New report: Asia-Pacific 32 years behind on reaching Sustainable Development Goals

By Si Ying Thian

Achieving Sustainable Development Goals could be delayed by more than 30 years at current progress, according to ESCAP's new 2024 progress report. Data-driven policymaking may be key to addressing this, says Rachael Beaven, Director for the Statistics Division of ESCAP.

The 2024 report found that none of the countries are on track to meet the 2030 target for all the SDGs, with ESCAP estimating it could take the region until 2062 to achieve these goals at the current pace. Image: ESCAP. 

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) will be launching the Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2024 on 15 February 2024.


Themed “Showcasing Transformative Actions” this year, the report tracks the progress of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asia and the Pacific in the past year.  


The 2024 report found that none of the 17 SDGs are on track to meet the 2030 target. ESCAP estimates that at the current pace, it could take the region until 2062 to achieve these goals due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other ongoing global crises.


“Despite the slow regional progress toward achieving the SDGs, there are good country practices from across Asia and the Pacific.


“Lessons learned from these country practices could be replicated and scaled up to accelerate SDG progress in the region,” Beaven adds.


In line with this year’s theme, ESCAP’s progress report spotlights the best practices from evidence-based decision-making that contribute to meeting SDGs, Rachael Beaven, Director for the Statistics Division of ESCAP, tells GovInsider.


We sit down with Beaven to find out the key global trends in 2023 driving individual country’s progress and how far ESCAP’s annual reporting has helped fast-track SDG progress in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.

Quality data can drive targeted actions


The annual report highlights which SDGs individual nations are making progress on or are struggling to meet. The 17 SDGs encompass interconnected environmental, social, and economic aspects of sustainable development.


Most of the countries in the region have made good progress towards SDGs, specifically on eradicating poverty (SDG 1); as well as on promoting resilient infrastructure, inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and fostering innovation (SDG 9), Beaven shares.


However, most countries – regardless of their economic status – lag when it comes to specific SDGs, such as eradicating hunger and malnutrition (SDG 2), promoting decent work conditions and economic growth (SDG 8), and strengthening global partnerships and cooperation for the goals (SDG 17), she adds.


Additionally, the case studies featured in the report highlight data as the key factor in enabling individual countries to achieve progress for SDGs: “The increase in the capacity of national statistical systems provide evidence which can be used to guide policymaking.


“This allows for data-driven actions that are more targeted towards meeting the specific needs of specific populations to ensure that the SDGs’ vision to leave no one behind is upheld,” she says.


This is evident in ESCAP’s inclusion of new datapoints in the 2024 report, specifically the analysis of population sub-groups to identify factors that may impede the SDG progress of certain population groups.


For example, women and girls face considerable challenges in accessing education and employment opportunities, while men face challenges related to health and personal safety.


“These analyses show that granular data can help us better understand how different population groups are affected and how these lead to unequal outcomes,” Beaven explains.   


Subscribe to the GovInsider Bulletin for the latest public sector and innovation updates.

ESCAP’s annual report spurs government interest in tackling SDGs


The launch marks the eighth edition of the annual reporting of APAC’s SDG progress since 2016. Beaven says that the reporting has increased governments’ interest to measure the progress for SDGs, particularly at the national level.


For instance, GovInsider recently covered an innovation platform led by the Government of India that match emerging tech with SDGs The Manthan platform convenes various stakeholders across research, government to the private sector around innovations with a social impact.


Capitalising on this increased interest, ESCAP developed the National SDG tracker in 2018 to simplify how governments assess their SDG progress. The tracker is an interactive, user-friendly platform that brings together data across all the 17 SDGs.


The report utilises the same methodology as the tracker in assessing the SDG progress, Beaven explains.


There has been an increased use of evidence in national SDG prioritisation, says Beaven, who observes that several countries have used the results from the report and the tracker to inform their voluntary national reviews to strengthen SDG monitoring and identify policy priorities.

Highlighting ESCAP’s hopes for policy engagement with these reports, Beaven says that the organisation will continue to focus on evidence-based policy discussions not only on the national level, but on provincial and local levels as well.


“This requires engagement from government, civil society, and the private sector. The region can do more to utilise the existing wealth of data to drive positive change for every person in Asia-Pacific,” she says.

<Click here to access the Asia and the Pacific SDG progress report 2024>