Progress, issues and ideas for the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
By Ashvin Ramasamy

At the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2018 (July 9 to 18, 2018), the international community came together to discuss progress, issues and ideas for the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Goals have a deadline for implementation in 2030, as part of the UN Agenda 2030. This year, the theme “transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies” underpins the discussion on worldwide implementation, with a particular focus on SDG 6, 7, 11, 12, 15 and 17. The highlights below capture the discussions of the 9-day event, including findings compiled by countries in their National Voluntary Reviews (NVRs) as well as papers submitted by independent groups.

SDG: 6

The goal is to ensure universal availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation. However, a recognition that water as a universal right to all humans has had very slow progress.

● In 2017, nearly 2.3 billion people still do not have toilets or improved latrines, globally
● In 80% of households lacking on-site potable water, water collection was the sole responsibility of women and girls.
● Extreme poverty is on the decline on a global scale but that 83% of people living in poor and conflict-affected countries lack access to safe drinking water.
● African states have to improve transboundary collaboration on water management by strengthening political leadership and sustained funding
● NGOs argue that funding gaps for public data capacity for SDGs compare lowly versus private interest in using their financial wealth for handling and utilizing “big data”

SDG: 7

Progess towards access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, the worldwide figure of people without electricity has fallen below 1 billion, a “symbolic threshold” for statistical purposes.

● KENYA stated that its national access to energy jumped from from 27% in 2013 to 55% in 2016 and increased by more than 15% in one year to 71% in 2017.
● Kenya aims to achieve universal energy access by 2020.
● DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (DRC) lamented that only 19% of its population of 78 million has access to electricity, and the nation has opened the energy sector to public and private funding for supporting electrification targets.
● UN Women, noting disparity for women in accessing energy, called for women and local communities to own and operate their own energy systems.
● About 620 million people in Africa are still without power access

SDG: 11

Global efforts to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable showed progress in the past few years but many large scope objectives remain unachieved.

● In absolute terms, the number of all people living in slums went up from 807 million to 883 million from 2000 to 2014.
● Science, Technology and Innovation need to be mainstreamed in city planning if sustainable urbanization goals are to be met.
● DRC explained the economic conditions plaguing housing demand and supply are largely underpinned by financial struggles.
● ALGERIA applauded its capital, Algiers, for becoming the first capital in Africa without slums.

SDG: 12

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns has shown notable growth patterns but the positive statistic does not benefit all.

● UNECA remarked the renaissance of economic expansion throughout Africa region but it created negative consequences on inequality and absolute poverty.
● Small and medium-sized enterprises lag behind in sustainability reporting due to lack expertise and resources for reporting.
● Pointedly, material standard of living has gone up from 2000 to 2017 in developing nations, with a four metric ton increase in per capita material footprint — developed countries far outpace that figure with at least double the per-capita footprint
● Implementation to reduce inequality depends heavily on women’s rights to a healthy workplace and environment free of hazardous chemicals and waste through regulation — this objective lags behind in sustainable development policy-making

SDG: 15

Progress in preserving and sustainably using the Earth’s terrestrial species and ecosystem has shown good signs but more action is needed.

● Depleted ecosystems have increased women’s workload and burden and exacerbated existing inequalities relevant to safety, education and health.
● Poaching and trafficking of wildlife continues to impair conservation objectives, and almost 7,000 species of flora and fauna have been traded illegally in 120 countries.
● Large scale agriculture and livestock production propelled by food demand continues to thwart biodiversity protection, causing in part the degradation of one third of global land
● KENYA expressed hope in a an otherwise declining global statistic: national forest cover moved from 7.2% in 2010, to 7.5% in 2017
● Invasive species legislation has gone up by 19% globally since 2010 — with international trade growth and transport being significant contributors to the increase in global growth of biological invasions

SDG: 17

Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development has sputtered due to stagnation in funding and slowdown of international growth in recent years, mostly. The 19 targets that underpin the SDG — covering finance, technology, capacity-building, trade and systemic issues — have recorded slow progress.

● Debt risks are on the rise putting at risk economic upheavals from potentially large debt crises
● Stagnating global trade has contributed to the slowdown in the expansion of world market shares of developing regions and LDCs
● With respect to “leaving no one behind” in “leaving no one behind,” globalization of the economy is driving a bigger stake between the rich and the poor
● Insufficient attention has been given to the linkages across all SDGs: cities need to take on the role of epicenters for development; redistributing wealth equitably; considering the socioeconomic impacts of global trade wars
● Of the $650 billion of foreign direct investment in 2017, a disproportionately small group of countries received the bulk of investment — large sums went into primary resource extraction without significant “spillovers” in forward and backward linkages
● Leading up to the HLPF 2018, only 14 VNR submissions outlined action to “leave no one behind” — and just a handful described discriminations based on ethnic, religious, or racial motives