By Mia Hem
In the current climate, we are facing serious challenges in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are far from being achieved. Despite major efforts given in some parts of the world, national governments across the globe have fallen short in integrating the SDGs into their policies and investments. Furthermore, societal polarization, populism, and geopolitical conflicts are hindering global cooperation - a crucial element needed in order to meet the SDGs.
To achieve the SDGs together, we must keep in mind five pillars of good governance:
Preparing long-term SDG pathways to guide public policy
Ensuring sufficient and timely SDG financing
Promoting global cooperation and reducing geopolitical conflict and tension
Supporting innovation to increase social inclusion and environmental sustainability
Regular reporting on SDG progress and performance
When discussing the SDGs, we must keep in mind that it is not just a policy framework set by the UN. They are also an ethical imperative that is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This proves that social justice and sustainable development requires the full realization of the rights of all, including gender equality, respect for indigenous people, and the involvement of young people.
In the current climate, the fulfilment of the SDGs is far from being met, and progress has slowed down in the last few years. There are records of highly uneven progress within and between countries, and the global COVID-19 pandemic further restricted the progress. At this rate, none of the 17 individual SDGs is expected to be met at the global level, and we are at risk of losing a decade of progress while increasing the gap between high- and low-income countries. And the multiple geopolitical crises in the world today are placing even further obstacles on the path to achieving the SDGs by 2030.
Efforts to meet the Paris Agreement climate targets and SDG 13 on Climate Action are insufficient. Global warming continues at an alarming rate, increasing the likelihood of overshooting the 1.5°C target. Biodiversity is also at grave risk, with species extinction rates far exceeding the natural rate. Land use change, global warming, and pollution contribute to this crisis. Water scarcity affects over 40% of the global population, and unsustainable water management practices disrupt ecosystems. Rare earth elements face scarcity as demand increases, and the exploitation of ocean resources is putting marine ecosystems at severe risk. The 2021 UN Food Systems Summit highlighted the urgent need for sustainable and equitable food systems. Additionally, quality education remains a challenge, with millions of children lacking access to proper education. This is a pressing matter, as education is the most important key to achieving sustainable development in the long term.
The challenges we face in meeting the SDGs are significant and require urgent action. National governments must prioritize integrating the SDGs into their policies and investments, while global cooperation is essential to overcome societal polarization and geopolitical conflicts. Good governance, including long-term planning, sufficient financing, global cooperation, innovation, and regular reporting, is crucial to making progress.
To address these issues, we need collective efforts from governments, international institutions, businesses, civil society, and individuals. It is crucial to accelerate progress towards the SDGs by integrating them into national policies, resolving conflicts, increasing financing, promoting sustainable practices, and improving education access. Despite the current obstacles, it is still possible to achieve the SDGs. With dedication, collaboration, and a focus on the ethical imperative they represent, we can work towards a more sustainable, just, and equitable future for all.