The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018 reviews progress in the third year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This overview presents highlights of progress and remaining gaps for all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), based on the latest available data, and examines some of the interconnections across Goals and targets. Subsequent chapters focus in more depth on the six Goals under review at the high-level political forum on sustainable development in July 2018.

While people overall are living better lives than they were a decade ago, progress to ensure that no one is left behind has not been rapid enough to meet the targets of the 2030 Agenda. Indeed, the rate of global progress is not keeping pace with the ambitions of the Agenda, necessitating immediate and accelerated action by countries and stakeholders at all levels.

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

While extreme poverty has eased considerably since 1990, pockets of the worst forms of poverty persist. Ending poverty requires universal social protection systems aimed at safeguarding all individuals throughout the life cycle. It also requires targeted measures to reduce vulnerability to disasters and to address specific underserved geographic areas within each country.

  • The rate of extreme poverty has fallen rapidly: in 2013 it was a third of the 1990 value. The latest global estimate suggests that 11 per cent of the world population, or 783 million people, lived below the extreme poverty threshold in 2013.
  • The proportion of the world’s workers living with their families on less than $1.90 per person a day declined significantly over the past two decades, falling from 26.9 per cent in 2000 to 9.2 per cent in 2017.
  • Based on 2016 estimates, only 45 per cent of the world's population were effectively covered by at least one social protection cash benefit.
  • In 2017, economic losses attributed to disasters were estimated at over $300 billion. This is among the highest losses in recent years, owing to three major hurricanes affecting the United States of America and several countries across the Caribbean.

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

After a prolonged decline, world hunger appears to be on the rise again. Conflict, drought and disasters linked to climate change are among the key factors causing this reversal in progress.

  • The proportion of undernourished people worldwide increased from 10.6 per cent in 2015 to 11.0 per cent in 2016. This translates to 815 million people worldwide in 2016, up from 777 million in 2015.
  • In 2017, 151 million children under age 5 suffered from stunting (low height for their age), 51 million suffered from wasting (low weight for height), and 38 million were overweight.
  • Aid to agriculture in developing countries totalled $12.5 billion in 2016, falling to 6 per cent of all donors’ sector-allocable aid from nearly 20 per cent in the mid-1980s.
  • Progress has been made in reducing market-distorting agricultural subsidies, which were more than halved in five years—from $491 million in 2010 to less than $200 million in 2015.
  • In 2016, 26 countries experienced high or moderately high levels of general food prices, which may have negatively affected food security.

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Many more people today are living healthier lives than in the past decade. Nevertheless, people are still suffering needlessly from preventable diseases, and too many are dying prematurely. Overcoming disease and ill health will require concerted and sustained efforts, focusing on population groups and regions that have been neglected.

Reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health
  • The maternal mortality ratio has declined by 37 per cent since 2000. Nevertheless, in 2015, 303,000 women around the world died due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth. Over the period 2012–2017, almost 80 per cent of live births worldwide occurred with the assistance of skilled health personnel, up from 62 per cent in 2000–2005.
  • Globally, from 2000 to 2016, the under-5 mortality rate dropped by 47 per cent, and the neonatal mortality rate fell by 39 per cent. Over the same period, the total number of under-5 deaths dropped from 9.9 million to 5.6 million.
  • Even in the region facing the greatest health challenges, progress has been impressive. Since 2000, the maternal mortality ratio in sub-Saharan Africa has been reduced by 35 per cent, and the under-5 mortality rate has dropped by 50 per cent.
  • In 2018, the global adolescent birth rate is 44 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, compared to 56 in 2000. The highest rate (101) is found in sub-Saharan Africa.
Infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases
  • Globally, the incidence of HIV declined from 0.40 to 0.26 per 1,000 uninfected people between 2005 and 2016. For women of reproductive age in sub-Saharan Africa, however, the rate is much higher, at 2.58 per 1,000 uninfected people.
  • In 2016, 216 million cases of malaria were reported versus 210 million cases in 2013. There were 140 new cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people in 2016 compared to 173 cases per 100,000 in 2000. Hepatitis B prevalence declined among children under 5—from 4.7 per cent in the pre-vaccine era to 1.3 per cent in 2015.
  • In 2016, 1.5 billion people were reported to require mass or individual treatment and care for neglected tropical diseases, down from 1.6 billion in 2015 and 2 billion in 2010.
  • Unsafe drinking water, unsafe sanitation and lack of hygiene continue to be major contributors to global mortality, resulting in about 870,000 deaths in 2016. These deaths were mainly caused by diarrhoeal diseases, but also from malnutrition and intestinal nematode infections.
  • Globally, 32 million people died in 2016 due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease. The probability of dying from these causes was about 18 per cent in 2016 for people between 30 and 70 years of age.
  • In 2016, household and outdoor air pollution led to some 7 million deaths worldwide.
Health systems and funding
  • Globally, almost 12 per cent of the world’s population (over 800 million people) spent at least one tenth of their household budgets to pay for health services in 2010, up from 9.7 per cent in 2000.
  • Official development assistance (ODA) for basic health from all donors increased by 41 per cent in real terms since 2010, reaching $9.4 billion in 2016.
  • Available data from 2005 to 2016 indicate that close to 45 per cent of all countries and 90 per cent of least developed countries (LDCs) have less than one physician per 1,000 people, and over 60 per cent have fewer than three nurses or midwives per 1,000 people.

