The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017 reviews progress made towards the 17 Goals in the second year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report is based on the latest available data. It highlights both gains and challenges as the international community moves towards full realization of the ambitions and principles espoused in the 2030 Agenda.
While considerable progress has been made over the past decade across all areas of development, the pace of progress observed in previous years is insufficient to fully meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets by 2030. Time is therefore of the essence. Moreover, as the following pages show, progress has not always been equitable. Advancements have been uneven across regions, between the sexes, and among people of different ages, wealth and locales, including urban and rural dwellers. Faster and more inclusive progress is needed to accomplish the bold vision articulated in the 2030 Agenda.
Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Giving people in every part of the world the support they need to lift themselves out of poverty in all its manifestations is the very essence of sustainable development. Goal 1 focuses on ending poverty through interrelated strategies, including the promotion of social protection systems, decent employment and building the resilience of the poor.
- An estimated 767 million people lived below the extreme poverty line in 2013, down from 1.7 billion people in 1999. This represents a reduction in the global rate of extreme poverty from 28 per cent in 1999 to 11 per cent in 2013.
- Almost 10 per cent of the employed population worldwide lived with their families on less than 1.90 US dollars per person per day in 2016. Vulnerability was much higher for younger workers: 9 per cent of adult workers and their families lived in extreme poverty compared to 15 per cent of youth workers.
- In 2016, only 22 per cent of the unemployed worldwide received unemployment benefits, 28 per cent of people with severe disabilities collected a disability pension, 35 per cent of children were covered by social protection, 41 per cent of women giving birth received maternity benefits, and 68 per cent of people above retirement age collected a pension.
- Economic losses from natural hazards are now reaching an average of 250 billion to 300 billion US dollars a year, with a disproportionate impact on small and vulnerable countries.
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 2 addresses a fundamental human need—access to nutritious, healthy food, and the means by which it can be sustainably secured for everyone. Tackling hunger cannot be addressed by increasing food production alone. Well-functioning markets, increased incomes for smallholder farmers, equal access to technology and land, and additional investments all play a role in creating a vibrant and productive agricultural sector that builds food security.
- The proportion of undernourished people worldwide declined from 15 per cent in 2000-2002 to about 11 per cent in 2014-2016. Globally, about 793 million people were undernourished in 2014-2016, down from 930 million in 2000-2002.
- Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 63 per cent of undernourished people worldwide in 2014-2016.
- In 2016, an estimated 155 million children under age 5 were stunted (low height for their age), 52 million were suffering from wasting (low weight for their height), and 41 million were overweight. Globally, the stunting rate fell from 33 per cent in 2000 to 23 per cent in 2016
- The share of aid to agriculture in sector-allocable aid from member countries of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development fell from nearly 20 per cent in the mid-1980s to 7 per cent in 2015.
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 3 addresses all major health priorities and calls for improving reproductive, maternal and child health; ending communicable diseases; reducing non-communicable diseases and other health hazards; and ensuring universal access to safe, effective, quality and affordable medicines and vaccines as well as health coverage.
- Between 2000 and 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio declined by 37 per cent, and the under-5 mortality rate fell by 44 per cent. However, 303,000 women died during pregnancy or childbirth and 5.9 million children under age 5 died worldwide in 2015. Most of these deaths were from preventable causes.
- The period between 2000 and 2015 saw a 46 per cent reduction in HIV incidence; a 17 per cent decline in the incidence of tuberculosis; a 41 per cent decrease in the incidence of malaria; and a 21 per cent drop in people requiring mass or individual treatment and care for neglected tropical diseases.
- The risk of dying between the ages of 30 and 70 from one of four main non‑communicable diseases (NCDs)—cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease—fell from 23 per cent to 19 per cent between 2000 and 2015, not rapidly enough to meet the 2030 target.
- Nearly 800,000 suicides occurred worldwide in 2015, with men about twice as likely to die by suicide as women.
