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UNITED NATIONS 2030 AGENDA – WORLD 2021: STATE OF THE ART

This is the last 2021 paper on the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the “state of the art.


For this reason, it will try to give a brief and clear picture of the situation, answering two “simple” questions:

Where are we?
So, according to the titles of the 2030 Agenda goals (below in bold), how much more remains to be done?
Taking into account the 17 goals of the Agenda, I will dedicate a few lines to each of them:
  • Overcoming poverty: The coronavirus has increased the number of people in need by 40% and “lacking the political will to act”. [1] All key indicators suggest that 2021 will usher in a new decade of poverty and inequality, confirming the negative trend that began in 2020. [2]
  • Beating Hunger: Even before the health emergency that hit countries around the world, we were far from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN 2030 Agenda. These include ensuring access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food for all people and eradicating all forms of malnutrition. [. . . ] The new report (of the FAO, 2021) leaves no room for interpretation: the number of undernourished people is growing globally, to the point that from 720 million to 811 million in the world; [. . . ] almost one person in three (2. 37 billion) does not have access to adequate and continuous food, mainly for economic reasons [. . . ].
  • Health and Welfare: “Ensure health and wellbeing for all and for all ages”, this is the UN website, and all the preceding and following points show that we are far from achieving the goal.
  • Quality education: Global data – aggravated by the current crisis – show the limitations and shortcomings of education systems and related policies. [. . . ] Today [. . . ] we are far from reaching the levels set for 2030. [. . . ] According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), in fact, in 2018, about 258 million children and adolescents were excluded from the system, either because they do not have access to it or because they drop out of school. [. . . ] Most of them are found in sub-Saharan Africa [. . . ] and South Asia [. . . ] The overall figure, despite some positive notes such as the decrease in the gender gap, has not changed in recent years and is expected to worsen due to the ongoing crisis. In 2020, it was estimated that 90% of students stayed at home in compliance with preventive anti-contagion measures and that at least 500 million students were, and still are, without access to distance learning. These two figures are enough to make clear how much the future of millions of children is at risk, so the guarantee of the right to education is the last refuge against exclusion, marginalization, exploitation and violence. [3]
  • Gender equality: Covid has put back the clock, pushing back 36 years when we should achieve gender equality globally: it will take more than 135 years. Northern European countries are still at the top of the ranking, starting with Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Germany and France rank eleventh and sixteenth, the US 30th. [4]
  • Clean water and sanitation: Still in 2021, one in three people in the world lacks clean water and more than one in two does not have clean sanitation. [5]
  • Clean and affordable energy: The most significant moment was that of Cop26, where barriers to global warming and pollution were set, even if, as always, “the sea is in between saying and doing. ” The results are certainly not satisfactory for the globe and its inhabitants, even if some progress has been made at least “on paper”:
  • 45% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 compared to 2010.
  • Zero net emissions around the middle of the century.
  • Call to countries to drastically cut other greenhouse gases (methane and nitrous oxide) and to present new decarbonization targets (NDC, National Determined Contributions) by the end of 2022.
  • Call to countries to speed up the installation of renewable energy sources and the reduction of coal-fired power plants and subsidies to fossil fuels.
    Guidelines have been launched for three provisions of the Paris Agreement that have not yet been implemented: the global carbon market (Article 6), the reporting format with the rules by which states communicate their results in decarbonization (transparency), and the rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement (Paris Rulebook). [6]
    Even before the pandemic, about one billion people did not have access to electricity and three billion did not have access to clean cooking systems. [7]
  • Decent work and economic growth:
    Some 152 million children are still victims of child labour exploitation. [8]
    According to a new analysis by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the labour market crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and job losses will not be recovered until at least 2023. [9]
    The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the global economy, causing a severe recession for most countries in the world. [10]
    The “economic” wounds of the crisis are deep and need to be healed with strong public intervention. “The world is experiencing a vigorous recovery thanks to the decisive measures taken by governments at the height of the crisis. But as observed for vaccine distribution, progress has been uneven. For the recovery to be sustained and widespread, action must be taken on several fronts [. . . ]”, said OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann in 2021. [11]
