Uphold Agenda 2030 and the SDGs as a rescue plan for people and planet | SDSN Northern Europe

Uphold Agenda 2030 and the SDGs as a rescue plan for people and planet


In a blog post, Martin Eriksson of SDSN Northern Europe, urges organisations, countries, and people to cherish, defend and uphold Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.

In 2015, a joint global framework for sustainable development – Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – was finalised and adopted by all UN member states. In hindsight, the development and adoption of this agenda must be viewed as an amazing success. The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs have given us a global common language and joint goals to work towards. Considering today’s troublesome geopolitical situation, it is doubtful or even unlikely that we would succeed in creating something similar today. Therefore, we should cherish, defend and uphold Agenda 2030 and the SDGs.

Half-way there?

This year we are at the mid-point of Agenda 2030. Although half the time has passed since its adoption, the implementation is far from half done. In a recent report (United Nations, 2023), the UN Secretary-General paints a discouraging picture of the progress towards implementing the SDGs and urges the Heads of State and Governments to recommit to seven years of accelerated, sustained and transformative action. The UN Secretary-General states that

”It’s time to sound the alarm. At the mid-way point on our way to 2030, the SDGs are in deep trouble. A preliminary assessment of the roughly 140 targets with data shows only about 12% are on track; close to half, though showing progress, are moderately or severely off track and some 30% have either seen no movement or regressed below the 2015 baseline.”

The newly launched Sustainable Development Report (Sachs et al., 2023) paints a very similar picture. None of the SDGs is on track to be achieved globally by 2030. Of the indicators used in this report, only 18 % are on track to be achieved by 2030, 67 % show limited or no progress, and 15 % actually show reversal progress compared to the situation in 2015.

Agenda 2020 and the SDGs are an investment agenda

Both these reports also point to the urgent need to increase the financing of SDG implementation. Recommendations include implementing an SDG Stimulus package and comprehensively reforming the global financial architecture. The aim of the SDG Stimulus is to counteract the chronic shortfall of international SDG financing, especially in low and lower-middle-income countries. An increase in financing flows by at least 500 billion US$ by 2025 is required. The SDG Stimulus should halt the rising inequality and the projected increase in the gap of SDG implementation between low- and high-income countries. The UN Secretary-General states that “We cannot simply continue with more of the same and expect a different result” and that the SDG Stimulus “calls for a once-in-a-generation commitment to overhaul the international financial and economic system so that it responds to today’s challenges.”

A rescue plan for people and planet

Two important meetings will be held during summer and autumn this year, the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in August and the SDG Summit in September. Undoubtedly, the state of global SDG implementation is clear. In addition to the two reports cited above, the increases in greenhouse gas emissions, climate-related disasters, biodiversity loss and other severe environmental problems, as well as the increased inequality within and among countries and lack of multilateralism, calls for bold political leadership. As the UN Secretary-General puts it “If ever there was an illumination of the short-sightedness of our prevailing economic and political systems, it is the ratcheting up of the war on nature.” These problems are easily quantified or even visible in plain sight, and for many of them we know what to do, but as with many so-called wicked problems, they are not easily solved due to conflicting interests or even different world views.

Leading up to these meetings, heads of state and governments now urgently need to reconsider their previous priorities, set aside economic interests of polluting industries and lobby groups, and decide to substantially increase efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, as well as deliver on the promise to Leave No-one Behind. As for other complicated issues with conflicting interests, we can expect resistance and pushback. Therefore, it is more important than ever to clearly communicate the results from our research and support leaders and decision-makers to implement the transformations needed for a sustainable future for people and the planet.



By: Martin Eriksson

United Nations (2023). General Assembly Seventh-eighth session. Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Towards a Rescue Plan for People and Planet. 

Sachs, J.D., Lafortune, G., Fuller, G., Drumm, E. (2023). Implementing the SDG Stimulus. Sustainable Development Report 2023. Paris: SDSN, Dublin: Dublin University