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UN warns global goals on poverty, inequality in jeopardy

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The United Nations has issued a report stating that the goals set by the world to combat extreme poverty, improve access to clean water, and achieve sustainable development for all are now “in peril.” Published on Monday, the report evaluates the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and emphasizes the urgent need for action.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cautioned that unless immediate action is taken, the 2030 Agenda risks becoming a mere epitaph for an unrealized world. In 2015, UN member states adopted 17 goals with the aim of creating a more sustainable future for the entire planet within the next decade. However, the report highlights that halfway to 2030, this promise is at risk, and more than half of the world’s population is likely to be left behind.

The report examines 140 target areas established under the Sustainable Development Goals, encompassing issues such as healthcare access, climate change mitigation, inequality reduction, and equitable energy provision. It reveals that over 30% of the targets have shown no progress or have even regressed since 2015. Moreover, about half of the targets have deviated significantly from the desired trajectory.

One notable setback has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on poverty levels. The pandemic halted the decline in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $2.15 a day. At the current rate, approximately 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty by 2030, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. While this represents a 30% decrease from 2015, it falls far short of the intended eradication.

The report also highlights a distressing trend in global hunger levels, which have reached heights not seen since 2005. Around 2.3 billion people, or one in three individuals, experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2021. Additionally, child malnutrition remains a pressing concern.

Another critical issue is the slow progress towards gender equality. The report states that at the current rate, it would take 286 years to close the gap in legal protection and abolish discriminatory laws, as well as 300 years to eliminate child marriage.

UN Secretary-General Guterres stressed that developing countries, burdened by excessive debt, suffer the most from the collective failure to invest in the Sustainable Development Goals. He called for reform of international financial institutions, denouncing the unjust financial system that expects developing countries to meet targets with significantly fewer resources than developed nations.

In response to the concerning findings, the UN has proposed a summit on September 18-19 to adopt a “rescue plan” for the goals. The summit aims to secure a renewed political commitment from member states and support Guterres’s proposal for a stimulus package of an additional $500 billion annually by 2030 to finance sustainable development.

Despite the report’s somber outlook, some positive signs are evident. Infant mortality rates have dropped by 12% between 2015 and 2021, and nearly 150 countries are expected to meet their targets in this area by 2030. Internet access has significantly expanded, connecting 5.3 billion people by 2022. Furthermore, AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 52% since 2010.

Nevertheless, progress does not equate to success in many of the UN’s targets. In 2022, 2.2 billion people still lacked access to safe drinking water, and 419 million were left without proper sanitation facilities.

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