  • Business, Innovation and Infrastructure: Today, almost every corner of the world is not covered by a telephone network [. . . ] and already in 2018 96% of the world’s population lived within the radius of a mobile signal [. . . ]. Nevertheless, in the least developed countries, only 20% of the population actually using, for example, the Internet is used [. . . ]. In addition, they have limited access to markets and training opportunities, reducing employment and preventing the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises. In some African countries, the lack of infrastructure reduces farm productivity by 40% [. . . ] In East and Southeast Asia, Europe and North America, almost half of the market value comes from high-tech sectors. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, the index is only 14. 9%. [13]
  • Reducing inequalities: According to UNDESA’s World Social Report 2020, inequality in the world has been on the rise over the past 30 years, particularly in high and medium-developed countries. More than 70% of the world’s population lives in countries where inequality is growing, and in 60% of countries the share of wealth concentrated in the hands of the richest 1% of the population has increased. [. . . ] The World Inequality Report published in 2018 (no doubt still valid today) suggests that one of the most influential causes of rising inequality is the transfer of public wealth into private hands. Over the past 20 years, there has been a strong push towards privatisation of state assets, which would have led to fewer resources for governments to combat the critical issues that lead to inequality. In order to limit these effects, the report presents a number of instruments for tackling inequalities proposed in a number of economic studies carried out in recent years: a progressive system for paying taxes, higher taxation of rents in order to boost the real economy, improved access to education, an increase in the supply of public services and the adoption of a new system of social protection. guaranteed minimum wage. All these instruments require decisive public intervention which is often unwelcome to those who hold economic and financial power (and wealth) and difficult to implement in a context of scarce public resources and limited public spending. The UNDESA World Social Report stresses in particular that universal access to education is the real key to preventing and combating inequalities (as we have seen previously, unfortunately, this is not the case). However, the education system needs to be truly accessible to all, otherwise the risk is to exacerbate inequalities. [14]
  • Sustainable cities and communities: Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces. The rapid growth of cities, as a result of population growth and migration, has led to a boom in megacities, especially in developing countries, and slums are becoming an increasingly significant feature. Healthy and sustainable mobility, such as walking and cycling, must be ensured through better urban planning and by improving the accessibility and attractiveness of public transport systems. Another challenge is the negative environmental impacts of cities, such as high carbon dioxide emissions or large amounts of waste generated in urban areas. [15] Today, about 883 million people live in slums (slums), most of them in East and Southeast Asia. According to recent WHO data, about 90% of city dwellers breathe unclean air and do not benefit from public green spaces. More than half of the world’s urban population is exposed to air pollution levels at least 2. 5 times higher than safety standards. Designing environmentally compatible urban development therefore also has a preventive effect in the field of health.
  • Responsible Consumption and Production: Every year, about one third of the food produced, corresponding to 1. 3 billion tonnes, worth about one trillion dollars, ends up in the garbage of consumers and traders, or goes bad due to inadequate transport systems or agricultural practices.
  • [. . . ] If the world’s population were to use energy-saving light bulbs, it would save 120 billion dollars a year.
  • [. . . ] If the world’s population were to reach 9. 6 billion a year by 2050, three planets would be needed to meet the demand for natural resources needed to sustain today’s lifestyles.
  • [. . . ] Around 2 billion people in the world are overweight or obese (against billions who do not have enough food).
  • [. . . ] Eco-friendly management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with internationally agreed frameworks, and significantly reduced releases to air, water and land to minimise their negative impact on human health and the environment [. . . ][16] (In essence, who has seen these things?).
  • Fighting climate change: As a result of climate change, 150 million people will need humanitarian aid in 2030, 50 million more than today. 2021, therefore, confirms the negative trend of 2020. The progress (modest and uneven in the world) made in recent years towards achieving the 2030 Agenda Goals has come to a halt with the arrival of Covid-19. [17] At Cop26 a global temperature increase cap of 1. 5°C has been set by 2030, although this will all be to be proven and given the positions of giants like India, this leaves a lot of doubt. In the same forum, 100 billion were promised to the poorest countries to achieve the objectives set, but there is still something to be done in this area too.

