From Sub-Saharan Africa to Latin America: Tracking Progress of Different Regions on the Sustainable Development Goals

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The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has released the 2020 edition of the Sustainable Development Report, written by lead author Jeffrey Sachs and a team of independent experts.

The annual report tracks the performance of all UN Member States on the 17 SDGs, and measures the distance remaining to achieve each target.

Scroll on to read the region-wise performance with respect to SDGs:

OECD Countries

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) dashboard reveals that, before the COVID-19 outbreak, OECD countries weren’t on track to achieve the SDGs.

Compared to the rest of the world, OECD countries perform better on goals related to socioeconomic outcomes and basic access to infrastructure, including:
• SDG 1 (No Poverty)
• SDG 3 (Good Health & Well-Being)
• SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation
• SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy)

The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of health systems, including those of OECD countries and the need to strengthen resilience and prevention.

Major efforts are needed to accelerate progress towards climate mitigation and biodiversity protection.

“OECD countries face persistent challenges related to sustainable agriculture and diets – which are also major drivers of greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.OECD countries perform relatively poorly on the indicators on trophic levels (capturing the energy intensity and long-term sustainability of average diets) and obesity,” the report said.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin American and Caribbean countries perform best on SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), according to the report’s key findings.

They have also been experiencing progress on SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

Yet, compared to other parts of the world, greater efforts are needed to reduce income and wealth inequalities, which is underlined by the poor performance of all countries in the region on SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities).

Improving access to and quality of key services would help strengthen performance on SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) and SDG 4 (Quality Education).

Finally, as for other parts of the world, economic growth has not been decoupled from negative environmental impact, which is evident in large achievement gaps on SDGs 12 through to 15.

Middle East and North Africa

The SDG performance of Middle East and North African countries varies greatly. The report added that conflicts in some countries lead to poor and declining performance on most SDGs, particularly on:
• SDG 2 (Zero Hunger)
• SDG 3 (Good Health and WellBeing)
• SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions)

Countries less affected by conflicts perform best on SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

Still, all countries in the region face major challenges in reaching SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), due to obesity, undernourishment, stunting or issues related to sustainable land-use and farming.

Access to infrastructure is generally high or improving at a rapid pace. However, further efforts are needed to strengthen domestic labour rights and standards and to tackle negative spillovers under SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth); to enhance freedom of speech and address high levels of perceived corruption under SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions); and to make the transition towards more circular and green economies (SDGs 12 to 15).

High CO2 emissions embodied in fossil-fuel exports have a strongly negative impact on the performance of most countries in the region on SDG 13 (Climate Action).

East and South Asia

According to the report, overall East and South Asia is the region that has progressed most on the SDG Index since the adoption of the goals in 2015. Most countries in the region also managed the COVID-19 outbreak more effectively than many other parts of the world.

Countries in East and South Asia differ greatly in size and in the level of economic development. Correspondingly, SDG challenges also vary greatly across countries in this region.

Overall, the best performances are obtained on SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), although for each of these goals, at least one country in the region has a red rating (major SDG challenge), as per the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) report.

Major challenges persist in most countries on:
• SDG 2 (Zero Hunger)
• SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being)
• SDG 5 (Gender Equality)
• SDGs 12–15 on climate change mitigation and biodiversity protection
• SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions).

Trends on SDG 1 (No Poverty) are especially positive, with most countries in the region on track to eradicate extreme poverty.

By contrast, negative trends on SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) need to be reversed and will require a significant acceleration of progress to achieve the 2030 targets in most countries. Vigilance is needed to ensure that COVID-19 doesn’t change positive trajectories.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia obtain their best performance on SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), as per the annual report that tracks the performance of all UN Member States on the 17 SDGs.

Compared to other regions, SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) remains problematic, owing to relatively high perceived corruption in some countries, low freedom of speech, or high insecurity.

As for other parts of the world, poor performance on SDGs 12 to 15 on climate mitigation and biodiversity protection need urgent attention of policymakers. However, access to basic services and infrastructure is improving rapidly.

Sub-Saharan Africa

“The average SDG Index score for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa has improved significantly since 2015. Yet, all sub-Saharan African countries continue to face major challenges in achieving the SDGs, and COVID-19 threatens to undo much of the progress made in recent years. Owing to the poverty in the region, performance on socioeconomic goals and access to basic services and infrastructure (SDGs 1 to 9) are poor compared to other world regions,” the report said.

In some countries, insecurity and conflict have lowered performance on various goals, including SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions).

In order to improve the low performance on this and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals), countries need to strengthen their institutions and increase domestic resource mobilization.

The report added that relatively low levels of consumption have led to somewhat better performances on SDGs 12 to 15 on climate mitigation & biodiversity protection, although trends in pollution in urban areas, and forest loss and biodiversity protection are flat for the region as a whole and moving in the wrong direction in some countries.

The ongoing pandemic and the disruption in international supply chains, including the food supply chain, are likely to have very negative impacts on SDG performance in many sub-Saharan countries. International solidarity and support will be needed to prevent losing the development gains of recent decades.


On the basis of the data available, small island states in the region perform best on:
• SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production)
• SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals)

By contrast, access to services, and their quality and quality education need to improve.

Similarly, access to infrastructure, covered under SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), and SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), is lower than in most other regions.

As per the report’s findings, small island states perform well compared to the rest of the world on climate mitigation (SDG 13), but they are of course among the countries that are the most vulnerable to climate change.