Progress in the UNECE region

How is progress assessed?

Making use of all the available data, anticipated indicator values were estimated for 2030 for each country, based on the pace of progress thus far. These anticipated values were compared to the desired target values.

The results are presented at the regional level, based on the median indicator values across all countries. It is acknowledged that variation among countries can be significant and the situation in any individual country may differ from the assessment given to the entire region. For more information on the methodology, see Technical notes on the progress assessment.

Data availability for monitoring SDGs is improving. Progress for the UNECE region can be measured towards 115 of the 169 SDG targets, which is an increase from 105 targets in last year’s assessment. The chart below presents the anticipated progress in the region towards the 115 measurable targets. Each target is coloured according to the gap between anticipated and required progress. The colour is green if the pace of progress is sufficient to reach the target value by 2030; yellow if progress needs to accelerate to reach the target value; and red if the currently observed trend runs counter to the desired direction. If the target cannot be assessed it is shown in grey.

How many targets are on track?

Based on this assessment, the region will achieve only 21 targets (18 per cent of measurable targets) by 2030. This is down from 26 targets assessed as on track last year.

For 79 targets (up from 64 last year), progress has to accelerate, and for 15 targets (as last year), the current trend needs to be reversed.

Which SDG targets are on track for 2030?

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Is the region on track to meet the Goals by 2030?

In recent years, the UNECE region has been shaken by the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, energy crisis and surging inflation. As previous UNECE reports showed, progress towards the SDGs was already too slow in the region before these crises.4  The latest available data presented in this report reveal some of the related destructive impacts on the achievement of the SDGs.

Data collected in 2020 or later make it possible to include trends since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic for 125 out of the 156 indicators used in this assessment. Data collected since 2022 are not available for the majority of targets and indicators, and the impact of the war in Ukraine is therefore not reflected in this progress assessment.

4 UNECE (2021). Is the UNECE region on track for 2030? Assessment, stories and insights. Geneva: United Nations.

UNECE (2022). Halfway to 2030: how many targets will be achieved in the UNECE region? Snapshot and insights in 2022. Geneva: United Nations.

The region is not on track to reduce poverty by half by 2030 (goal 1).

The share of people living in poverty according to national definitions is decreasing in most UNECE countries, but not quickly enough (target 1.2). In one third of countries with data, more than 20 per cent of the population still lives below the income poverty threshold (indicator 1.2.1). Measures of multidimensional poverty (indicator 1.2.2) consider various aspects of deprivation and indicate that the share of people experiencing poverty is higher than measured on the basis of income only. Those at the highest risk of poverty, such as persons with disabilities and families with young children, are well covered by social protections in the UNECE region (indicator 1.3.1), but not everyone who would benefit from this type of support is receiving it. Across UNECE countries, less than half of unemployed persons — a population that increased during the pandemic — receive cash benefits (indicator 1.3.1).

Progress on food security and diversity (goal 2) has been uneven.

Access to sufficient and nutritious food (target 2.1) is not universal in the UNECE region. In 20 countries in the region, the share of adults experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity (indicator 2.1.2) has increased or remained the same since 2015. In some countries in the region, more than a quarter of all adults experience food insecurity. When it comes to children, most have enough to eat. Undernutrition (indicator 2.2.1) is rare. Food security and good nutrition concerns both the quantity and quality of food, however, and efforts to reduce childhood obesity (indicator 2.2.2) and anaemia in pregnancy (2.2.3) need to be accelerated.

The region must act to reverse trends on agricultural productivity and efficiency (target 2.a). Progress is made towards maintaining a diverse and nutritious food supply for future generations (target 2.5). The number of plant varieties and animal breeds for which genetic resources are stored is increasing (indicator 2.5.1), but progress has been slow. A high proportion of local breeds are at risk of extinction (indicator 2.5.2).

Comprehensive data for targets on health and well-being (goal 3) show that most areas require acceleration.