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

More than half of children and adolescents worldwide are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. Refocused efforts are needed to improve the quality of education. Disparities in education along the lines of gender, urban-rural location and other dimensions still run deep, and more investments in education infrastructure are required, particularly in LDCs.

  • At the global level, the participation rate in early childhood and primary education was 70 per cent in 2016, up from 63 per cent in 2010. The lowest rates are found in sub-Saharan Africa (41 per cent) and Northern Africa and Western Asia (52 per cent).
  • An estimated 617 million children and adolescents of primary and lower secondary school age worldwide—58 per cent of that age group—are not achieving minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics.
  • In 2016, an estimated 85 per cent of primary school teachers worldwide were trained; the proportion was only 71 per cent for Southern Asia and 61 per cent for sub-Saharan Africa.
  • In 2016, only 34 per cent of primary schools in LDCs had electricity and less than 40 per cent were equipped with basic handwashing facilities.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

While some forms of discrimination against women and girls are diminishing, gender inequality continues to hold women back and deprives them of basic rights and opportunities. Empowering women requires addressing structural issues such as unfair social norms and attitudes as well as developing progressive legal frameworks that promote equality between women and men.

  • Based on 2005–2016 data from 56 countries, 20 per cent of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 who have ever been in a sexual relationship experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to the survey.
  • Globally, around 2017, an estimated 21 per cent of women between 20 and 24 years of age reported that they were married or in an informal union before age 18. This means that an estimated 650 million girls and women today were married in childhood. Rates of child marriage have continued to decline around the world. In Southern Asia, a girl’s risk of marrying in childhood has dropped by over 40 per cent since around 2000.
  • Around 2017, one in three girls aged 15 to 19 had been subjected to female genital mutilation in the 30 countries where the practice is concentrated, compared to nearly one in two around 2000.
  • Based on data between 2000 and 2016 from about 90 countries, women spend roughly three times as many hours in unpaid domestic and care work as men.
  • Globally, the percentage of women in single or lower houses of national parliament has increased from 19 per cent in 2010 to around 23 per cent in 2018.

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Too many people still lack access to safely managed water supplies and sanitation facilities. Water scarcity, flooding and lack of proper wastewater management also hinder social and economic development. Increasing water efficiency and improving water management are critical to balancing the competing and growing water demands from various sectors and users.

  • In 2015, 29 per cent of the global population lacked safely managed drinking water supplies, and 61 per cent were without safely managed sanitation services. In 2015, 892 million people continued to practise open defecation.
  • In 2015, only 27 per cent of the population in LDCs had basic handwashing facilities.
  • Preliminary estimates from household data of 79 mostly high- and high-middle-income countries (excluding much of Africa and Asia) suggest that 59 per cent of all domestic wastewater is safely treated.
  • In 22 countries, mostly in the Northern Africa and Western Asia region and in the Central and Southern Asia region, the water stress level is above 70 per cent, indicating the strong probability of future water scarcity.
  • In 2017–2018, 157 countries reported average implementation of integrated water resources management of 48 per cent.
  • Based on data from 62 out of 153 countries sharing transboundary waters, the average percentage of national transboundary basins covered by an operational arrangement was only 59 per cent in 2017.

Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Ensuring access to affordable, reliable and modern energy for all has come one step closer due to recent progress in electrification, particularly in LDCs, and improvements in industrial energy efficiency. However, national priorities and policy ambitions still need to be strengthened to put the world on track to meet the energy targets for 2030.

