Pandemic, climate and geopolitical crises jeopardize the 2030 agenda: United Nations report on the SDGs

A combination of crises, dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impacts of climate change felt globally and geopolitical conflicts put the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in grave danger, reveals a United Nations report on the SDGs released July 7. Entitled 2022 Sustainable Development Goals Report, the report notes that the pandemic has wiped out years of progress made on the SDGs, including eradicating poverty and hunger, improving health and education. Growing inequality could push an additional 75 to 95 million people into extreme poverty this year, while deaths directly and indirectly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic reached 15 million at the end of last year.

About one in 10 people worldwide are going hungry as geopolitical conflicts, combined with the effects of the pandemic and climate change, converge to undermine food security around the world.

The report also reiterates the “code red warning” on climate change previously issued by the IPCC, stressing that the rise in global temperatures continues unabated, driving more extreme weather events around the world, and that related emissions to energy increased by 6% in 2021. , reaching the highest level ever.

Image courtesy of Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022

It was found that the number of countries with local disaster risk reduction strategies almost doubled between 2015 and 2021 – from 51 the number rose to 98 – while an overwhelming majority – an incredible 99% – of the world’s urban population was found to be breathing polluted air.

While commenting on the economic recovery, the report notes that, overall, high-tech industries have proven to be much more resilient to crises than their lower-tech counterparts.

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Data gaps

The report also notes that despite some progress, serious data gaps exist in the monitoring of the SDGs. This includes data in terms of geographic coverage, timeliness and level of disaggregation, “making it difficult to fully understand the pace of progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda, the differences between regions and who is being left behind. account”.

Less than half of the 193 countries have internationally comparable data available from 2015 or later for eight of the 17 SDGs. While the greatest availability of data is for SDG 3 (Health) and SDG 7 (Energy) — over 80% of countries have at least one data point since 2015 — only about 20% of countries have data for SDG 13 (climate action).

Image courtesy of Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022

Disaggregated data to track the progress of vulnerable population groups also has serious shortcomings. Of the 32 SDG indicators with a gender disaggregation requirement, only 21 have the latest disaggregated data available in most countries. (over 80% of countries have at least one data point since 2015); for eight indicators, no sex-disaggregated data is available. Of the 10 SDG indicators that require disaggregation by disability status, data is only available for two.

Solid statistical basis

The report notes that the pandemic has made the case for a strong statistical and ICT foundation and exposed flaws in national statistical systems. Following the lockdowns from April to May 2020, 96% of countries had to completely or partially stop face-to-face data collection. A year later, in May 2021, it was observed that face-to-face data collection remained interrupted in 5% of countries. However, countries experienced in remote data collection and ICT measurement had a considerable advantage.

ICT infrastructure has proven critical during the pandemic to help governments perform data collection, while providing remote training as well as data storage and fostering collaboration. In July 2020, only 62% of all responding countries reported having sufficient ICT capacity for distance learning, and 55% had sufficient cloud computing services for remote data storage and exchange. The report notes that there was a deep divide between countries at different income levels – as expected, high income countries were found to be more equipped in terms of ICT, while low and lower middle income countries were much less prepared.

Shaping the future of innovation

The pandemic has, however, provided an opportunity to experiment with innovative methods of data collection, including exploring new data sources and upgrading ICT infrastructure to meet the demand for data for policy-making. While the crisis has strengthened the case for fully inclusive data, the report notes that experiences from the pandemic can be used to inform the future of innovation in official statistics.

For example, at the start of the pandemic, more than 80% of countries said they would use telephone surveys to collect data to measure the impact of COVID-19, while 37% said they would use Internet surveys, a significant increase from pre-pandemic levels. In addition, many countries were found to be considering estimates based on models and non-traditional data sources, including detailed phone call records, scanner data, social media, remote sensing and generated data. by the citizens.

Image courtesy of Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022

It was noted that a number of National Statistical Offices (NSOs) have accelerated the modernization of their ICT infrastructure. In May 2021, 58% of NSOs reported improvements in their overall ICT readiness over the previous six months – key actions included rolling out new collaboration software (85%), new equipment for staff ( 73%) and new remote access. tools such as virtual private network (VPN), virtual office and mobile office (61%).

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Strengthening coordination

The report finds that a major lesson from the crisis has been for NSOs to strengthen coordination within national data ecosystems. At the start of the pandemic, government agencies, academic institutions, local governments, private companies and civil society organizations urgently collaborated to collect data to respond to the crisis and also to develop policies. . While these collaborations have fostered new ideas and resources; they also “increased the inclusiveness, timeliness and use of the resulting data,” the report notes, adding that NSOs have taken on a greater coordinating role in many countries.

However, despite all these efforts, there was also a sense that NSIs could do better in coordinating work within the national data ecosystem. Globally, only 17% of countries surveyed felt that their coordination within the data ecosystem was satisfactory.

The pandemic has led to increased data collection costs in 40% of countries, while 48% of NSOs have faced reduced public funding. NSOs in two-thirds of countries eligible for borrowing from the International Development Association (IDA) also experienced moderate or severe delays in budget disbursement at the start of FY2021, resulting in a delay in developing new plans for NSOs.

Amanda J. Marsh