The region is set to achieve targets on child and maternal mortality (targets 3.1 and 3.2), but progress towards other targets has been slow. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the pace of progress on communicable diseases (3.3), premature mortality and mental health (3.4), and sexual and reproductive health (3.7) was sluggish. The prevalence of tobacco use (indicator 3.a.1) and the suicide mortality rate (indicator 3.4.2) have decreased only slightly in the last several years.

The share of the child population receiving recommended vaccinations (indicator 3.b.1) is high across the region, but the region is not on track to achieve universal access by 2030. Across the UNECE region, one quarter of women have an unmet need for modern methods of family planning (indicator 3.7.1).

Alongside other cost-of-living pressures, the relative cost of healthcare for households is increasing in most countries in the region (indicator 3.8.2). The pandemic put stress on health systems and highlighted gaps in public health capacities, an area where progress has been stagnant (target 3.d). A pandemic-driven improvement in health emergency preparedness across the region is not yet observed in available data.

The region must address disparities to achieve targets on education (goal 4).

Slow progress towards universal and quality education (target 4.1) is related to persisting inequalities between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Across the region, stark gaps in proficiency in reading and mathematics (indicator 4.5.1) exist between urban and rural students, the native-born and the foreign-born, and the rich and the poor. Though not yet reflected in the available data, disruptions to education due to the Covid-19 pandemic may have further exacerbated such inequalities.

Differences across countries also impede regional progress towards education targets. Near-universal participation in early-childhood education (indicator 4.2.2) in many countries is offset by a downward trend in one quarter of countries in the region. Technology is widespread across classrooms in the region (indicator 4.a.1). Still, the share of youth and adults with information and communications technology skills is increasing slowly (indicator 4.4.1).

Data gaps limit the assessment of progress towards gender equality (goal 5).

Progress on gender equality can be measured for less than half of targets only. UNECE countries must work to provide better evidence on the experiences and outcomes of women and girls. Information gaps may contribute to slow progress in the region on policy and legal frameworks that combat discrimination and support gender equality (target 5.1).

Data that are available indicate that the region must accelerate efforts to address gender disparities at home and in the public sphere. Progress towards shared responsibility within the household and family (target 5.4) is very slow. The share of women participating in political and economic life (target 5.5) is increasing in nearly every country in the region, but women remain underrepresented in leadership and decision-making positions.

Most water (goal 6) and energy (goal 7) targets are progressing too slowly to be achieved.

Access to safely-managed drinking water (target 6.1) is nearly universal in the UNECE region. Without an acceleration of progress, the region will come up short on other sanitation and water targets. On average, 21 per cent of the population of UNECE countries do not use safely-managed sanitation services (indicator 6.2.1).

The proportion of water bodies with potentially harmful levels of pollution is increasing in one third of countries with data (indicator 6.3.2). Water use across the region is becoming more efficient (indicator 6.4.1) and stress on freshwater resources is decreasing (indicator 6.4.2), but acceleration is needed to achieve 2030 ambitions. Transboundary water cooperation is strong in the region (indicator 6.5.2), but the rate of implementation of integrated water resources management (indicator 6.5.1) needs to increase.

Access to electricity is widespread, and most people in the region use clean fuels for cooking, heating and lighting (target 7.1). As measured before the current energy crisis, reliance on renewable energy was increasing (indicator 7.2.1) and energy efficiency was improving (indicator 7.3.1), but not quickly enough to meet 2030 targets. An acceleration of efforts is critical to ensure continued access to affordable and sustainable energy.

The region must work to overcome setbacks on inclusive economic growth and decent work for all (goal 8).

The economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic are evident across the region. The unemployment rate (indicator 8.5.2) has increased in three quarters of countries with data, interrupting steady downward trends across the region. Acceleration is therefore required to provide access to decent work for the region’s labour force (target 8.5). Even before the pandemic, the rate of growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) per person (indicator 8.1.1) and per employed person (indicator 8.2.1) was slowing across the region and this is projected to continue.