  • From 2000 to 2016, the proportion of the global population with access to electricity increased from 78 per cent to 87 per cent, with the absolute number of people living without electricity dipping to just below 1 billion.
  • In the least developed countries, the proportion of the people with access to electricity more than doubled between 2000 and 2016.
  • In 2016, 3 billion people (41 per cent of the world’s population) were still cooking with polluting fuel and stove combinations.
  • The share of renewables in final energy consumption increased modestly, from 17.3 per cent in 2014 to 17.5 per cent in 2015. Yet only 55 per cent of the renewable share was derived from modern forms of renewable energy.
  • Global energy intensity decreased by 2.8 per cent from 2014 to 2015, double the rate of improvement seen between 1990 and 2010.

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Globally, labour productivity has increased and the unemployment rate has decreased. However, more progress is needed to increase employment opportunities, especially for young people, reduce informal employment and labour market inequality (particularly in terms of the gender pay gap), promote safe and secure working environments, and improve access to financial services to ensure sustained and inclusive economic growth.

  • In 2016, real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita grew at 1.3 per cent globally, less than the 1.7 per cent average growth rate recorded in 2010–2016. For LDCs, the rate fell sharply from 5.7 per cent in 2005–2009 to 2.3 per cent in 2010–2016.
  • Labour productivity at the global level, measured as output produced per employed person in constant 2005 US dollars, grew by 2.1 per cent in 2017. This is the fastest growth registered since 2010.
  • Globally, 61 per cent of all workers were engaged in informal employment in 2016. Excluding the agricultural sector, 51 per cent of all workers fell into this employment category.
  • Data from 45 countries suggest that gender inequality in earnings is still pervasive: in 89 per cent of these countries, the hourly wages of men are, on average, higher than those of women, with a median pay gap of 12.5 per cent.
  • The global unemployment rate in 2017 was 5.6 per cent, down from 6.4 per cent in 2000. The decline has slowed since 2009, when it hit 5.9 per cent. Youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, with the global youth unemployment rate at 13 per cent in 2017.
  • In high-income countries, almost every adult has an account at a bank or other financial institution, compared to only 35 per cent of adults in low-income countries. Across all regions, women lag behind men in this regard.

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Steady progress has been made in the manufacturing industry. To achieve inclusive and sustainable industrialization, competitive economic forces need to be unleashed to generate employment and income, facilitate international trade and enable the efficient use of resources.

  • The global share of manufacturing value added in GDP increased from 15.2 per cent in 2005 to 16.3 per cent in 2017, driven by the fast growth of manufacturing in Asia.
  • Globally, the carbon intensity decreased by 19 per cent from 2000 to 2015—from 0.38 to 0.31 kilograms of carbon dioxide per dollar of value added.
  • In 2015, medium-high- and high-techology sectors accounted for 44.7 per cent of total manufacturing value added globally. The value added reached 34.6 per cent in developing economies, up from 21.5 per cent in 2005.
  • By 2016, the proportion of the population covered by a third generation (3G) mobile broadband network stood at 61 per cent in the LDCs and 84 per cent globally.

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

Efforts have been made in some countries to reduce income inequality, increase zero-tariff access for exports from LDCs and developing countries, and provide additional assistance to LDCs and small island developing States (SIDS). However, progress will need to accelerate to reduce growing disparities within and among countries.

  • Between 2010 and 2016, in 60 out of 94 countries with data, the incomes of the poorest 40 per cent of the population grew faster than those of the entire population.
  • In 2016, over 64.4 per cent of products exported by LDCs to world markets and 64.1 per cent of those from SIDS faced zero tariffs, an increase of 20 per cent since 2010. Developing countries overall had duty-free market access for about 50 per cent of all products exported in 2016.
  • In 2016, receipts by developing countries from member countries of the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD, multilateral agencies and other key providers totalled $315 billion; of this amount, $158 billion was ODA. In 2016, total ODA to LDCs and SIDS from all donors totalled $43.1 billion and $6.2 billion, respectively.
  • Based on provisional data, among the $613 billion in total remittances recorded in 2017, $466 billion went to low- and middle-income countries. While the global average cost of sending money has gradually declined in recent years, it was estimated at 7.2 per cent in 2017, more than double the target transaction cost of 3 per cent.

Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Many cities around the world are facing acute challenges in managing rapid urbanization—from ensuring adequate housing and infrastructure to support growing populations, to confronting the environmental impact of urban sprawl, to reducing vulnerability to disasters.

  • Between 2000 and 2014, the proportion of the global urban population living in slums dropped from 28.4 per cent to 22.8 per cent. However, the actual number of people living in slums increased from 807 million to 883 million.
  • Based on data collected for 214 cities/municipalities, about three quarters of municipal solid waste generated is collected.
  • In 2016, 91 per cent of the urban population worldwide were breathing air that did not meet the World Health Organization Air Quality Guidelines value for particulate matter (PM 2.5); more than half were exposed to air pollution levels at least 2.5 times higher than that safety standard. In 2016, an estimated 4.2 million people died as a result of high levels of ambient air pollution.
  • From 1990 to 2013, almost 90 per cent of deaths attributed to internationally reported disasters occurred in low- and middle-income countries. Reported damage to housing attributed to disasters shows a statistically significant rise from 1990 onwards.

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Decoupling economic growth from resource use is one of the most critical and complex challenges facing humanity today. Doing so effectively will require policies that create a conducive environment for such change, social and physical infrastructure and markets, and a profound transformation of business practices along global value chains.

  • The per capita “material footprint” of developing countries grew from 5 metric tons in 2000 to 9 metric tons in 2017, representing a significant improvement in the material standard of living. Most of the increase is attributed to a rise in the use of non-metallic minerals, pointing to growth in the areas of infrastructure and construction.
  • For all types of materials, developed countries have at least double the per capita footprint of developing countries. In particular, the material footprint for fossil fuels is more than four times higher for developed than developing countries.
  • By 2018, a total of 108 countries had national policies and initiatives relevant to sustainable consumption and production.
  • According to a recent report from KPMG, 93 per cent of the world’s 250 largest companies (in terms of revenue) are now reporting on sustainability, as are three quarters of the top 100 companies in 49 countries.

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

The year 2017 was one of the three warmest on record and was 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period. An analysis by the World Meteorological Organization shows that the five-year average global temperature from 2013 to 2017 was also the highest on record. The world continues to experience rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions (the North Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest ever recorded) and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. This calls for urgent and accelerated action by countries as they implement their commitments to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

  • As of 9 April 2018, 175 Parties had ratified the Paris Agreement and 168 Parties (167 countries plus the European Commission) had communicated their first nationally determined contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat.
  • In addition, as of 9 April 2018, 10 developing countries had successfully completed and submitted the first iteration of their national adaptation plans for responding to climate change.
  • Developed country Parties continue to make progress towards the goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions.

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Advancing the sustainable use and conservation of the oceans continues to require effective strategies and management to combat the adverse effects of overfishing, growing ocean acidification and worsening coastal eutrophication. The expansion of protected areas for marine biodiversity, intensification of research capacity and increases in ocean science funding remain critically important to preserve marine resources.

  • The global share of marine fish stocks that are within biologically sustainable levels declined from 90 per cent in 1974 to 69 per cent in 2013.
  • Studies at open ocean and coastal sites around the world show that current levels of marine acidity have increased by about 26 per cent on average since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Moreover, marine life is being exposed to conditions outside previously experienced natural variability.
  • Global trends point to continued deterioration of coastal waters due to pollution and eutrophication. Without concerted efforts, coastal eutrophication is expected to increase in 20 per cent of large marine ecosystems by 2050.
  • As of January 2018, 16 per cent (or over 22 million square kilometres) of marine waters under national jurisdiction—that is, 0 to 200 nautical miles from shore—were covered by protected areas. This is more than double the 2010 coverage level. The mean coverage of marine key biodiversity areas (KBAs) that are protected has also increased—from 30 per cent in 2000 to 44 per cent in 2018.

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

Protection of forest and terrestrial ecosystems is on the rise, and forest loss has slowed. That said, other facets of terrestrial conservation continue to demand accelerated action to protect biodiversity, land productivity and genetic resources and to curtail the loss of species.