- In 2013, around 1.25 million people died from road traffic injuries, an increase of 13 per cent since 2000.
- Globally in 2012, household air pollution from cooking with unclean fuels and inefficient technologies led to an estimated 4.3 million deaths; another 3 million deaths were attributed to ambient air pollution from traffic, industrial sources, waste burning and residential fuel combustion.
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 4 aims to ensure that all people have access to quality education and the opportunity for lifelong learning. The Goal goes beyond school enrolment and looks at proficiency levels, the availability of trained teachers and adequate school facilities, and disparities in education outcomes.
- In 2014, 2 out of 3 children worldwide participated in pre-primary or primary education in the year prior to the official entrance age for primary school, compared to only 4 in 10 children in the poorest countries.
- Despite considerable gains in primary school enrolment between 2000 and 2014, 9 per cent of primary-school-aged children worldwide were out of school in 2014, with little progress since 2008.
- Surveys undertaken between 2007 and 2015 in selected countries show that children and adolescents from the richest 20 per cent of households achieved greater proficiency in reading than those from the poorest 20 per cent of households, and urban children scored higher in reading than rural children.
- Data for 2011 indicate that only about one quarter of schools in sub-Saharan Africa had electricity, less than half had access to drinking water, and only 69 per cent had toilets (with many lacking separate sanitation facilities for girls and boys).
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Gender inequality persists worldwide, depriving women and girls of their basic rights and opportunities. Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will require more vigorous efforts, including legal frameworks, to counter deeply rooted gender-based discrimination often resulting from patriarchal attitudes and related social norms.
- One in five girls and women (aged 15 to 49) who have ever been married or in union reported they had been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the previous 12 months, according to surveys undertaken between 2005 and 2016 in 87 countries.
- Around 2000, nearly one in three women between 20 and 24 years of age reported that they were married before age 18; around 2015, the ratio had declined to roughly one in four.
- According to surveys undertaken around 2015 in 30 countries where the practice of female genital mutilation is concentrated, over a third (35 per cent) of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 had been subjected to the procedure.
- On average, women spent almost triple the amount of time on unpaid domestic and care work as men, based on data from 2000 to 2016.
- Women’s participation in single or lower houses of national parliaments worldwide reached only 23.4 per cent in 2017. In the majority of the 67 countries with data from 2009 to 2015, fewer than a third of senior- and middle-management positions were held by women.
Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Goal 6 aims to tackle challenges related to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for populations, as well as to water-related ecosystems. Without quality, sustainable water resources and sanitation, progress in many other areas across the SDGs, including health, education and poverty reduction, will also be held back.
- In 2015, 5.2 billion people (71 per cent of the global population) used a “safely managed” drinking water service—an improved source located on premises, available when needed and free from contamination.
- In 2015, 2.9 billion people (39 per cent of the global population) used a “safely managed” sanitation service—a basic facility that safely disposed of human waste.
- Open defecation, practised by 892 million people (12 per cent of the global population) in 2015, continues to pose serious health risks.
- More than 2 billion people globally are living in countries with excess water stress. Northern Africa and Western Asia, as well as Central and Southern Asia, experience water stress levels above 60 per cent, indicating the strong probability of future water scarcity.
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy services requires expanding access to electricity and clean cooking fuels and technologies, as well as improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy. To achieve this Goal, bolder financing and policies will be needed, along with the willingness of countries to embrace new technologies on a much more ambitious scale.
- In 2014, 85.3 per cent of the global population had access to electricity, up from 77.6 per cent in 2000. However, 1.06 billion people still lived without this basic service.
- While 96 per cent of urban residents could access electricity in 2014, the share was only 73 per cent in rural areas.
- Access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking climbed to 57 per cent in 2014, up from 50 per cent in 2000. Still, more than 3 billion people, most of them in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, lack access to clean cooking fuels and technologies and are exposed to high levels of household air pollution.
