Asia-Pacific Won’t Achieve SDGs Before 2062, Says UN Report

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By Jutta Wolf

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has projected a delay until 2062 to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region, missing the schedule by a staggering 32 years.

The world leaders adopted the 17 Goals in 2015 to end extreme poverty and hunger, ensure access to clean water and sanitation, and provide quality universal education, among other targets, by 2030.

The 2024 SDG Progress Report has highlighted persisting challenges of poverty and inequality, with gender and location playing vital roles. The report provides an overview of progress on the global goals in the Asia-Pacific region, serving as a foundation for activities and policy responses by ESCAP and its partners.

“Our unwavering commitment is vital, as progress towards the SDGs remains uneven and inadequate across the region,” Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of ESCAP, wrote in the report’s foreword.

“While additional efforts are required across the board, granular data emphasizes the urgency of addressing inequalities that impact marginalized groups, including women, girls, rural populations and the urban poor, who continue to find themselves locked out of education and employment opportunities,” she added.

The report launched on 15 February in Bangkok, paints a worrying picture for Asian and Pacific countries in “special situations” — its Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS).

The SIDS most needed support, given their unique vulnerabilities—ranging from geographical isolation to limited resources and climate change impacts.

The LDCs and LLDCs fared marginally better than the islands, registering only 11.5 per cent and 13 per cent progress, respectively, but still falling significantly short of what is needed to achieve the Goals by 2030.

According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic erased progress these nations made towards the SDGs since 2015, leaving their achievement at a mere 5.9 per cent. Fortunately, the LDCs and LLDCs fared marginally better than the islands, registering only 11.5 per cent and 13 per cent progress, respectively. Still, they fell significantly short of what is needed to achieve the Goals by 2030.

The report has also highlighted different societal challenges faced by men and women, especially along so-called “gendered” roles. The challenges women faced were primarily related to education and employment. They had lower enrolment rates and struggled with literacy targets. Young women also encountered difficulties accessing labour markets. This, in turn, led to higher rates of youth unemployment.

The challenges men faced were more associated with health and personal safety, including new HIV infections, mortality rates attributed to diseases, suicide rates, alcohol consumption, road traffic deaths, mortality attributed to poisoning, and prevalence of tobacco use.

The report further points to the urban-rural divide: people living in rural areas faced pronounced disadvantages, such as limited access to basic drinking water and sanitation facilities. In addition, insufficient clean cooking fuels in these areas contributed to serious respiratory diseases, especially among women and girls who spent longer hours in the kitchen.

Urban areas exhibited better conditions, yet paradoxically, within these areas, the poorest boys and girls faced substantial hurdles in completing upper secondary education.

The report emphasizes the urgency of climate action. Among the 17 SDGs, Goal 13 on climate actionrequires most attention, as progress on all of its targets are off track and some are in reverse, warns the report.

It noted that this underscores the need to integrate climate action into national policies, strengthen resilience, and improve adaptive capacity to cope with climate-related disasters.

The report has also called for a major ramp-up in investment towards sustainable infrastructure and renewable energy sources.

“While additional efforts are required across the board, granular data emphasizes the urgency of addressing inequalities that impact marginalized groups, including women, girls, rural populations and the urban poor, who continue to find themselves locked out of education and employment opportunities,” underscores Ms Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

“Equally, the sustained progress gap revealed between countries in special situations, especially Pacific small island developing States, and the rest of the region demands a concerted response from international, regional and national partners,” she adds in her foreword.

The report further highlights that the region will not achieve all 17 SDGs before 2062 —marking a significant 32-year delay. While positive steps have been taken toward eliminating poverty (Goal 1) and bolstering sustainable industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9) in the region, progress in other critical areas has been more modest. Efforts towards mitigating hunger (Goal 2), enhancing health and well-being (Goal 3), ensuring the availability of clean water and sanitation (Goal 6), expanding affordable and clean energy (Goal 7) and building sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11) have been less pronounced and require heightened attention.

However, the report shares several laudable national success stories supporting at-risk population groups. In the Philippines, dedicated research and analysis aimed at estimating the cost of supporting children living with a disability played a pivotal role in influencing recent legislation to provide a disability allowance, extending support to children with disabilities.

Nationwide digital training programmes in Vietnam have underscored the value of public-private partnerships in accelerating digital transformation and bridging the skills and employment gap for youth and migrant workers. Meanwhile, in North and Central Asia, national statistical systems in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have been upgraded to support stateless populations better. 

IDN

IDN-InDepthNews offers news analyses and viewpoints on topics that impact the world and its peoples. IDN-InDepthNews serves as the flagship of the International Press Syndicate Group

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