The US and Russia are doing the least to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Image: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
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In 2015, all 193 member states of the United Nations adopted 17 global goals to end poverty, protect the planet, reduce inequality, and generally improve the well-being of everyone in the world. Three years later, no country is yet on track to achieve all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the target date of 2030.

That’s the bleak conclusion of a huge study by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), which assess the progress of all 193 countries in achieving the SDGs.

One report focuses on G20 countries, which make up two-thirds of the world’s population, more than three-quarters of greenhouse emissions, and almost all of global GDP. There is a wide variety in the efforts and commitments expressed by these governments. After conducting a survey to gauge how strongly the SDGs were integrated into institutions and policy, the US ranked right at the bottom. Just ahead of it was Russia.

Image for article titled The US and Russia are doing the least to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
Image: SDSN

In these countries, there were no public statements from heads of state about the implementation of the global goals and no federal plan to achieve them, the report said. Indeed, Donald Trump has distanced the US from multilateral institutions during his time in office. The Trump administration has clashed with the UN on several occasions; last month, it withdrew from the UN’s human rights council.

That said, this report focuses on national-level intentions, and so it isn’t a complete guide to the progress made due to efforts at the state and city levels. New York City just became the first city to report its progress on meeting the SDGs to the UN.

Back at a national level, the countries with the strongest institutional support for the global goals were Brazil, Mexico, and Italy, where there are specific SDG strategies and co-ordination across government departments to make them happen. But recent elections in Italy and Mexico, and upcoming elections in Brazil, could change things. The report also only measures whether plans are in place, and not how effective those strategies are.

In general, progress on the goal addressing sustainable consumption and production has been slow—it is proving to be one of the most problematic areas for high-income countries. Meanwhile, rich countries are generating significant environmental, economic, and security spillover effects that undermine the efforts of lower-income countries. No country in the G20 has aligned their national budget to meeting the SDGs, and only India has done a full evaluation of the additional funding needed to achieve the goals.