It’s not just that rich countries are nowhere near achieving the policy objectives laid out in the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals for economic and social inclusion, peace and environmental sustainability. It’s that their environmental, financial and governance failures are hampering the ability of poor countries to make progress, according to a new index ranking 157 countries according to their progress against the 2030 global goals.
Chief disappointment: The United States of America, which ranks 42nd out of 157. That puts the U.S. ahead of only four other OECD countries (Chile, Israel, Mexico and Turkey). The ranking corroborates findings from last month’s Social Progress Index, which showed a significant drop in the U.S. score for tolerance and inclusion.
The new report from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Bertelsmann Stiftung was scathing in its critique of industrialized nations turn towards “My Country First” policies and rhetoric. A traffic-light chart shows a number of red warning lights for the U.S. The world’s richest nation faces major challenges in gender and income inequality (SDGs №5 and 10), unsustainable consumption and production (№12), climate and environmental action (№13 through 15), peace at home and broad (№16) and global partnerships (№17).
Rich countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia and France, make up the 10 highest-ranked countries, though nearly all scored poorly on sustainable consumption and production. But rich countries are also among the bottom 20 performers on spillover effects — the externalized environmental and social costs passed from one country to another. “This suggests that good SDG outcomes are often associated with negative spillover effects,” write the report’s authors. And only six countries (Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, Netherlands and UK) are delivering on their commitments to spend 0.7% of GDP on Official Development Assistance, or foreign aid.
As leaders of the G20 nations meet in Hamburg, the index and dashboard highlight the need for rich countries to make sustainable development work within and beyond their borders, said economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, lead author of the report, “If the world is to achieve the SDGs, all countries must take up the goals as part of their national development strategies and ensure that they take responsibility for their impact on the rest of the world.”