Goals set in 2015 outlined a 15-year timeline to achieve certain human and environmental goals by 2030. The United Nations Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals as a commitment to end poverty, improve education, address water shortages, eliminate inequalities and focus on the climate, among 17 designated targets.

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Seven years have passed since the creation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in that time political, natural, human and economic factors have weighed heavily on the success of the SDGs.

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Part of the original plan was accountability through annual reporting in order to know where we stand on achieving the SDGs. Additionally, the Sustainable Development Goals Report is compiled by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, with input from international and regional organizations, the U.N. system of agencies, statisticians and industry professionals.

The 17 SDGs address poverty, hunger, health, education, equality, clean water, sustainable energy and more. The 2022 report was released earlier this year, and the results aren’t great.

1. Poverty

The report finds that efforts to end poverty have been reversed by four years, mostly as a result of the pandemic. Job losses created an economic impact while inflation is still making it more difficult to stretch the budget.

A bowl of salad

2. End hunger

Closely related to poverty, the efforts to end hunger have equally been affected by war, rising food prices and systematic inequalities. As of 2020, one in ten humans suffer from hunger while one in three lack access to food.

3. Ensure healthy lives

The pandemic delivered a crushing hit on world health with over 500 million infections and 15 million related deaths. The disruption in health services contributed to a lack of preventative care, which means death rates rose from other causes, and the overall life expectancy dropped globally.

4. Inclusive and equitable quality education

The pandemic caused a breakdown in learning that will be seen for at least a generation. Many students will never return to school. Meanwhile, in low-income areas, the inequalities of access to education and educational tools have dropped, widening the inequality gap.

5. Gender equality

The pandemic also affected the role women play in the workplace, with more mothers leaving jobs to stay home with children compared to men. Information from the countries reporting shows only 57% of women are making their own informed medical decisions. Over one in four women have reported abuse by a partner. Even with a seven-year increase, women only represent around 26% of political leadership jobs.

A water pitcher with lemons

6. Secure water availability

Also, human activity over the past 300 years has wiped out 85% of the planet’s wetland areas. Over 3 billion people have a questionable water supply. Over 744 million people live in a country with water concerns. The report concludes we need to multiply current efforts by a four-time increase to meet water goals for 2030.

7. Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable energy

Due to challenges in reaching marginalized communities, progress in providing electricity has slowed. Energy efficiency is not developing at a fast enough rate. Financing also dropped for developing countries trying to implement renewable energy sources. Total renewable energy production did increase by one quarter, but still only comprises around 18% of total energy use.

8. Economic growth and employment

Inflation, changing employment environments and supply chain issues continue to result in higher than pre-pandemic unemployment rates and poor economic conditions.

9. Infrastructure, industrialization, and innovation

Manufacturing has mostly rebounded from the pandemic, with the exception of least developed countries where an increased inequality is seen. However, jobs within manufacturing have dropped by about one-third. Small businesses are still struggling to produce a profit and have adequate access to loans.

10. Inequality within and among countries

World events have caused a dynamic rift in equality between countries while refugees, migrant deaths and discrimination are all high.

11. Urban development

Plans for disaster risk have nearly doubled in the past seven years while increasing populations have created mounting waste problems. Public transportation is highly inconsistent globally and, according to WHO, 99% of the world’s urban population is dealing with air pollution.

12. Sustainable consumption and production 

Food waste is a growing issue at both the agricultural and consumer level. North America and Europe are recycling nearly 48% of electronic waste while much of the developing world recycles less than 2%. As for consumption, we’re relying on natural resources more than ever and practicing unsustainable patterns of product consumption.

13. Combat climate change

Damage to coral reefs, melting glacier ice, sea level rise, drought, rising global temperatures and natural disasters are all in the forecast in the short and long term without drastic change. Last year, 2021 saw the highest energy-related carbon emissions ever recorded.

14. Sustainable oceans

The ocean is a carbon sink, which can be a good thing for air breathers. However, it’s catastrophic for marine animals. Ocean warming, plastic pollution and overfishing add insult to injury.

A plant held in someone's hand

15. Protect ecosystems

Crops and livestock are responsible for 90% of the world’s deforestation. Around 40,000 species are in threat of extinction in the next 40 years. Biodiversity has taken a huge hit during the pandemic with priority to people and the economy. In a bit of good news, nearly half of biodiversity areas are now being protected.

16. Sustainable development, justice, and inclusive institutions

Violent conflicts are increasing on a global and local level with one-quarter of the population living in conflict-affected areas. On a positive note, global homicides dropped in the first five years of the SDGs, however, one-third of the population reports being scared to walk alone at night, even in their own neighborhood.

17. Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

This is the one area of the report where significant progress was seen. Development assistance reached a new high thanks to pandemic aid. Foreign investments and remittances both rebounded. Internet access and usage have increased, too. However, developing countries saw a significant increase in debt during the same time period.


It’s a depressing report. The bar was initially set high and world events have delivered a one-two punch, but the SDGs weren’t, and aren’t unattainable. However, achieving those goals will require a synchronized global effort.

Via United Nations

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