National plans must align with the agenda for UN-mandated sustainable development goals to guide development
This year is the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda for United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), giving an opportune moment to reflect on the Asia-Pacific region’s progress and accelerate efforts to achieve our goals.
This year’s Asia-Pacific SDG Progress Report published by UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) features pace-leaders of the region who have successfully implemented evidence-based policies to accelerate progress. The report will be released March 22, 2023.
For instance, Pakistan has made great strides in increasing the number of skilled birth attendants. India has taken concrete steps to reduce child marriages. Timor-Leste has implemented a national remittance mobilisation strategy to leverage remittances as an innovative financial diversification tool and Cambodia is implementing an evidence-informed clean air plan.
These national achievements across the 17 SDGs are grounded in evidence-based approaches and provide hope and valuable lessons for other countries in the region to follow. By learning from one another’s successes and building on them, the region can collectively accelerate its progress towards achieving the SDGs.
However, the report presents a sobering reminder of how much work remains. While a few nations have made remarkable strides in achieving some of the targets, none of the countries in Asia and the Pacific are on course.
The region has achieved less than 15 per cent of the necessary progress, which puts us several decades away from accomplishing our SDG ambitions. The region will miss 90 per cent of the 118 measurable SDG targets in the absence of increased efforts.
It is unsettling to observe that progress towards climate action (Goal 13) is slipping away. The region is both a victim of the effects of climate change and a perpetrator of climate change.
Countries are not on track to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and more countries must report emission levels for all sectors to monitor their contribution towards global climate agendas properly.
Goals 5 (gender equality) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) also require urgent attention from all countries to fill the persistent data gaps.
Unfortunately, since 2017 there has been almost no progress in the region in the availability of data for these two goals with the most significant data gaps, the report showed.
Investment in data systems is crucial to closing this gap, but more is needed. A data-driven approach to implementing the SDGs is critical to measure progress accurately.
Collecting gender-disaggregated data and investing in education, promoting participation in decision-making, and ensuring access to essential services are crucial to progress towards SDG 5.
Countries need to strengthen the rule of law, promote human rights and good governance and foster civic participation to achieve SDG 16.
As we face a multitude of challenges, including climate change, human-made disasters, military conflicts and economic difficulties, progress towards the SDGs becomes increasingly critical. Governments must act quickly, invest wisely, enhance partnerships and prioritise populations in the most vulnerable situation.
We must renew our commitment to producing high-quality data and use every means available to ensure sustainability across social, economic and environmental dimensions. National plans must align with the 2030 Agenda to guide development at the national level.
Despite significant challenges, we must not abandon our ambition to achieve the SDGs. There are many inspiring examples of national achievements in carrying out data-informed actions in the region.
These successes give hope for Asia and the Pacific, and there is a need to leverage them more effectively for change. Our collective commitment to the SDGs will be a compass towards achieving a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for all.
Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth
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