The year 2023 marks the mid-point in SDG implementation. As we take stock of progress, we are reminded that the Global Goals have been pushed increasingly out of reach by the multiple crises the world is facing, including new challenges that emerged in 2022, most notably the war in Ukraine. Heading into the new year, we find it useful to reflect on our readers’ priority needs for knowledge and information by looking back at the news that drew the greatest number of pageviews in 2022.
Some of our most read stories of 2022 outline the UN’s organizational priorities for the year, as was the SDG Knowledge Hub’s own preview of the year’s highlights. Stories about breakthrough moments in environmental governance attracted a lot of interest as well.
A change from other years is that our stories about the assessments of SDG progress – the UN Secretary-General’s report, released prior to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the Sustainable Development Goals Report prepared by DESA in collaboration with the UN Statistical System, and the annual report by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung – are not in the list of most read articles.
The ten most read news stories published in 2022, beginning with #10, are as follows:
At the beginning of the year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres presented his agenda for 2022, underscoring the need to “rescue” the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs from the climate emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the “morally bankrupt” financial system. Even prior to the war in Ukraine, the Secretary-General highlighted the imperative of securing peace, reporting that the number of violent conflicts around the world was the highest since 1945.
- Animal Welfare Matters for Sustainable Development: UNEA 5.2 is an Opportunity for Governments to Recognize That
Ahead of the UN Environment Assembly’s resumed fifth session (UNEA 5.2), our guest authors unpacked a resolution on the animal welfare, environment, and sustainable development nexus, tabled by seven African and South Asian countries and ultimately adopted by the Assembly on 2 March. The article argues for the inclusion of animals in sustainable development governance through transformative changes to industries, practices, and values, for the benefit of humans and nonhumans alike.
At the Group of 7 (G7) summit in June, convening amidst the war in Ukraine, leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US sought to support action on climate change, the energy transition, and global food security. The leaders decided to establish an international Climate Club by the end of the year, to advance ambitious and transparent climate change mitigation policies towards climate neutrality, transform industries to accelerate decarbonization, and boost international ambition through partnerships and cooperation. The G7 German Presidency released the terms of reference for the Club on 12 December.
Briefing Member States on progress towards implementing the proposals contained in ‘Our Common Agenda,’ the UN Secretary-General floated the idea of 2023 “twin summits” – the second SDG Summit convening at the midpoint of implementation of the 2030 Agenda to review progress on the Goals, and the Summit of the Future. Not to detract from the SDG Summit, it was later decided that the Summit of the Future would take place in 2024 instead.
The story on the election of Csaba Kőrösi of Hungary to serve as President of the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) 77th session highlights solidarity, sustainability, and science as the motto of the new presidency. Congratulating Kőrösi on his election, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said UNGA 77 can be “a time to recalibrate multilateralism and strengthen the foundations of global cooperation.”
A story by one of our Generation 2030 authors that resonated with our readers makes the case against “period poverty” by arguing that menstrual products need to be made more affordable and accessible, and menstrual hygiene and education need to go hand-in-hand. Highlighting the linkages between period poverty deprivations and SDGs 1 (no poverty), 3 (good health and well-being), 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality), and 6 (clean water and sanitation), the article notes that Canada, Australia, Kenya, India, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Tanzania, Lebanon, Malaysia, Colombia, South Africa, Namibia, and Rwanda have eliminated the tax on period products.
This story focuses on two of the most significant outcomes that emerged from UNEA 5.2: the decision to convene an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop, by 2024, an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment; and an agreement to establish a science-policy panel on chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution. Countries began work on a science-policy panel in October, and negotiations towards a plastics treaty kicked off in December. These efforts complement a perhaps less visible process for considering the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) that is expected to agree a post-2020 platform for the sound management of chemicals and waste.
The SDG Knowledge Hub’s preview of 2022 emphasizes its importance for global governance decision making. The brief highlights the meetings of the biodiversity and climate Conferences of the Parties (COPs), as well as those of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and Ramsar, chemicals and wastes, and mercury conventions.
In July, the UNGA passed a resolution recognizing the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as a human right. While not legally binding, UNGA resolutions can serve as catalysts for action, and this one was widely hailed as a “landmark development.”
The data assessment of global population has been in our top 10 most read stories for several years, and 2022 was no exception. Our summary of the 2022 edition of the World Population Data Sheet explores the demographic impacts of COVID-19, its impacts on mortality and fertility patterns, and other global population trends. It highlights some of the main findings from the Data Sheet, including that COVID-19 had fueled excess deaths, accounting for 12% of all deaths globally and contributing to declines in life expectancy in some countries. The story also notes that the greatest absolute increase in population size between 2022 and 2050 will occur in India.
At the SDG Knowledge Hub, we will be keeping a close eye on these and other trends, and on how COVID-19 recovery and the multiple intersecting crises impact SDG progress throughout 2023 – and beyond.
Happy New Year.