Every year, the Sustainable Development Report provides and monitors the countries’ progress towards the SDGs. It is important to note that the 2020 report does not reflect the impact of Covid-19 due to time lags in aggregating the data. The United Nations placed Pakistan in 134th amongst 166 countries. According to the report, Pakistan’s SDG index score was 56.2, and the regional average was 67.2.
The SDG index calculates whether countries are on track to achieve the 17 goals internationally agreed in 2015. The index score ranges from the worst (0) to the best outcome (100). For example, Pakistan’s overall rating is 56.2; this means that the country is about 56% on the way to achieve the best outcome across the 17 SDGs. The regional average focuses on how East and South Asian countries are performing. Sweden (84.7), Denmark (84.6) and Finland (83.8) are currently in the lead in the SDG 2020 Index.
The SDG dashboard displays a “traffic light” colour scheme exemplifying how far a country is from achieving a particular goal by 2030. Pakistan’s score shows that they are facing significant challenges in 11 of the 17 SDGs. These goals focus on achieving zero hunger, improved health and wellbeing, better education, gender equality and access to clean water and sanitation. The remaining flagged goals are more associated with overall economic growth and development. These include affordable and clean energy, industry innovation, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities, peace and partnership for the goals.
The SDG trends provide more clarity on the progress; the four arrows explain the different stages of development. A red arrow means that the country is moving in the wrong direction, orange shows the growth is below 50%, and yellow would be a growth rate just above 50%. The green arrow implies that score increases at speed needed to achieve the SDG by 2030 or performance has already exceeded the SDG achievement threshold.
Out of the 17 goals, Life on land (goal 15) is the only indicator which has an overall red arrow. The sections where Pakistan is struggling here are the lack of protection to terrestrial and freshwater sites important to biodiversity. Both goals 10 and 12 may have different indications on the SDG Dashboard above due to outdated data. The data gaps and time lags in official statistics need urgent investments in statistical capability and strengthened coordination between the Pakistani government and the private sector.
Countries in the Global South, such as Pakistan tend to have lower SDG Index scores. The nature of the SDGs addresses the different levels of development, SDGs 1-9 focus on ending extreme poverty and on access to essential services and infrastructure, which are prominent in developing countries. Furthermore, these countries lack sufficient infrastructure and tools to accomplish key environmental challenges under SDGs 12–15. Except for countries facing conflicts and civil wars, most developing countries are making headway in ending extreme poverty and in providing access to basic services and infrastructure.
As Governments, businesses and policymakers plan for a post Covid-19 economy, it will be essential to integrate SDGs in regulations to prevent overburdening the system. Covid-19 does not solve the climate and biodiversity pressures, and it is also increasing income disparities and other kinds of inequality. The six SDG Transformations can lead the next steps in post-crisis recovery and structure long-term strategies towards more resilient and sustainable societies.