SDG-speak in our own backyards

Anthony Pipa

How are high-income countries falling short on the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) demonstrate that economic prowess is not a guarantee of success. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the US was not on track to fully meet a single SDG, while the best performing countries in the OECD are still likely to fall far short on more than a third of the targets. High-income countries are central to global achievement of the SDGs, both to provide leadership and models for their own domestic progress as well as investment and partnership in lower-income countries. So what’s the problem?

Last-mile challenges lack political champions

The mandate of the SDGs to ‘leave no one behind’ compels policymakers and philanthropic leaders to focus their interventions and policy objectives on enabling opportunity for people who have the least political voice and power. In the US, for example, 98 per cent of the population has access to safe sanitation, but the country has been stuck at that level for years. Two per cent may not seem like much, but it translates to 6.6 million people. The situations in Jackson, Mississippi, and Flint, Michigan, highlight how racial dynamics and political marginalisation complicate attempts to address this gap, especially when the issue does not directly affect a large percentage of the population.

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