  • The Earth’s forest areas continue to shrink, down from 4.1 billion hectares in 2000 (or 31.2 per cent of total land area) to about 4 billion hectares (30.7 per cent of total land area) in 2015. However, the rate of forest loss has been cut by 25 per cent since 2000–2005.
  • About one fifth of the Earth’s land surface covered by vegetation showed persistent and declining trends in productivity from 1999 to 2013, threatening the livelihoods of over one billion people. Up to 24 million square kilometres of land were affected, including 19 per cent of cropland, 16 per cent of forest land, 19 per cent of grassland and 28 per cent of rangeland.
  • Since 1993, the global Red List Index of threatened species has fallen from 0.82 to 0.74, indicating an alarming trend in the decline of mammals, birds, amphibians, corals and cycads. The primary drivers of this assault on biodiversity are habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture, deforestation, unsustainable harvest and trade, and invasive alien species.
  • 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 2016, bilateral ODA in support of biodiversity totalled $7 billion, a decrease of 21 per cent in real terms from 2015.

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

Many regions of the world continue to suffer untold horrors as a result of armed conflict or other forms of violence that occur within societies and at the domestic level. Advances in promoting the rule of law and access to justice are uneven. However, progress is being made in regulations to promote public access to information, albeit slowly, and in strengthening institutions upholding human rights at the national level.

  • Nearly 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 at home in 81 countries (primarily developing), according to available data from 2005 to 2017. In all but seven of these countries, more than half of children experienced violent forms of discipline.
  • More than 570 different flows involving trafficking in persons were detected between 2012 and 2014, affecting all regions; many involved movement from lower-income to higher-income countries.
  • In 2014, the majority of detected trafficking victims were women and girls (71 per cent), and about 28 per cent were children (20 per cent girls and 8 per cent boys). Over 90 per cent of victims detected were trafficked for sexual exploitation or forced labour.
  • The proportion of prisoners held in detention without being sentenced for a crime remained almost constant in the last decade: from 32 per cent in 2003–2005 to 31 per cent in 2014–2016.
  • Almost one in five firms worldwide report receiving at least one bribery payment request when engaged in regulatory or utility transactions.
  • Globally, 73 per cent of children under 5 have had their births registered; the proportion is less than half (46 per cent) in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • At least 1,019 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists have been killed in 61 countries since 2015. This is equivalent to one person killed every day while working to inform the public and build a world free from fear and want.
  • Freedom-of-information laws and policies have been adopted by 116 countries, with at least 25 countries doing so over the last five years. However, that implementation remains a challenge.
  • Since 1998, more than half of countries (116 of 197) have established a national human rights institution that has been peer reviewed for compliance with internationally agreed standards (the Paris Principles). However, only 75 of these countries have institutions that are fully compliant.

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

Goal 17 seeks to strengthen global partnerships to support and achieve the ambitious targets of the 2030 Agenda, bringing together national governments, the international community, civil society, the private sector and other actors. Despite advances in certain areas, more needs to be done to accelerate progress. All stakeholders will have to refocus and intensify their efforts on areas where progress has been slow.

  • In 2017, net ODA totalled $146.6 billion in 2017, a decrease of 0.6 per cent from 2016 in real terms. ODA as a share of donors’ gross national income (GNI) remained low, at 0.31 per cent.
  • In 2016, remittances to low- and lower-middle-income countries were more than three times the amount of ODA they received.
  • In LDCs, debt service as a proportion of exports of goods and services increased for five consecutive years—from a low of 3.5 per cent in 2011 to 8.6 per cent in 2016.
  • In 2016, high-speed fixed-broadband reached 6 per cent of the population in developing countries, compared to 24 per cent in developed countries.
  • Total ODA for capacity-building and national planning amounted to $20.4 billion in 2016, representing 18 per cent of total aid allocable by sector, a proportion that has been stable since 2010.
  • The developing regions' share of world merchandise exports declined for two consecutive years: from 45.4 per cent in 2014 to 44.2 per cent in 2016, a sharp contrast to an average annual 1.2 percentage point increase between 2001 and 2012. For LDCs, the share of world merchandise exports decreased from 1.1 per cent to 0.9 per cent between 2013 and 2016, compared to the rise from 0.6 per cent to 1.1 per cent between 2000 and 2013.
  • In 2017, 102 countries or areas were implementing national statistical plans. sub-Saharan Africa remained in the lead, with 31 countries implementing such plans; however, only three of them were fully funded.
  • In 2015, developing countries received $541 million in financial support from multilateral and bilateral donors for all areas of statistics. This amount represented only 0.3 per cent of total ODA, short of what is needed to ensure that countries in developing regions are better equipped to implement and monitor their development agendas.
  • During the decade from 2008 to 2017, 89 per cent of countries or areas conducted at least one population and housing census.