- The share of renewable energy in final energy consumption grew modestly from 2010 to 2014—from 17.5 to 18.3 per cent. Water, solar and wind power generation accounted for most of the increase.
- Globally, primary energy intensity improved by 2.1 per cent a year from 2012 to 2014. However, this pace is insufficient to double the global rate of energy efficiency improvements as called for in the target.
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Economic growth is a principal driver of sustainable development. When this growth is sustained and inclusive, more people can escape poverty as opportunities for full and productive employment expand. To allow future generations to benefit from today’s economic growth, such growth should be environmentally sound and not the result of unsustainable exploitation of resources.
- The average annual growth rate of real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita expanded from 0.9 per cent over the period 2005-2009 to 1.6 per cent in 2010-2015. Real GDP growth in the least developed countries (LDCs) averaged 4.9 per cent in 2010-2015, short of the target of at least 7 per cent annually.
- Growth in labour productivity—measured by GDP per worker—slowed sharply after the financial crisis of 2008-2009. It grew at an average annual rate of 1.9 per cent between 2009 and 2016, compared to 2.9 per cent between 2000 and 2008.
- The global unemployment rate fell from 6.1 per cent in 2010 to 5.7 per cent in 2016. Despite progress overall, youth (aged 15 to 24 years) were nearly three times as likely as adults to be without a job, with unemployment rates of 12.8 per cent and 4.4 per cent, respectively.
- The number of children aged 5 to 17 engaged in child labour declined from 246 million in 2000 to 168 million in 2012. Still, around 1 in 10 children worldwide were engaged in child labour in 2012; more than half of them (85 million) were exposed to hazardous forms of work.
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Infrastructure, industrialization and innovation are three drivers of economic growth. When inclusivity, resilience and sustainability are factored into the implementation of these driving forces, economic growth can support sustainable development.
- In 2015, the economic impact of air transport was 2.7 trillion US dollars (3.5 per cent of global GDP). The least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS) accounted for limited air travel and freight volumes—each country group comprised only a small fraction (1 to 2.7 per cent) of the global total.
- Between 2005 and 2016, manufacturing value added (MVA) per capita increased by almost 59 per cent in LDCs, yet was still only about 2 per cent of that in Europe and Northern America.
- Between 2000 and 2014, steady reductions were observed in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from manufacturing per unit of MVA in most regions of the world and in all 10 of the largest manufacturing countries.
- Global investment in research and development increased at an average annual rate of 4.5 per cent between 2000 and 2014. It reached 1.8 trillion US dollars (purchasing power parity) in 2014—1.7 per cent of global GDP.
- Coverage by a mobile cellular signal has become almost universal. In 2016, 95 per cent of the world’s population was in range of at least a second-generation (2G) signal and 84 per cent received at least a third-generation (3G) signal.
Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
Goal 10 calls for reducing inequality within and among countries, ensuring safe, orderly and regular migration, and strengthening the voices of developing countries in international economic and financial decision-making.
- In 49 of 83 countries with data for the period 2011-2015, the per capita incomes of the poorest 40 per cent of the population grew more rapidly than the national average, leading to a reduction in income inequality.
- Reforms at the International Monetary Fund have led to increased voting shares for developing countries, yet in many international organizations their voting shares remain far below their overall membership levels.
- The international trade community continues to grant more favourable access conditions to LDCs: the proportion of tariff lines for exports from LDCs with zero tariffs increased from 49 per cent in 2005 to 65 per cent in 2015.
- On average, the cost of sending remittances home is above 7 per cent of the amount remitted, significantly higher than the 3 per cent target. New and improved technologies, such as prepaid cards and mobile operators, helped reduce these fees to between 2 per cent and 4 per cent, but are not yet widely available or used in many remittance corridors.
Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
The pace of urban growth has been unprecedented. More than half the world’s population, or nearly 4 billion people, lived in cities in 2015. However, while cities are incubators of innovation and help foster increased employment and economic growth, rapid urbanization has brought with it enormous challenges, including inadequate housing, increased air pollution, and lack of access to basic services and infrastructure.
