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UN Sustainable Development Goals review reveal that development aid works, say Trócaire

By Cian Molloy - 29 September, 2019

“When the world comes together, united by a plan and determined to help the world’s poorest, we can see wonderful results.”

Woman standing in front of a wall marked with graffiti

Caoimhe de Barra

A review of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by world leaders last week show that plans to assist the world’s poorest people work, reports Trócaire chief executive Caoimhe de Barra.

“Around the world, extreme poverty is falling and the diseases that once needlessly ended lives are in retreat,” said Ms de Barra.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global plan, agreed in 2015, to improve people’s lives, between now and 2030. There are 17 key targets, ranging from food and water availability to the provision of healthcare and the sustainability of human activity.

Notably, Ireland co-chaired the negotiations that produced the SDGs. Ms de Barra said, “This is a global plan with Irish fingerprints. Ireland has helped to pave the path forward and we have a real interest in ensuring the SDGs are a success.”

She said the SDG review provided an opportunity to reflect on progress that has been made.

“The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from one in three in 1990 to one in 10 today. The death rate of children under the age of 5 has fallen by 49 per cent since 2000. HIV rates in sub-Saharan Africa have fallen by 37 per cent. The number of people with access to safe drinking water has risen from six out of every 10 to seven out of 10.

“The reality is that aid and development work,” she said. “When the world comes together, united by a plan and determined to help the world’s poorest, we can see wonderful results.”

Nevertheless, Ms de Barra was quick to point out that progress on some SDG targets is not running smoothly and that huge challenges remain.  Hunger is on the rise, driven by worsening climate change. Approximately 821 million people – one in nine people – are undernourished, up from 784 million in 2015. One in five women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in the last 12 months. Approximately one-third of countries are “water stressed”.

“It is noticeable how climate change is undermining so much of the progress,” said the Trócaire chief. “We see that in our own work. People’s efforts to lift themselves out of poverty are being made more difficult by worsening droughts and more frequent storms. The world’s poorest people are marching up a hill pushing a boulder that is getting heavier.

“Development and climate action are now two sides of the same coin. It is not possible to win the battle against extreme poverty without tackling climate change,” Ms de Barra said.

The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals are:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  10. Reducing Inequality
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life On Land
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

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