To date, it should be stressed that those who should “tighten their belt” are first and foremost the richest 1% of the planet’s population, which alone produces about 16% of the total carbon dioxide consumed in a year by all the world’s inhabitants. Consumption is 30 times higher than sustainable consumption. [18]

Life underwater: Seas and oceans provide about half of the oxygen needed for life and absorb a third of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; oceans contain about 200,000 identified species; oceans represent the world’s largest protein reserve, with over 3 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein. 40% of the world’s oceans are heavily affected by human activities, the impact of which includes pollution, depletion of fish stocks and loss of natural habitats along the coasts. [19] In the face of all this, the effort to defend our waters must be enormous, as the situation is dramatic:
Compared to the pre-industrial period, ocean acidity has increased by 26% and is predicted to increase by 100-150% by 2100. [20]
Research by the Commonwealth Industrial and Scientific Organization reports an impressive figure: there are about 14. 4 million tons of microplastics on the ocean floor. This is more than twice the amount of plastic on the Earth’s surface.
The latest WWF report on Sustainable Development raises the alarm about the failure to achieve Goal 14. Progress is being made on only two of the six targets, and they relate to the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. At the same time, the lack of accurate monitoring and reporting makes it difficult to assess success in achieving objectives.
At this rate, by 2050 the ocean will host more plastics than fish. [21]

    • Life on Earth: Natural resources have suffered an unprecedented decline since the 1950s:
      52% of the land used for agriculture is moderately or severely affected by soil deterioration.
      As a result of drought and subsequent desertification, some 12 million hectares of at least potentially arable land are lost every year.
      Of the 8,300 known animal species, 8% are already extinct and 22% are at risk of becoming extinct in the next few years. [22]
    • Urbanization, combined with continued agricultural and industrial expansion, has led to the loss of more than 85% of the world’s wetlands, altering 75% of the Earth’s surface and affecting 66% of the ocean. The continuous exploitation of plants and animals through harvesting, deforestation, hunting and fishing is reducing biodiversity and bringing the planet to the brink of the sixth great mass extinction. All in a world that is progressively warmer and at the mercy of extreme weather events. [23]
    • Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals is dedicated to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, and also aims to provide universal access to justice, and to build accountable and effective institutions at all levels. In this regard, some general figures for 2021:
      Among the institutions most affected by corruption are the judiciary and the police.
      Corruption, embezzlement, theft and tax evasion cost developing countries about $1. 26 trillion a year; that amount of money could be used to lift those living on less than $1. 25 a day above that threshold for at least six years.
    • The proportion of children leaving primary school in conflict-affected countries reached 50% in 2011, including 28. 5 million children, demonstrating the impact unstable societies have on one of the key goals on the 2015 agenda: education.
      The rule of law and development are significantly interrelated and mutually reinforcing, making such coexistence necessary for sustainable development at the national and international levels. [24]
      As the UN Secretary-General put it at the end of 2020: “Every year, trillions of dollars – the equivalent of more than 5% of global GDP – are paid in bribes or embezzled through corrupt practices that seriously undermine the rule of law and support criminal activities such as trafficking in people, drugs or arms. ”
      Just under three quarters (73%) of children under 5 years of age worldwide have registered their births. So, basically, a lot of them have zero rights; “They don’t exist. ”
      The United Nations recorded 397 killings of human rights defenders in 2018. They were activists, journalists, and trade unionists who lived in countries particularly at risk of security and who were fighting to build a more just and inclusive society.
      Unfortunately, this figure is not very different from previous years, when such murders occurred with a similar frequency. [25]
    • Partnership for the Goals: Goal 17 of the 2030 Agenda aims to strengthen the means of international cooperation to facilitate the achievement of all the goals of the 2030 Agenda, including in developing countries. Global targets can only be achieved if all stakeholders actively cooperate. International investment and support are needed to ensure sustainable innovation-driven technological development, fair global trade and widespread market access, especially for developing countries. [. . . ] The objective is to reduce the inequalities between the North and the South of the world, both by increasing development aid provided mainly by the 35 countries of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and by promoting cooperation and partnership between governments, the private sector and civil society, strengthening the global partnership for sustainable development. The 2020 health emergency, with the Covid-19 pandemic, has made it very difficult to achieve this and all the other objectives of the Agenda, with which this Goal is closely linked. In this respect, the data provided by the World Bank on international economic aid show a still unsatisfactory situation. [. . . ] In fact, among the most advanced countries, only six have reached or exceeded the 0. 7% share of gross national income (GNI) allocated to official development assistance (ODA). [26] It is therefore essential to strengthen the means of implementation and renew partnerships to create sustainable development. [27] The Cop26 “model” is the right path, even if there are real opportunities for development. We need to multiply the confrontations and, at least on existential issues, everyone should row on the same side.
    • In conclusion, therefore, we can say that six years after the signing of the United Nations 2030 Agenda by the countries of the world, the situation is still very critical. It is dramatically exacerbated by the pandemic that has plagued us since 2020.
    These 9 years before we reach 2030 are crucial: either the world moves decisively towards a fairer and more equitable system (as the goals of the Agenda promote) [28], or a dramatically irreversible situation will lead us towards very difficult and sad goals for all.

