data gaps in the global level for the SDGs, as well as accelerated partnerships and investments in statistical capacity. Funding for data and statistics fell by almost US$100 million between 2019 and 2021, representing the most significant drop in funding since the start of SDG’s statistics.
3. Investment in interconnections between scientific data and political decisions to strengthen science-policy interface: both citizens and decision-makers need knowledge and tools to transform data and science into evidence, actions and long-term policies. Thus, strengthening the science-policy interface is a vital tool for implementing long-term pathways for sustainable development.
4. Non-official and non-traditional sources of statistics and science-based data can help to address existing shortfalls in the SDG-related decision-making and could be leveraged to inform investment decisions. These are such sources as social media, earth observation data, artificial intelligence (AI), model-based estimates and other pathways produced by academics and researchers, etc. to support statistics on SDGs implementation.
5. Space-based technologies can help to address SDG-data gaps and collection through the use of global partnerships. In the post-pandemic time the stage is set for new user expectations, with increased number of users (including the general public) to obtain sufficient data in real time. The global community has mobilized space-based technologies to help provide more timely and correct information on the state of the world-wide SDGs for different usage. The EU, for example, has mobilized Copernicus (the EU’s flagship Earth Observation and Monitoring program) to improve SDG data availability and precision.

New SDGs-EYES program will establish “an integrated scientific, technological and user engagement framework” to overcome knowledge and technical barriers in exploration of SDGs-supporting actions.
Source and reference:

    Governments in most countries around the world have adopted so-called twin approach to SDGs: either national sustainability strategies or specific measures by sectoral ministries; in the EU, the twin approach was supplemented by the EU-wide “green deal” as the Union’s main strategic roadmap for achieving sustainable development.
The SDGs require long-term directed change, with long-term investment plans essential for national success in meeting the goals. In this regard, the SDSN has recommended several inter- related long-term steps in transformation: e.g. universal quality education and innovation-based economy, universal health coverage, zero-carbon energy systems; national plans for sustainable ecosystems, sustainable agriculture and climate resilience; sustainable cities, and transformation to universal digital access and services.
Each of these challenges requires large-scale public and private investments to 2050, and each requires a technological transformation and a financing strategy to underpin the investment plans and SDGs monitoring systems.
As soon as mentioned long-term transformational steps cannot be solved by the private sector alone, national governments must take the lead in designing policy and financial frameworks within which business can profitably invest and innovate.



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