This is the Year to Get the Sustainable Development Goals Back on Track


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This is the Year to Get the Sustainable Development Goals Back on Track Blog Image

Why in News?

  • The United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) held in New York in September provided an opportunity to evaluate the progress made towards achieving the ambitious Agenda 2030.
  • Despite being a globally agreed-upon framework, progress towards these goals has been sluggish, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises exacerbating the challenges.
  • It is important to analyse the status of SDG implementation, explore key areas requiring urgent action, discuss the findings of scholarly research on the political impact of the SDGs, and propose strategies for enhancing progress towards sustainable development.

Progress and Emerging Concerns Pertaining to SDGs

  • Insufficient Progress
    • The journey towards achieving the SDGs has been marked by slow progress and emerging concerns, raising alarms about the world's ability to meet the 2030 targets.
    • Despite initial optimism following the adoption of the agenda 2030 by the UN General Assembly in 2015, reports indicate that progress has been insufficient and off track.
    • While there were some improvements observed from 2015 to 2019, particularly in certain areas such as poverty reduction and access to basic services, they fell far short of what is needed to achieve the ambitious goals set forth in the agenda.
  • Concerns Due to Global Crises Impact
    • The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises have further exacerbated the challenges in achieving the SDGs.
    • The pandemic, in particular, has had far-reaching socioeconomic consequences, disrupting economies, exacerbating inequalities, and pushing millions of people into poverty.
    • The diversion of resources and attention towards addressing immediate health and economic concerns has also slowed down progress towards long-term sustainable development goals.
  • Environmental Sustainability Concerns
    • One particular concern is the lack of attention towards goals related to environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation.
    • Goals such as responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, and life on land have received little to no focus, despite their critical importance in ensuring the health and well-being of both present and future generations.
    • The failure to address these environmental challenges not only undermines progress towards specific SDGs but also poses existential threats to humanity and the planet as a whole.
  • Fragmented Approach to SDGs
    • Moreover, the current approach to pursuing the SDGs often defies the integrated and indivisible nature of the goals.
    • The SDGs are interconnected, with progress in one goal often dependent on progress in others.
    • However, the fragmented approach taken by many countries and stakeholders fails to recognise these interlinkages, resulting in siloed efforts that are unlikely to yield meaningful results.
    • Without a holistic and integrated approach to sustainable development, the overarching goal of balancing human well-being with a healthy environment remains elusive.

Global Commitments and Ground Implementation

  • Reaffirmation of Commitment by Global Leaders
    • Given this emerging scenario, the UN SDG Report, 2023 identified five key areas for urgent action:
      • Commitment of governments to seven years of accelerated, sustained, and transformative actions to deliver on the promises of SDGs;
      • Concrete, integrated and targeted government policies and actions to eradicate poverty,
      • Reduce inequality and to end the war on nature with a focus on advancing the rights of women and girls and empowering the most vulnerable;
      • Strengthening of national and subnational capacity, accountability, and public institutions to deliver accelerated progress;
      • Recommitment of the international community to deliver and mobilise resources to assist developing nations, and continued strengthening of the UN development system.
    • World leaders took cognisance of the situation, reaffirmed their commitments, and agreed to step-up efforts to deliver SDGs, our global road map out of the crisis, by 2030.
    • But how far these global pronouncements are operative at the ground level remains a big question.
  • Implementation Barriers on National Level
    • Despite the global commitments made by governments, there are often significant gaps between rhetoric and action at the national level.
    • Political considerations, competing priorities, and resource constraints can hinder the effective implementation of SDG-related policies and initiatives.
    • Moreover, the lack of coordination and coherence across different government departments and levels of government can result in fragmented and disjointed efforts, undermining the overall effectiveness of SDG implementation.

Scholarly Insights and Recommendations

  • Limited Political Impact
    • One of the central findings of the study is that while the SDGs have generated discourse and led to some normative and institutional reforms, their direct political impact at the national and local levels remains limited.
    • Despite being endorsed by the international community, the SDGs have yet to translate into tangible political outcomes in many countries.
    • This highlights the need for a more nuanced understanding of the factors influencing SDG implementation and the mechanisms through which they can drive political change.
  • Systemic Approach to Realising SDGs
    • The study also underscores the importance of adopting a systemic approach to realising the transformative potential of the SDGs.
    • This involves identifying and managing trade-offs while maximising co-benefits across different goals.
    • By addressing interconnected challenges in a holistic manner, policymakers can unlock synergies and amplify the impact of their interventions.
    • For example, initiatives aimed at promoting renewable energy can not only contribute to climate action (SDG 13) but also support economic growth (SDG 8) and improve access to clean water and sanitation (SDG 6).
  • Tailored Approaches to Implementation
    • Furthermore, the study emphasises the need for tailored approaches to SDG implementation that reflect regional and national priorities.
    • One-size-fits-all solutions are unlikely to be effective given the diverse socio-economic, political, and environmental contexts in which the SDGs are being implemented.
    • Instead, policymakers should identify locally best-suited entry points and leverage existing resources and capacities to drive progress towards the goals.
    • This may involve targeting specific sectors or geographical areas where interventions are most needed, as well as engaging with marginalised and vulnerable communities to ensure their needs and perspectives are considered.
  • Practical Recommendations for Enhancing Implementation
    • In addition to these insights, the study offers practical recommendations for enhancing SDG implementation.
    • These include strengthening governance structures and accountability mechanisms, mobilising financial resources, promoting innovation and technology transfer, and fostering partnerships and collaboration between governments, civil society, the private sector, and other stakeholders.
    • By adopting a multi-dimensional approach that addresses political, economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, policymakers can create an enabling environment for transformative change.


  • The assessment of progress towards the SDGs underscores the need for urgent and concerted action to address existing challenges and accelerate progress.
  • With 2024 being an election year in many countries, there is an opportunity for newly elected governments to prioritise sustainability and align national policies with the SDGs.

By integrating sustainability principles into governance frameworks and decision-making processes, governments can contribute to accelerated progress towards achieving the SDGs.

Q) What is Agenda 2030?

Agenda 2030, formally known as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is a comprehensive blueprint adopted by world leaders in 2015 to address global challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice by 2030.

Q) How many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are there in Agenda 2030?

There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Agenda 2030, each targeting specific areas of development ranging from ending poverty and hunger to promoting sustainable cities and combating climate change.

Source:The Hindu