    [1] https://www.vaticannews.va/it/mondo/news/2020-12/onu-rapporto-aiuti-umanitari-record-coronavirus.html.

    [2] https://luce.lanazione.it/un-nuovo-decennio-di-poverta-e-disuguaglianze-i-risultati-del-weworld-index-2021-serve-unazione-generale-per-far-crescere-davvero-i-paesi-piu-fragili/#:~:text=Le%20evidenze%20sono%20drammatiche%3A%20alla%20fine%20del%202021%2C,secondaria%20inferiore%20e%20138%20milioni%20dalla%20secondaria%20superiore.

    [3] https://lospiegone.com/2021/01/23/il-diritto-allistruzione-nel-mondo-tutele-e-dati/.

    [4] https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2021/03/31/parita-di-genere-il-nuovo-rapporto-del-world-economic-forum-litalia-guadagna-14-posizioni-ma-e-62esima-su-156-paesi/6150663/.

    [5]https://www.repubblica.it/solidarieta/cooperazione/2021/03/10/news/acqua_ad_una_persona_su_tre_nel_mondo_manca_quella_pulita_oltre_una_su_due_non_dispone_di_servizi_igienico-sanitari_sicuri-291530104/.

    [6] https://www.ansa.it/cop26/notizie/news/2021/11/14/cop26-che-cosa-e-stato-deciso-alla-conferenza_09947229-a96b-4feb-9ebb-efbdb4c0a9bc.html.

    [7] https://www.ansa.it/canale_ambiente/notizie/energia/2018/05/02/un-miliardo-di-persone-non-ha-accesso-allelettricita_856963d8-179a-4714-8c8d-cc228ff99144.html.

    [8] https://www.ilo.org/rome/risorse-informative/comunicati-stampa/WCMS_768733/lang--it/index.htm#:~:text=La%20risoluzione%20che%20proclama%20il%202021%20come%20Anno,dall%E2%80%99Agenda%202030%20delle%20Nazioni%20Unite%20sullo%20sviluppo%20sostenibile.

    [9] https://www.ilo.org/rome/risorse-informative/speeches/WCMS_797091/lang--it/index.htm.

    [10] Il futuro dell'economia mondiale nel 2021 in 5 grafici (money.it).

