2020 Arab Sustainable Development Report: the region will not achieve SDGs by 2030

The 2020 High Level Political Forum, a central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is taking place from 7th to 17th July. In the framework of the HLPF, the United Nations entities working in the Arab region led by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), have presented the second edition of the Arab Sustainable Development Report (ASDR). The report warns that the region will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. 

Despite great socio economic and political differences, the 22 Arab countries share structural barriers blocking the transformation needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Below are some of the main concerns on the advancement of the SDGs, and some measures to be taken into consideration to accelerate the process: 

  • SDG 1 “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”: The Arab region is the only region in the world where extreme poverty has increased since 2013, affecting nearly 20% of the population. Efforts to tackle poverty have not adequately addressed multiple deprivations, rural-urban as well as subnational divides, or the accentuated vulnerability of different social groups. Integrating social and environmental dimensions in economic planning is necessary, if governments are to make progress  

  • SDG3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages: The region needs to shift to a rights-based approach to human health and well-being, including through consolidating systems and services, enhancing the capacity and numbers of service providers, and addressing the economic, social and environmental dimensions. 

  • SDG 4 “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all: this is far from achieved, with nearly 20 million children in the Arab region out of school; with girls 2,5 times more likely to be affected than boys. Equitable access to quality education remains a major challenge. 

  • SDG 5 “Gender equality: political participation of women remains low and they still face discrimination and harmful practices, for example, one in every five girls is married before the age of 18.  

  • SDG 8 “Promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all: Economic growth in the Arab States has been uneven and generally failed to meet demand for productive employment and decent work. Youth unemployment is the highest in the world, standing at 26%. Performance in terms of GDP per capita has been weak in the region in the past decade, with more than half of the Arab countries displaying negative trends. The ASDR calls for a structural transformation in the region’s economic paradigm in order to ensure sustainable growth, enhance productivity, create decent jobs and increase prosperity for all. Furthermore, policies must empower youth and women, end corruption and discrimination

  • SDG 10 “Reduce inequality within and among countries”:  In several Arab countries, the richest 1% of the population earns over 15% of the national income, with large urban/rural gaps. Concentration of wealth has led to persistent and rising inequalities threatening social cohesion and peace. To reduce inequalities within and among countries demands a structural transformation in the region’s dominant economic paradigm.  

  • SDG 16 Peace, Justice and strong institutions”: Weak rule of law, low adherence to universal human rights treaties and conventions, and the exacerbating conditions of conflict as well as occupation are seen as the main barriers to achieve this goal. The report recommends reducing economic inequality, strengthening political participation and addressing discrimination. 

Faced with this alarming picture, SOLIDAR shares the concerns expressed by ESCWA Executive Secretary Rola Dashti:  “Now more than ever, we need to make the structural changes necessary to set us on the path to transformation” and the need for serious and comprehensive efforts to accelerate sustainable development on the region. SOLIDAR will keep on supporting civil society organisations and trade unions from the region, to play its role as partners in the transformation needed to advance in the 2030 Agenda. In addition, the advocacy actions will be maintained in order to move towards a development model that puts Human Rights, peace and dignity first.  

Image credit: ASDR