Too Slow and Not Steady: But with concrete action, LAC can still accelerate progress to achieve the SDGs

November 7, 2023

In 2015, 193 countries committed to the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The agenda set out to end extreme poverty, guarantee human rights, protect the environment, and provide a collective ambition and commitment to the world we wanted. Eight years later, we are at the halfway point between the adoption and finish line of this agenda, and a global pandemic, conflict, disasters, and other crises have put in danger hard-earned progress, reversing human development for the first time in decades.  

Using data collected by ECLAC, this #GraphForThought explores how Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is fairing in terms of achieving the 169 SDG Targets. As can be seen in the Figure below, only 25 percent of SDG targets for which data is available are on track to be met by 2030 – that is, unless concrete action is taken, only 1 in 4 targets will be reached.  

About half of the targets (48 percent) are moving in the right direction, but not at a sufficient pace to reach the finish line by 2030. Alarmingly, 27 percent of targets are going in reversal or show no change at all. While progress in the region has outpaced that at the global level (only 12% of SDG targets are expected to be met globally by 2030 at current rates), the current scenario shows that the 2030 Agenda in LAC is far from being on course.  

Perhaps even more worrisome is that recent crises have resulted in significant reversals in progress towards the 2030 Agenda. Between 2021 and 2023, out of 87 targets for which there is comparable information, the number of targets on track to be achieved by 2030 decreased from 37 to 22. At the same time, the number of targets that are moving in the right direction but at a pace too slow to meet the 2030 goals increased from 34 to 40 between 2021 and 2023. In turn, the number of targets that stagnated or are going in the opposite direction remained almost the same.  


At the current rate, only 1 in 4 SDG targets will be met by 2030 in LAC 

Source: own elaboration based on ECLAC 


As discussed in UNDP’s Integrated SDG Insights, economic growth, while essential, will not be enough to reverse these trends, especially as fiscal and financial constraints force countries into growth trajectories that lead to carbon intensive and non-inclusive outcomes. Instead, we need to focus on a sustainable development path within planetary boundaries, that accelerates SDGs by integrating economic, social protection, and environmental policies effectively. Countries can respond to the complex, overlapping development challenges they are facing and strengthen the push towards meeting the 2030 Agenda by taking advantage of SDG interlinkages – that is, focusing on combinations of SDGs that can be advanced together, generating positive spillovers.  

The region also needs to focus on attracting investments, strengthening institutions, and establishing joint efforts between the government, the private sector and civil society, and producing the necessary data to track progress. Strengthening financing for development and effective governance need underpin any effort to accelerate progress towards the SDGs.  

At the midway point, and with only seven years left until 2030, LAC countries need to commit and take concrete action to achieve the SDGs. It is encouraging that governments came together last month at the SDG Summit, on the margins of the UN General Assembly, to renew their shared commitment and declaring that they “remain resolved, between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to respect, protect and fulfill human rights and achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.” It is clear that the time to act is now.