Hot on the heels of last month’s ‘scorecard’ on sub-Saharan Africa’s prospective trajectories for achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it’s the turn of the Asia-Pacific region to be evaluated. The authors of the report, from Development Progress, part of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), have evaluated the various countries’ prospects of being able to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
As before, different sub-regions within the wider Asia-Pacific area were graded separately for a number of select targets, in order to obtain a general sense of the progress required across different sectors. At this stage, the only target to achieve an ‘A’-rating was Goal 15 (Biodiversity), whereby each country within the region was assessed as to how ‘on track’ it was towards completing Target 15.2 (By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally), based on trends between 2003 and 2013. Both East/Southeast Asia and the Pacific achieved an ‘A’, while South Asia finished with a ‘B’. Overall, the report notes, ‘on average, no change is projected for forest area as a share of land area in the region.’
‘Asia-Pacific as a whole is on track to meet the target of halting deforestation,’ explains ODI research officer and report co-author Tanvi Bhatkal, ‘and around nine out of ten countries will see little change in the share of forest land if present trends continue. However, not all countries within the region are graded ‘A’ based on present trends. For instance, Indonesia is scored a ‘D’ meaning that forest cover may decline slightly. On the other hand, some countries – Laos and Bhutan – are on track to make progress on increasing forest cover.’
Four other targets – 1.1 (Eeradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere), 6.2 (Achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation), 7.1 (Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services) and 8.1 (Sustain per capita economic growth in accordance with national circumstances) – all obtained ‘B’ grades, indicating that ‘current trends will take these targets more than half-way to achievement.’
Unfortunately, not all findings were as positive. Firstly, even among those targets graded ‘B’ overall across the entire area, the Pacific sub-region lags behind scoring only a ‘D’ for universal access to energy (7.1) and an ‘E’ for universal access to sanitation (6.2). On that last score, the report notes that ‘progress in the Pacific would need to be more than four times faster than current trends to reach the target of universal access.’
‘Such differences between sub-regions on a number of targets,’ continues Bhatkal, ‘highlight the need to have a more granular examination of progress and challenges. And, moreover, when we think of SDG implementation, it is important to be even more granular and look at individual countries and – given the thrust to leave no one behind – groups of people within countries.’
“The global community needs to come together to look at how issues relating to sustainability and green growth can be addressed”
Below those top five performing goals, there are numerous stories of slow progress, stagnation, and even worsening situations. As with the selected targets for sub-Saharan Africa, the worst performing targets were:
- 14.2 (Sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems)
- 13.2 (Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning)
- 12.5 (Substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse)
- 11.1 (Ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums)
The only minor improvement in this region was in Goal 16 (Peace), which managed an ‘E’ rating instead of ‘F’, thanks to East/Southeast Asia’s success in managing a ‘C’ when graded for significantly reducing all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere (16.1).
‘Our global Projecting Progress report last year had the targets on reducing slum populations, reducing waste, combating climate change and marine conservation – along with reducing inequality – in the ‘reversal’ group,’ adds Bhatkal. ‘This is not a challenge specific to Asia-Pacific or Sub-Saharan Africa. In general, the global community needs to come together to look at how issues relating to sustainability and green growth, which will affect the targets on waste, climate change and marine conservation, can be addressed. This is precisely one of the purposes of the SDGs: to create a common concerted global effort to address the challenges facing the world as a whole, and those that have been left behind so far in particular.’
There are some marked signs of positive progress in among all the gloom, specifically the ‘B’ grade for East/Southeast Asia on promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation (9.2) and even the ‘A’ for South Asia’s strengthening of domestic resource mobilisation (17.1). However, many of the Asia-Pacific region’s targets will require rapid trend reversals if they are to move onto a trajectory whereby achieving their SDGs looks like a genuine possibility.