Poor Implementation: Rich countries risk achievement of the global goals

Three years after adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by all UN member states, new and improved data provide insights into countries’ challenges and the steps they are taking to pursue the SDGs. So far only few G20 countries have taken decisive action to meet the goals. Many countries are making rapid progress, but overall the world risks falling short of achieving the goals by 2030.

New York / Gütersloh, 9 July 2018. Three years after the historic UN summit in New York, where all UN member states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 2018 SDG Index and Dashboards Report introduces the first ever assessment of government efforts to achieve the goals. The analysis shows that no country is on track to achieve all goals by 2030. Furthermore, the report sheds light on the implementation mechanisms undertaken by the G20 countries. Brazil, Mexico and Italy have taken the most significant steps among G20 countries to achieve the goals, illustrated for instance by the existence of SDG strategies or coordination units in governments. Yet, the implementation gaps in G20 countries remain large since only India and Germany have partially undertaken an assessment of investment needs. No G20 country has fully aligned its national budget with the SDGs. According to the data, the United States and the Russian Federation have taken the least action on implementing the goals.

The 2018 edition of the SDG Report “Global Responsibilities – Implementing the Goals” is the third edition of the annual stocktaking of SDG progress provided by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). The SDG Index – a composite measure of progress across all goals – is led by Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. These countries are currently on the best way to achieve the goals, but still more efforts are needed to reach them by 2030. Germany and France are the only G7 countries among the top ten performers. The United States ranks 35th on the Index, while China and the Russian Federation rank 54th and 63rd respectively. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and the Central African Republic rank last. Due to the inclusion of new data in this year’s Index, countries’ performance cannot be compared to last year’s SDG Index scores.

G20 countries need to strengthen their efforts

For the first time, the report presents trend data on how fast countries are progressing towards the goals. The authors estimate whether based on historic rates of progress a country is likely to achieve a particular SDG. Overall, most countries are making progress towards the SDGs, though progress is slowest on some of the environmental goals. Whereas many high-income countries have almost completely eradicated extreme poverty or hunger they obtain their lowest scores on goals like “responsible consumption and production”, “climate action” or “life below water”. Low-income countries however have made significant progress towards ending extreme poverty or access to health and education services. Still, poorer countries tend to lack adequate infrastructure and mechanisms to manage key environmental issues. Therefore, their overall scores remain significantly lower than those of high-income countries.

The report includes detailed 2-pages country profiles on SDG progress for all 193 member states of the United Nations. The profiles show performance on every indicator considered for this report. For some countries, the profiles show large data gaps, which need to be closed through increased investments in SDG data.

Joint action is needed to achieve the global goals

“Once again, the Northern European countries come out on top of the SDG index, and the poorest countries come out at the bottom. The implications are clear: The social-market philosophy of a mixed economy that balances the market, social justice and green economy is the route to the SDGs. Countries trapped in extreme poverty need more help from the rest of the world”, says Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the SDSN.

“The report shows the crucial role of the G20 countries for fulfilling the global goals. Rich countries need to act as role models and must reduce their negative spillover effects while providing effective means to integrate the goals into national action plans”, says Aart De Geus, CEO and Chairman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

“Improvements made to the 2018 SDG Index, including the reporting of trend data and data for all 193 UN member countries, respond to requests and comments received from governments and stakeholders around the world. Seeing whether a country is on track to achieving the SDGs will help governments, business, and civil society identify the greatest priorities for action“ says Guido Schmidt-Traub, Scientific Co-Director of SDG Index (SDSN).

“Our comprehensive analysis shows that the historic SDGs have successfully made their way into the political process in many countries. But our calculations and projections also indicate that countries will miss many of the SDGs if they do not up their game. The particular challenges of rich and poor countries may differ but what they have in common is the need to change current policies” says Christian Kroll, Scientific Co-Director of SDG Index (Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization, agency or programme of the United Nations.

About the study

The study was written by experts of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Bertelsmann Stiftung, under the lead authorship of UN Special Advisor and world-renowned economist Prof. Jeffrey Sachs. The SDG Index and Dashboard collect available data for all 193 UN member states and assess where each country stands in 2018 with regard to achieving the SDGs. The SDG Index ranks countries based on their overall performance across the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG Dashboards use a traffic-light chart to assess where a country stands on each of the 17 SDGs. SDSN is a global network of knowledge institutions to support SDG implementation at local, national, and global scales. The Bertelsmann Stiftung is one of the largest foundations in Germany. It works to promote social inclusion for everyone, and is committed to advancing this goal through programs that improve education, shape democracy, advance society, promote health, vitalize culture and strengthen economies.


Dr. Christian Kroll,
Telephone: +49 5241 81 81471,
Mobile phone: +49 173 660 1646
E-Mail: c.kroll@alumni.lse.ac.uk

Paul Sliker,
Mobile: + 401-413-6344
Email: psliker@dey.nyc