As the world reaches the 2030 deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sobering statistics indicate that only 12 per cent of SDG targets are on track.
While the agenda remains aspirational, gaps in implementation are evident. During this Decade of Action, the G20 nations, representing some of the world’s largest economies, have renewed their commitment to expedite progress. The collective resolve and convening power of the G20 could serve as a critical engine for implementing the 2030 Agenda, facilitating global cooperation, and setting the course for a more equitable and sustainable future.
As part of the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, the G20 countries have unanimously committed to accelerating action through a comprehensive 2023 Action Plan.
Emphasising technological advances, the group acknowledges the role of digital transformation, artificial intelligence, and data analytics while addressing digital divides. Furthermore, they vow to mobilise affordable and adequate low-cost financing to support developing countries, recognising the urgency to deliver on Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments.
Tourism and culture have been highlighted as vehicles for sustainable socio-economic development. The participating countries also commit to partnering with the United Nations and other international bodies to bridge the SDG financing gap, giving full backing to various UN summits focused on sustainable development.
Eliminating hunger and malnutrition
With the pressing issue of global food security, the G20 nations pledge to support research on climate-resilient crops and improve access to agricultural inputs like fertiliser. They aim to reduce food waste, increase agricultural productivity, and improve the sustainability of agriculture and food systems. The commitment extends to supporting developing countries in providing access to nutritious diets and fostering fair, predictable trade in agricultural goods.
As the world reels from the impacts of pandemics, the G20 places the World Health Organization (WHO) at the centre of global health architecture reforms. A multi-faceted approach includes strengthening primary health care, addressing antimicrobial resistance, and facilitating equitable access to medical countermeasures. Plans are underway to negotiate a legally binding WHO convention on pandemic preparedness by May 2024.
The collaboration between finance and health ministries under the Joint Finance and Health Task Force aims to tackle economic vulnerabilities due to pandemics. Reports developed by WHO and the World Bank offer a framework for assessing economic risks, while the Pandemic Fund’s call for proposals marks a concrete step towards resilience.
The G20 recognises the crucial role of education in human capital development. From foundational learning to digital inclusion and technical training, the commitment is to offer inclusive, equitable, high-quality education.
Culture, an often-overlooked aspect, is being recognised for its transformative potential in achieving SDGs. The G20 countries are committed to fighting illicit trafficking of cultural property and protecting intellectual property rights, particularly for indigenous peoples.
The renewed commitment from the G20 comes at a critical juncture, with less than a decade remaining to fulfill the SDGs. While collective action is promising, the challenge lies in its effective and timely implementation. The G20 countries have pledged to adhere to international climate agreements like the Paris Accord. In an effort to transition to sustainable energy resources, policies are being shaped to phase out fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy.
These nations are also working to protect biodiversity, thereby aligning with SDG 15 (Life on Land) and SDG 14 (Life Below Water). Building resilient infrastructure is another focal area, aiming to minimise the adverse impacts of climate-related disasters on vulnerable populations.
Inclusive economic growth
The widening income inequality among and within countries has raised alarms, prompting the G20 to advocate for more inclusive economic policies. These include providing social safety nets, implementing progressive taxation systems, and encouraging corporate social responsibility.
Their commitment extends to economically empowering women and marginalised communities, supporting the informal sector, and focusing on labour market policies that ensure decent work conditions.
The G20 aims to promote a fair global trading system. The focus is on rules-based multilateral trading systems, with attention to the needs of developing countries. Market access, particularly for least-developed countries, and tackling trade-distorting practices are priority areas.
The G20 commits to boosting R&D investments in sustainable technologies and facilitating global transfer and diffusion. Initiatives include promoting startups and small-medium enterprises (SMEs) that focus on green technologies and enhancing public–private partnerships in innovation.
Data monitoring and transparency
The G20 emphasises the importance of data collection and monitoring to hold themselves and other stakeholders accountable. Systems are being developed to track the progress of each SDG target, assess the efficacy of policies, and adapt strategies based on evidence. Third-party evaluations conducted by independent organisations could bring more transparency to these efforts.
Ethical considerations and governance
While leveraging technologies and data, the G20 countries also commit to addressing ethical considerations, such as data privacy, surveillance, and the equitable distribution of technological benefits.