- The proportion of the urban population living in slums worldwide fell from 28 per cent in 2000 to 23 per cent in 2014. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, more than half (56 per cent) of urban dwellers lived in slum conditions.
- From 2000 to 2015, in all regions of the world, the expansion of urban land outpaced the growth of urban populations, resulting in urban sprawl.
- According to data from cities in 101 countries from 2009 to 2013, approximately 65 per cent of the population was served by municipal waste collection.
- In 2014, 9 in 10 people living in urban areas breathed air that did not meet the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines value for particulate matter (PM 2.5).
- As of May 2017, 149 countries had fully or partially implemented national-level urban policies, most of which are aligned with priority areas identified in the SDGs.
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Sustainable consumption and production patterns enable efficient resource use and can reduce the impact of economic activities on the environment. To that end, this Goal focuses on decoupling economic growth from resource use, and ensuring that hazardous chemicals and wastes are managed in a way that minimizes their impact on human lives and the environment.
- Globally, the material footprint of human beings increased from 48.5 billion metric tons in 2000 to 69.3 billion metric tons in 2010. The material footprint per capita increased from 8 metric tons per person to 10 metric tons per person over the same period.
- In 2010, Australia and New Zealand had the highest material footprint per capita (35 metric tons per person), followed by Europe and Northern America (20 metric tons per person); sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest (2.5 metric tons per person).
- Eastern and South-Eastern Asia accounted for 42 per cent of global domestic material consumption (DMC), reflecting rapid industrialization in the region.
- Almost all United Nations Member States are party to at least one global environmental agreement on chemicals and hazardous waste. However, between 2010 and 2014, only 51 per cent of Parties to the Stockholm Convention, 57 per cent of Parties to the Basel Convention, and 71 per cent of Parties to the Rotterdam Convention fully met their reporting commitments under these agreements.
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Planetary warming continued in 2016, setting a record of about 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period. The extent of global sea ice fell to 4.14 million square kilometres in 2016, the second lowest on record. Mitigating climate change and its impacts will require building on the momentum achieved by the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Stronger efforts are also needed to build resilience and limit climate-related hazards and natural disasters.
- The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016, marking a shift in focus towards implementation of action for the climate and sustainable development.
- As of 7 June 2017, 148 Parties had ratified the Paris Agreement; of these, 142 Parties (141 countries and the European Commission) had communicated their first nationally determined contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat.
- The number of deaths attributed to natural hazards continues to rise, despite progress in implementing disaster risk reduction strategies. From 1990 to 2015, more than 1.6 million people died in internationally reported natural hazards.
- Many countries have begun implementing national and local disaster risk reduction strategies. In 2014-2015, most reporting countries indicated that environmental impact assessments, legislation on protected areas, climate change adaptation projects and programmes, and integrated planning played a major role in reducing underlying risk factors.
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Oceans cover almost three quarters of the planet, comprising the largest ecosystem on Earth. The increasingly adverse impacts of climate change (including ocean acidification), overfishing and marine pollution are jeopardizing recent gains in protecting portions of the world’s oceans.
- In 2017, protected areas cover 13.2 per cent of the marine environment under national jurisdiction, 0.25 per cent of the marine environment beyond national jurisdiction, and 5.3 per cent of the total global ocean area. The average coverage of marine key biodiversity areas (KBAs) by protected areas has risen from 32 per cent in 2000 to 45 per cent in 2017.
- The proportion of marine fish stocks worldwide that have been overfished—that is, are at biologically unsustainable levels—increased from 10 per cent in 1974 to 31 per cent in 2013.
- Oceans absorb up to 30 per cent of the annual emissions of CO2 generated by human activity. However, the absorbed CO2 also leads to an increase in the acidity of seawater, which weakens the shells and skeletons of many marine species, such as corals. As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, estimates indicate that oceans could be nearly 150 per cent more acidic by 2100.
