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What are the SDGs or Sustainable Development Goals? Read it here

The SDG report

Every year the UN publishes an official document that indicates how the Agenda 2030 is progressing worldwide: The Sustainable Development Goals report. It consists of visual infographics on the evolution of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs), and a report on the progress towards sustainable development in different parts of the world.

Along with this review, the Sustainable Development Report is also published annually. This detailed document, published by SDSN (Sustainable Development Solutions Network), consists of no fewer than 546 pages. In addition to a global plan to finance the Sustainable Development Goals, and some general statistics and trends, the report provides an index of all UN member states. Each country is given a score, calculated through indicators, which reflects their overall performance in the SDGs (considering all of the Goals equally). In this ranking, Finland is number 1, same as last year. In the individual ‘profiles’ of the countries you can see which SDGs have already been achieved, and where more work is needed.

An alternative to this long report is this interactive world map, where you can consult all of the information in an easy and entertaining way.

Credits: David Iskander

 Key findings in the 2023 Sustainable Development report

One of the key observations in the 2023 report is that, for the third year in a row, the world is no longer making progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Due to the catastrophic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, we have lost years of progress. From here on, the 2030 Agenda must become the priority, both in government policies and corporate strategies, and in society as a whole: a new social contract.

Another remarkable finding is the stark contrast between the efforts and commitment of different countries towards the SDGs, even within the G20. For example, the United States, Russia and Brazil provide the least support for the SDGs, while the Scandinavian countries, Germany or Japan provide a lot of help.

How is Belgium doing?

With a score of 79.46/100, Belgium is in nineteenth place in the aforementioned ‘ranking’ of all UN member states. Last year, however, in the 2022 report, our country was at number eighteen, and in 2021 we were even in the top five. What went wrong?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, progress in most SDGs has stagnated, as is the case in many countries. In some (sub-)objectives, however, there is no stagnation, but a decline: we are doing worse than in 2022.

Credits: Stéphanie Leblanc

 Some indicators on which we score worse than last year

-The prevalence of obesity. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), a person is obese if he or she has a BMI over 30. In Belgium, about 16% of adults are currently obese, and this number is increasing every year. Due to the many health problems associated with obesity, this indicator has a direct effect on other targets (for example, the rate of heart disease).

-Share of female STEM graduates at tertiary level. STEM includes the fields of science, technology, engineering, and applied mathematics. The aim is to get more girls and women into these disciplines, thus closing the gap. Currently, the majority of STEM graduates are men (around 75%).

-Satisfaction with public transport. In a survey, about 59% of respondents said they were satisfied with public transport in their neighbourhood. In other words, 41% are not. To achieve goal 11 (sustainable cities), efficient, affordable and accessible public transport is essential.

Nitrogen emissions in imports. This concerns the release of reactive nitrogen emissions in imported goods and services. Since 2015, this number has been increasing every year in Belgium, reaching a maximum this year of 61.42 kg per capita.

-Number of fish caught that are then thrown back. The animals that end up unwanted in the nets of fishermen are also referred to as ‘bycatch’. These crustaceans and molluscs, as well as small fish and even birds, are often thrown back overboard, and usually die from their injuries. In Belgium, no less than 34 percent of the fish caught are thrown back.

These indicators do not paint a very good picture of our country, which, with Brussels as the capital of the European Union, should be taking on an exemplary role. But not all is bad news! In each of the 17 objectives, there are some indicators on which Belgium is making progress. SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 5 (gender equality) have even been fully achieved!

With the necessary efforts of all sectors, we can undoubtedly also achieve the other 15 goals, and thus become a model for sustainable development (…and dethrone Finland!)

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