Asia-Pacific may meet only one out of 17 SDGs, warns UN official
New York, Jul 22: The Asia-Pacific region is on track to meet only one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, a senior UN official has warned, underscoring that the global success in achieving the 2030 development agenda is “highly reliant” on India’s performance.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for action to end poverty, protect the planet, improve health, education, and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
“When we look across the SDGs right now, Asia-Pacific as a whole is on track to meet only one of the 17 SDGs. We are only going to meet the SDG on education.
“While that is a great achievement — universal education in a region as vast as the Asia-Pacific — it is not enough,” UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) Deputy Executive Secretary Kaveh Zahedi told PTI here.
Zahedi was in New York to participate in the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development at UN headquarters last week that reviewed progress towards several of the SDGs.
As nations across the world implement national development programmes in line with development goals, the UN official emphasised that success in the SDGs will in large part depend on its success in India.
He noted that the success on the Millennium Development Goals, to some degree, could be attributed to China’s poverty reduction and its efforts in lifting millions out of poverty.
“We are highly reliant on India’s success to demonstrate the global success on achieving the 2030 Agenda. It is going to depend on ambition and vision at the highest level of government and also depends on money and investment,” he said.
Zahedi raised concern over the region “moving backwards” on parameters of inequality besides the emerging “digital divide” within and between countries.
“The region is becoming more unequal. Not only are we not going to achieve the SDGs, we are moving in the wrong direction. I don’t think any of the countries will say that they are hundred per cent on the track to meet SDGs just yet,” he said.
He noted that inequality in the region is not just in income and wealth, but also in terms of access to vital services like education, health, social protection, environmental degradation and impact of disasters.
“We also see a digital divide emerging within countries and between countries, which, in a way, is setting the pattern for future inequality when people will rely on mobile, 3G services to access education, health services,” he said.
Referring specifically to the SDG on access to affordable and clean energy, he said while in the past 20 years access to energy has increased, access to clean fuel, especially clean cooking fuel, has not. About 2.2 billion people in the Asia Pacific region still cook with traditional bio mass fuel and a majority of those people live in China and India, he noted.
Zahedi, however, lauded India’s efforts towards increasing the renewable energy component in its overall energy mix. India is undertaking the transformation of its energy mix towards renewable energy, with particular emphasis on expanding the use of solar and wind power, including off-grid.
By 2022, India plans to produce 175 GW of renewable energy that will include 100 GW of solar power. The rate of expansion in this sector in India is highest in the world.
India has also partnered with France and other countries to launch the International Solar Alliance as a tangible contribution to the ongoing collective global efforts on climate action. More than 60 countries have already joined this alliance, which has now been registered at the UN as a multilateral treaty.
“Countries need to set a vision and ambition for themselves. India has done that (in the energy field). From the 100 GW of solar ambition by 2022 to putting in place the solar alliance, it is a statement of intent from India that is absolutely vital,” he said.
Zahedi also said that countries need to increase their investments if they are to achieve the SDGs.
“Regionally, we need an investment of up to 1.7 billion dollars to achieve universal access to energy. It’s an extraordinary investment that is needed but it is not happening right now. We see that the major investments are not aligned with the SDGs,” he said.
Highlighting an urgent need for nations to speed up development efforts, he said economic growth alone will not bring the results that the countries are seeking.
“Just economic growth will not help with sustainable and inclusive development. If we have a challenge when it comes to inequality, we cannot just grow out of that problem. We need to invest in overcoming that problem, we need to invest in education, healthcare, reducing the vulnerability of various populations and those that constantly get dragged back into poverty after each financial crisis and extreme weather events,” he said.
“The message is that economic growth alone really will not resolve our problems and has not resolved our problems. It is important but it is not enough. We have to see investments in the SDGs, in building the social safeguards, in building the resilience that will bring ultimately the SDGs success,” he said.