- Of the 63 large marine ecosystems evaluated under the Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme, 16 per cent are in the “high” or “highest” risk categories for coastal eutrophication. By 2050, it is estimated that coastal eutrophication will increase in 21 per cent of these large ecosystems.
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Protected and restored ecosystems and the biodiversity they support can help mitigate climate change and provide increased resilience in the face of mounting human pressures and natural disasters. Healthy ecosystems also produce multiple benefits for communities that rely on them. Goal 15 focuses on preserving and sustainably using the Earth’s terrestrial species and ecosystems.
- From 2010 to 2015, the annual net loss of forest area globally was less than half that of the 1990s. The proportion of land area covered by forest decreased from 31.6 per cent in 1990 to 30.8 per cent in 2010 and 30.6 per cent in 2015.
- From 2000 to 2017, average worldwide coverage of terrestrial, freshwater and mountain KBAs by protected areas increased from 35 per cent to 47 per cent, from 32 per cent to 43 per cent, and from 39 per cent to 49 per cent, respectively.
- Biodiversity loss, however, continues at an alarming rate. Corals, amphibians and cycads are in serious decline due to distinct and worsening threats. Bleaching, driven by climate change and local impacts, has affected the health of coral reefs worldwide, which could disappear completely by 2050. Amphibians also face a high risk of extinction, with 41 per cent already threatened.
- Illicit poaching and trafficking of wildlife continues to thwart conservation efforts, with nearly 7,000 species of animals and plants reported in illegal trade involving 120 countries. In 2013, elephant ivory, rosewood, rhinoceros horn and reptiles comprised 70 per cent of total wildlife seizures.
Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Peace, justice and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions are at the core of sustainable development. Progress in promoting peaceful and inclusive societies remains uneven across and within countries. Violent conflicts have increased in recent years, and a number of high-intensity armed conflicts are causing large numbers of civilian casualties and driving millions of people from their homes.
- In 2015, the intentional homicide rate in countries with high income inequality (Gini index>0.45) was nine times that of countries with low income inequality (Gini index <0.35).
- In 76 countries with available data from 2005 to 2016, about 8 in 10 children aged 1 to 14 years were subjected to some form of psychological aggression and/or physical punishment on a regular basis.
- More than 570 different human trafficking flows, which criss-cross the globe, were identified by law enforcement officers between 2012 and 2014. The large majority of identified trafficking victims in 2014 were women and girls (71 per cent), and more than a quarter were children.
- Globally, the proportion of people held in detention without being tried or sentenced for a crime was 31 per cent in 2013-2015.
- According to data from 2005 to 2016, over 18 per cent of firms worldwide reported receiving at least one bribery payment request. The share of firms in low- and lowermiddle- income countries was 25 per cent, versus 4 per cent in high-income countries.
- Data reported for 147 countries from 2010 to 2016 indicate that 71 per cent of children under age 5 worldwide have had their births registered; the birth registration rate in sub-Saharan Africa stands at just 46 per cent.
Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development
A stronger commitment to partnership and cooperation is needed to achieve the SDGs. Attaining the Goals will require coherent policies, an enabling environment for sustainable development at all levels and by all actors, and a reinvigorated Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. Meeting the means of implementation targets is key to realizing the 2030 Agenda, as is the full implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Incremental progress has been made in these areas, but more is needed.
- From 2015 to 2016, official development assistance (ODA) rose by 8.9 per cent in real terms to 142.6 billion US dollars, reaching a new peak. Despite this progress, bilateral aid to LDCs fell by 3.9 per cent in real terms.
- Debt service is trending upwards. From 2000 to 2011, debt service in lower-middle-income countries fell from 12.9 per cent to 3.6 per cent, before rising slowly to 6.1 per cent in 2015.
