Global perspective Human stories

World getting a ‘failing grade’ on Global Goals report card

Displays at the United Nations Headquarters in New York illustrate the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
UN Photo/Manuel Elías
Displays at the United Nations Headquarters in New York illustrate the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

World getting a ‘failing grade’ on Global Goals report card


With just six years remaining to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), global progress is alarmingly insufficient, with a mere 17 per cent of the targets currently on track, according to a new UN report released on Friday.

The 2024 Sustainable Development Goals Report highlighted that nearly half the 17 targets are showing minimal or moderate progress, while over a one-third are stalled or going in reverse, since they were adopted by UN Member States back in 2015 to bring peace and prosperity for people and the planet.  

“This report is known as the annual SDG report card and it shows the world is getting a failing grade,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the press conference to launch the comprehensive stocktake.

“The takeaway is simple – our failure to secure peace, to confront climate change and to boost international finance is undermining development. We must accelerate action for the Sustainable Development Goals, and we don’t have a moment to lose,” he stressed.

Tweet URL

Major obstacles

The Report identified the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, escalating conflicts, geopolitical tensions and worsening climate chaos as major obstacles to progress.

It noted that an additional 23 million people were pushed into extreme poverty and over 100 million more were suffering from hunger in 2022 compared to 2019, while the number of civilian deaths in armed conflict skyrocketed last year.  

2023 was also the warmest on record, with global temperatures nearing the critical 1.5°C threshold.

Urgent priorities

Mr. Guterres emphasized the urgency of boosting international cooperation, stating “we must not let up on our 2030 promise to end poverty, protect the planet and leave no one behind.”

The report outlined key priorities to address the deficit.

Foremost, it highlighted the need for financing for development. The SDG investment gap in developing countries is $4 trillion per year. It is crucial to rapidly increase funding and fiscal space, as well as reform the global financial system to unlock funding.  

Resolving conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy is equally crucial. With nearly 120 million forcibly displaced people by May 2024 and a 72 per cent increase in civilian casualties between 2022 and 2023, the need for peace is more pressing than ever.

In parallel, a surge in implementation is desperately needed. Massive investments and effective partnerships are vital to drive transitions in key areas such as food, energy, social protection, and digital connectivity.

Seize the moment

The report comes ahead of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), taking place at the UN Headquarters, in New York, from 8 to 17 July.

Under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Forum will review global progress towards Goal 1 on ending poverty, Goal 2 on zero hunger, Goal 13 on climate action, Goal 16 on peaceful and inclusive societies, and Goal 17 on means of implementation.

In addition, the upcoming Summit of the Future in September will be pivotal for realigning efforts towards achieving the Goals. The Summit aims to address the debt crisis affecting many developing countries and the urgent need to reform international financial architecture.

Key findings

The SDG Report highlights stark economic challenges, with per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) growth in half of the world’s most vulnerable nations slower than in advanced economies.  

Nearly 60 per cent of countries faced abnormally high food prices in 2022, exacerbating hunger and food insecurity.

The report also highlighted gender inequality, noting that 55 per cent of 120 surveyed countries lack laws prohibiting discrimination against women.

It also cited education as a significant concern, with only 58 per cent of students worldwide achieving minimum proficiency in reading by the end of primary school.  

At the same time, despite global unemployment reaching a historic low of five per cent in 2023, many obstacles to achieving decent work across all societies persist.

However, there are positive developments in renewable energy, which expanded at a rate of 8.1 per cent annually over the past five years.

Technological advancements also saw significant strides, with mobile broadband accessibility (3G or higher) increasing to 95 per cent of the world’s population from 78 per cent in 2015.