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Helping LMICs boost progress in achieving 2030 goals

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Spotlighting the 2018 SDG report

The United Nations recently launched The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018, outlining progress being made in many areas of the 2030 agenda. While great strides have been made to tackle maternal and child mortality rates in sub-Saharan Africa, prevent childhood marriages, and improve access to electricity, the progress in other areas has stalled. To meet the targeted goals by 2030, countries and other development parties need to take accelerated action.

The 2018 report spotlights six out of the 17 SDGs, which are in the focus of the UN high-level political forum on sustainable development currently taking place. We take a look at targets under those six goals to see how we can help low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) boost progress to achieve SGDs by 2030.

Eradicating open defecation (SDG 6)

While the proportion of the global population practicing open defecation declined from 20% in 2000 to 12% in 2015, more than 40 countries are struggling to eradicate this practice – in eight countries, the open defecation rates have actually increased since 2000.

In India, 7% of the population, especially those in poor and rural states, defecate in the open. Bihar is one of the states with the highest rates of open defecation in the country. Often this is a result of misinformation or ingrained habit, as much as a lack of technology or more tangible issues. Conducting a behaviourally-informed intervention, we are helping to increase toilet use among toilet-owning households in rural Bihar through changing behaviour related to acceptability of open defecation at both household and community level.

Ensuring access to energy (SDG 7)

Even though SDG 7 includes a commitment to universal access to modern energy supplies by 2030, achieving this remains a major challenge – as there are still more than one billion people living without access to electricity. The major concern is sub-Saharan Africa, where growth in access to electricity is lagging behind population growth rates.

Our consultant Simon Trace explored how off-grid solar electricity systems can help in scaling up access to electricity, discussing advantages and challenges of the system across Africa.

Improving air quality (SDG 11)

According to the recent UN SDG report, 90% of the global urban population is breathing unsafe air. In 2016, more than four billion people died as a result of air pollution, with the most endangered areas including northern and western Africa and central and southern Asia.

Among affected countries is Mongolia, where the mean level of pollution often reaches more than five times the guideline value. The risks to the population are significant, especially for children, who are exposed to higher risks of pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma. Researching the situation in Ulaanbaatar, we developed recommendations on budget interventions and public financial management arrangements for the Government of Mongolia to significantly decrease respiratory diseases caused by air pollution.

Improving the resilience of cities (SDG 11)

Low-income households and small businesses worldwide are more exposed to outside shocks and disasters, which they are insufficiently prepared to deal with. Since 1990, the number of deaths and housing damages from small- to medium-scale disasters have been growing. To save lives and strengthen the resilience of cities, countries must invest in disaster risk reduction measures.

We have conducted an extensive study on shock responsive social protection systems across Africa, south east Asia, and Latin America, to better understand when and how social protection systems can scale up in response to shocks in low-income countries and fragile and conflict-affected states, thus reducing the need for separate humanitarian responses.

Ensuring sustainable forest management (SDG 15)

The forests around the world are continuing to shrink, with the most significant loses occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, south east Asia, and Latin America. While sustainable forest management showed positive results, deforestation is still a concern in some regions.

In south east Asia, Indonesia is combatting high rates of illegal logging, which is increasing land-based greenhouse gas emissions and endangering biodiversity and ecosystems. Recently, the Indonesian Government launched a timber licencing scheme, helping to strengthen governance across the country’s forestry sector, reduce poverty, and improve climate protection.

Building statistical capacity of low-income countries (SDG 17)

As the recipients of official development assistance, LMICs are required to provide high-quality statistical data on its use. However, they are often struggling to fulfil these requirements, due to low capacity of the statistical sector. Despite growing awareness of the importance of statistics, the financial support for all areas of statistics has stalled.

Training and mentoring is one of the key ways to build and scale up capacity. Our statistical team has helped develop or re-engineered statistical systems in South Africa, Barbados, and Rwanda. This sort of work is not only beneficial in itself, for a government to develop accountable and evidence-based policies – it is also integral to all the other SDGs, which require accurate data to determine the level of success in achieving them.