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Falling behind on the Sustainable Development Goals

The UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) met from July 6 to 15 to review progress in meeting Agenda 2030, the 15-year plan that was negotiated in 2015 for progress on a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

In a 2021 report on the SDGs, UN Secretary-General António Guterres pointed to the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on efforts to pursue sustainable development. “More than a year into the global pandemic, millions of lives have been lost, the human and economic toll has been unprecedented, and recovery efforts so far have been uneven, inequitable and insufficiently geared towards achieving sustainable development. The current crisis is threatening decades of development gains, further delaying the urgent transition to greener, more inclusive economies. . . . Regrettably the SDGs were off-track even before the COVID-19 emerged. Progress had been made in poverty reduction, maternal and child health, access to electricity, and gender equality, but not enough to achieve the goals by 2030. In other vital areas, including reducing inequality, lowering carbon emissions and tackling hunger, progress had either stalled or reversed.”

Civil society organizations were critical of the insufficient efforts by governments to address the backsliding. In a statement released after the adoption of the HLPF Ministerial Declaration’s, the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders Coordination Mechanism said the 2021 HLPF “failed to come up with bold and transformative recommendations for action during this world crisis.” They criticized the lack of ambition for responding to multiple crises, and concern that the Declaration does not address “the root causes and systemic barriers to achieve a world where no one is left behind.”

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