- In 2016, international remittances totalled 575 billion US dollars, 75 per cent of which (429 billion US dollars) flowed to developing countries. However, remittances to developing countries fell in 2016 for a second consecutive year, declining by 2.4 per cent over 2015.
- In 2016, about 80 per cent of the population in developed regions had Internet access, compared to 40 per cent in developing regions and 15 per cent in LDCs.
- In 2014, financial support for statistical capacity in developing countries (338 million US dollars) accounted for only 0.18 per cent of total ODA. From 2007 to 2016, 89 per cent of countries or areas around the world conducted at least one population and housing census; 25 countries or areas failed to conduct a census during this period.
Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world
Eradicating all forms of poverty is at the core of sustainable development. Poverty encompasses deprivation in many domains, including income, hunger, poor health, social exclusion, discrimination and lack of access to basic services. At the same time, deprivations in any one of these domains can in turn exacerbate the depth or duration of deprivations in one or more of the others. Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world requires a holistic approach that takes into account the interlinkages across the different dimensions of sustainable development. This section provides a few highlights of these interconnections in the context of the theme and Goals under review at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2017.
Increasingly, the extreme poor reside in fragile settings
While nearly a billion people have escaped extreme poverty since 1999, about 767 million remained destitute in 2013, living on 1.90 US dollars or less a day. Half of the world’s poor lived in sub-Saharan Africa, where 42 per cent of the population subsisted in conditions of extreme poverty in 2013. Another one third lived in Southern Asia. Those in extreme poverty are increasingly found living in fragile situations such as conflict zones and remote areas that are difficult to reach. And many of those who have climbed out of extreme poverty continue to live precariously, just above the poverty line, and are highly vulnerable to falling backwards. Economic volatility, natural disasters and other shocks put them at risk. About 80 per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and 64 per cent work in the agriculture sector. Children are more likely to suffer poverty than adults: almost 385 million people living in extremely poor households were under 18 years of age in 2013. Adding to their vulnerability is the lack of adequate social protection systems, which, if well designed, can help prevent and reduce poverty and inequality at every stage of life. In 2016, only 45 per cent of the world’s population were covered by at least one social protection cash benefit.
Conflict and war exacerbate poverty
Conflict has become the most insurmountable barrier to poverty eradication and sustainable development. War, violence and persecution worldwide led to the displacement of 65.6 million people from their homes by the end of 2016. This represents an increase of about 300,000 people since 2015, and the highest level recorded in decades. Of these, 22.5 million were refugees, 40.3 million were internally displaced, and 2.8 million were asylum seekers.
Children, who make up about half of the 17.2 million refugees under the responsibility of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, are disproportionately affected by conflict. In fleeing to escape violence and persecution, children are often deprived of what they need most, including health care and education, safe water and shelter. In 2015, 50 per cent of refugee children of primary-school age were out of school. Many displaced children travel alone or are separated from their parents. Among the children making the dangerous passage from North Africa to Europe, the vast majority—92 per cent—of those who arrived in Italy in 2016 and the first two months of 2017 were unaccompanied.
Women still face considerable structural disadvantages in escaping poverty
Entrenched gender inequality continues to hold women back from achieving their full potential. In 2015, for instance, almost 27 per cent of women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18—a practice commonplace in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. These two regions are also home to 80 per cent of the world’s poor. Child marriage is closely linked to early childbirth and poor access to health and reproductive health care. Typically, marriage ends or severely limits girls’ education, autonomy and economic potential.
Societal assumptions and expectations of women’s roles as caregivers and mothers also curtail their income. Women spent almost three times as many hours on unpaid domestic work as men. Only half of women in 45 countries with available data make their own decisions about reproductive health. And women’s and girls’ lack of autonomy over their sexual and reproductive health—compounded by unintended pregnancies—tends to increase household poverty. In many parts of the world, women’s access to land, property and financial assets remains restricted, which limits their economic opportunities, and their ability to lift their families out of poverty.