    [11] https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/ocse-pil-mondiale-supera-livello-pre-covid-l-italia-crescita-6percento-AEN8C5j.

    [12] https://www.manievulcani.com/2021/03/08/goal-9-imprese-innovazioni-e-infrastrutture/.

    [13] https://blog.geografia.deascuola.it/articoli/agenda-2030-goal-n-9-promuovere-innovazione-infrastrutture-e-industria-sostenibile.

    [14] https://www.lenius.it/disuguaglianza-nel-mondo/.

    [15] https://fontidienergiarinnovabile.it/sdg-11-citta-e-comunita-sostenibili/.

    [16] https://laricerca.loescher.it/12-consumo-e-produzione-responsabili/.

    [17] http://www.vita.it/it/article/2021/11/09/cambiamenti-climatici-150-milioni-di-persone-a-rischio-umanitario-entr/160973/.

    [18] https://www.money.it/Cosi-1-per-cemto-piu-ricco-mondo-mette-a-rischio-lotta-cambiamento-climatico.

    [19] https://www.gobeyond.info/it/magazine/tutelare-la-vita-sottacqua-una-necessita-collettiva.

    [20] https://www.ecobionews.eu/2021/02/05/goal-14-la-vita-sottacqua/.

    [21] https://www.gobeyond.info/it/magazine/tutelare-la-vita-sottacqua-una-necessita-collettiva.

    [22] https://www.ecobionews.eu/2021/02/26/goal-15-la-vita-sulla-terra/.

    [23] https://staging.rinnovabili.it/ambiente/politiche-ambientali/giornata-della-terra-2021/.

    [24] https://unric.org/it/obiettivo-16-pace-giustizia-e-istituzioni-forti/.

    [25] https://blog.geografia.deascuola.it/articoli/agenda-2030-goal-n-16-pace-giustizia-e-istituzioni-forti.

    [26] https://blog.geografia.deascuola.it/articoli/agenda-2030-goal-n-17-partnership-per-gli-obiettivi.

    [27] https://www.dnv.it/technology-innovation/spaceship-earth/partnership-per-obiettivi.html.

    [28] Per leggere i punti specifici dell’Agenda, accedere a questo link: https://unric.org/it/agenda-2030/.


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    • L'Autore

      Alessandro Fanetti


      Alessandro Fanetti è nato nel 1988 a Siena e attualmente tratta le questioni inerenti l'Agenda 2030 delle Nazioni Unite per Mondo Internazionale. Da sempre appassionato di geopolitica (con focus sulle aree del centro-sud America ed ex-URSS), collabora anche con l' "Istituto di Alti Studi in Geopolitica e Scienze Ausiliarie" (IsAG) e con "Opinio Juris – Law and Politics Review". Ha conseguito un Master in Intelligence Economica presso lo IASSP di Milano nel 2020 e ha frequentato con successo un corso sulla geopolitica latinoamericana e caraibica promosso dalla "Escuela de Estudios Latinoamericanos y Globales" (ELAG) nel 2021. Infine, è iscritto all' "Associazione Italiana Analisti di Intelligence e Geopolitica" (AIAIG) ed è l'autore di un libro intitolato "Russia: alla ricerca della potenza perduta - Dall'avvento di Putin alle prospettive future di un Paese orfano dell'URSS" (Edizioni Eiffel, 2021).


      Alessandro Fanetti was born in Siena in 1988. Since 2019 he has been writing posts for "Mondo Internazionale" on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He has always been passionate about geopolitics (with a particular focus on Latin America and former USSR area), he also writes for IsAG and Opinio Juris - Law and Politics Review. He holds a Master degree in Economic Intelligence and actually he's writing a book about post-Soviet Russia. In the end, he is a member of the AIAIG and he is the author of the book "Russia: alla ricerca della potenza perduta - Dall'avvento di Putin alle prospettive future di un Paese orfano dell'URSS" (Edizioni Eiffel, 2021).

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