In 2015 all countries in the United Nations agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals, 17 goals which, if diligently pursued by all nations, would greatly improve peace and prosperity around the world.
We are almost a third of the way through that time period. So how is the world going?
Well, we all know that in many ways the world isn’t going so well, but amid the gloom there really is some good news. Here I will focus on six of the goals where I have been readily able to obtain data.
1. No poverty
Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1.90 a day. The World Bank reports that whereas 36% of the world lived in extreme poverty in 1990, in 2015 it was “only” 10%, meaning more than a billion people had lifted themselves out of extreme poverty. But the rate of progress had slowed, and this still leaves more than 700 million people in poverty.
2. Zero hunger
About 34 percent of the world population was undernourished in 1970. That figure had dropped to 19% in 1990 and to 11% in 2014. But since then, there has been a slow increase in those suffering from hunger and malnutrition, with natural disasters, likely caused by climate change, being the main cause.
3 Good health and wellbeing
One important aspect of health is child mortality. The World Health Organisation reports that in 1990, 1 in 11 children worldwide died before reaching the age of 5, whereas in 2018 the global under-five mortality rate had fallen to 1 in 26.
4. Quality education
Girls have almost always received less education than boys, yet it is known that the best way to assist girls climb out of poverty is to provide better opportunities for their education. In the last 15 years, the number of girls not attending Primary School has been almost halved, and adolescent girls and women are completing more years of school than ever before. Nevertheless, about 15 million girls will never attend even a day of school, and 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are not currently in school.
6. Clean water & sanitation
World Vision reports that since 1990, around 2 billion people have gained access to an improved, sustainable source of water. However, around 800 million people still live without safe drinking water and almost two-fifths of the world’s people lack access to sanitation.
8. Decent work and economic growth
In the first 13 years of this century, the number of children working in conditions classified as “child labour” fell from an estimated 252 million to 168 million, with a further fall to the latest estimate of 152 million.
February monthly challenge
There is much good news in the figures, but still a gut-wrenching level of hurt, harm and inequality. And some experts predict some future deterioration because of climate change and a rising level of nationalism and xenophobia. Those of us in the more wealthy west still live in privilege and mostly we can all do more.
Can we each take one of these 17 goals and financially support an organisation that is improving life for those still suffering in that area?
As Jesus said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”. (Matthew 25:40)
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Graphic: the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015.