Around the world, one’s home is a key asset for stored wealth. Preliminary analysis of data from selected countries finds that women possess less wealth in dwellings than men. In Uganda and Mongolia, for example, fewer women than men own dwellings, with women representing only 35 per cent and 37 per cent of homeowners, respectively. In KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa, nearly half of women own their own homes, but their dwellings have less monetary value than men’s, accounting for only about one third of the total value of dwelling wealth.
Even in most European countries, poverty rates among older people are higher for women than for men. In more than half of the countries with available data, the gender gap is higher in one-person households compared to all households. This reflects women’s heightened vulnerability when living by themselves.
All over the world, women continue to be largely underrepresented in parliaments and senior management positions, with less than one-third representation in either domain in most regions of the world.
Ocean degradation threatens progress on eliminating poverty
Oceans cover almost three quarters of the planet. Close to 40 per cent of the world’s population live in coastal communities, and about 61 per cent of the world’s gross national product is produced within 100 kilometres of oceans. Sustainable use of oceans can provide countries with food and economic opportunities in fisheries, tourism and recreation, along with transport and trade, among others. Appropriate management of this priceless resource can help reduce poverty by enhancing food security and improving the livelihoods of millions of people. However, climate change and recent trends showing ocean acidification, eutrophication, environmental degradation of coastal land, and a reduction in marine biodiversity are together exerting mounting pressures on this resource. In 2013, nearly a third (31 per cent) of marine stocks were overfished; increasing ocean acidification levels endanger marine ecosystems worldwide; and, by 2050, coastal eutrophication will increase in 21 per cent of major marine ecosystems. And the decreasing extent of global sea ice as well as the increasing level of planetary warming indicate that climate change continues, increasing the adverse impacts on the oceans and many other ecosystems.
Investment in infrastructure and technology can help poor rural farmers
Sustainable agriculture, along with investments to improve agricultural productivity and enhance food security, are key to ending hunger and lifting millions of people, including small-scale farmers, out of extreme poverty. Improving farm productivity, increasing the value added in agriculture, and integrating markets are all important strategies. The role of infrastructure and technology in this regard cannot be overstated. Transportation infrastructure, for instance, can connect farmers with existing markets and create new ones. Where poverty rates are still very high—as in sub-Saharan Africa—air, travel and freight transportation are very limited. The rapid expansion of mobile cellular service is, however, helping to overcome some barriers. By 2016, 2G mobile cellular networks were almost universal, with 95 per cent of the world’s population covered. Information and communication technologies can help farmers connect with buyers, transfer money and acquire valuable information, including about weather conditions and market prices.
Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity cannot be achieved without reaching the most vulnerable groups
Empowering vulnerable groups is critical to ending poverty and promoting prosperity for everyone everywhere. Due to age, socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity and geography, vulnerable groups tend to be excluded from access to good education, health care, electricity, safe water and other critical services. In 2016, for instance, 15 per cent of young workers and their families lived in extreme poverty, compared to 9 per cent of adult workers. Moreover, youth were nearly three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. In 2015, 85 per cent of the urban population used safely managed drinking water services, compared to only 55 per cent of the rural population. Exclusion extends to persons with disabilities as well. In 2016, only 28 per cent of people with severe disabilities collected a disability pension.
The lack of sound disaggregated data for many of these vulnerable groups—including children, youth, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV, older persons, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and those internally displaced—exacerbates vulnerabilities by masking the extent of deprivation and disparities. What’s more, a lack of rigorous evidence and comprehensive data has long compromised the ability of governments and the international community to accurately document the discrimination faced by various groups. As a result, planning and budgeting for necessary services along with effective policymaking have suffered. Children living outside of family care, persons with disabilities and older persons, for example, have largely fallen off the statistical “map”. While innovative approaches for bringing these hidden populations into focus have begun to emerge, more resources and capacity-building efforts are needed to ensure that vulnerable groups receive their long-overdue place in the development agenda.