Which countries have made the most progress towards the SDGs?
It has been nearly seven years since the world adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed and in some cases reversed global progress towards the United Nations 2030 goals. (UN).
UN experts say that if current trends continue, the world is unlikely to meet its goals unless countries accelerate their development agendas. Progress is particularly slow in achieving SDG 13: “Climate Action”, as rising fuel prices, in addition to short-term economic considerations, are slowing the transition to green energy.
Faced with global challenges of such magnitude, which countries have made the most progress so far?
Finland has so far achieved 3 SDGs: ‘No poverty’, ‘Quality education’ and ‘Affordable and clean energy’. It is also on track to achieve “decent work and economic growth”.
Finland’s philosophy is to move towards a circular economy, which emphasizes reusing, recycling, repairing and rationalizing existing resources rather than extracting new ones. In the long term, this approach is conducive to efficient resource management and increased sustainability, making it effective for addressing several interconnected goals simultaneously. One of the main reasons for Finland’s success is its decentralized approach to fulfilling its ambitions, where autonomous city governments plan their own interventions based on their knowledge of local needs and capacities.
Denmark has also achieved 3 SDGs: “No poverty”, “Affordable and clean energy” and “Reduced inequalities”. It is on track to achieve “gender equality”, “drinking water and sanitation”, “industry, innovation and infrastructure”, “life on earth” and “the partnership for the goals”. Although currently on track to achieve more SDGs, Denmark lags behind Finland in other goals, placing it second.
In line with the cooperative and multilateral spirit of the SDGs, Denmark has set up an inter-ministerial team to effectively plan and harmonize the work between different state institutions. The Danish government has set its sights on green energy and the fight against climate change. To this end, it has also partnered with Germany to jointly align the goals of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.
Sweden has achieved its goals of ‘No poverty’, ‘Gender equality’ and ‘Affordable and clean energy’. It is on track to achieve “clean water and sanitation”, “decent work and economic growth”, “peace, justice and strong institutions” and “partnerships for the goals”.
Like other Nordic countries, Sweden has invested heavily in innovative, sustainable and climate-focused policies and interventions. To ensure the participation of a variety of actors within the country, Sweden has focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR) as an effective way to boost its progress. The government has also partnered with members of the scientific community to provide evidence-based solutions to global environmental challenges.
Norway has achieved ‘No Poverty’, ‘Gender Equality’, ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’, ‘Reduced Inequalities’ and ‘Partnerships for the Goals’. It is on track to achieve “sustainable cities and communities” and “peace, justice and strong institutions”.
The Norwegian government credits its strong support for the welfare system for the impressive progress it has made in achieving its goals. In line with the UN principle of Leaving No One Behind (LNOB), Norway sought the engagement and involvement of trade unions and civil society actors to empower the most disadvantaged in Norwegian society.
Austria has achieved the ‘No Poverty’ and ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’ goals and is on track to achieve ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’, as well as ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’.
The Austrian government considers digitization and digital transformation to be a priority in its planning and policy interventions. He believes that allowing Austrian citizens and businesses seamless access to digital government platforms can help achieve multiple SDGs at once. For example, Austria has proposed an initiative to the EU to increase the use of hydrogen as an efficient energy source to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
The adoption of the SDGs was a milestone in development and a promising sign of the potential for global cooperation. It is therefore important that countries learn from each other’s successes to ensure that the goals are achieved.