Most countries in the region have implemented dedicated strategies for youth employment and this target is on track to be achieved (target 8.b). Nonetheless, the region must accelerate efforts to reduce the share of youth not in employment, education or training (target 8.6) which is still 10 per cent or higher in most countries. Countries must also accelerate efforts around access to financial services (target 8.1), resource use efficiency (target 8.4), labour rights (8.8), sustainable tourism (8.9), access to financial services (8.10) and aid for trade (target 8.a) to achieve employment and economic growth that leaves no one behind.

Investments are required to meet targets on infrastructure, industrialization, and innovation (goal 9).

Higher-technology industries have been more resilient to Covid-19 impacts than low-tech industries.5  The share of medium- and high-tech manufacturing value is increasing in the UNECE region (indicator 9.b.1), but not quickly enough. To accelerate progress, investments in research and development (target 9.5) are necessary and access to finance for small-scale industries (target 9.3) has to improve.

To achieve sustainable and inclusive economic development, the region needs to reverse trends on infrastructure development (target 9.1).

The region has progressed with inclusive and sustainable industrialization (target 9.2). The carbon-intensity of economic production (target 9.4) is decreasing, and access to information and communications technology (target 9.c) is widespread. If the current pace of progress can be maintained the region should achieve these three targets.

5 The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022, United Nations.

There is more work to do to reduce inequalities within and between countries (goal 10).

Many countries expanded the reach of social transfers during the Covid-19 pandemic, and available data point to positive impacts on income inequality. The share of individuals living at below 50 per cent of their country’s median income level (indicator 10.2.1) decreased in 2020 in all countries with data. This shift has reversed the trend for the region since last year’s assessment, but more data are necessary to determine whether such policy responses will have lasting impacts on economic well-being in the region. Continued financial instability in some countries (target 10.5) and slow growth in official development assistance (target 10.b) contribute to inequality within the region.

The region is on track to reduce the costs of remittances (target 10.c). Newly available data indicate that more work is needed to achieve safe migration and mobility (target 10.7), especially in light of the forced movement of millions of refugees across Europe.

Progress towards safe and sustainable cities (goal 11) is mixed.

The region is set to achieve targets on access to adequate housing and basic services (target 11.1), reducing air pollution in cities (target 11.6), and adopting and implementing strategies for disaster risk reduction (target 11.b). The impact of such strategies is mixed. The economic impact of disasters is becoming less severe (indicator 11.5.2), but the number of people in the region affected by disasters (indicator 11.5.1) continues to increase. The region must accelerate efforts to strengthen resilience to climate related hazards and natural disasters.

Newly available data show that efforts in the region to increase per capita expenditure on the preservation, protection and conservation of cultural and natural heritage (target 11.4) need to be accelerated.

Urgent action is required to achieve climate and environmental targets (goals 12–15).6

Fossil fuel subsidies continue to increase in about half of countries with
data (target 12.c), making it unlikely that the region will achieve its targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (target 13.2). The region must
accelerate progress on the sustainable use of natural resources (target 12.2) and waste reduction and treatment (targets 12.4 and 12.5).

Recent data indicate that progress towards reducing marine pollution (target 14.1) and conserving coastal areas (target 14.5) has slowed. Previously on track to be achieved, these targets now require acceleration. The region must reverse trends around sustainable fishing (target 14.7) and research and development on marine technology (target 14.a) which are moving in the wrong direction. Every effort should be made to maintain the pace of progress on combating unreported and unregulated fishing (target 14.6), which is still on track.

The region is progressing towards sustainable forest management and forest area is increasing in most countries in the region (target 15.2), but not quickly enough to reach the 2030 targets. The region is failing to halt the loss of biodiversity (target 15.5). Fewer than one third of countries have lowered species’ extinction risk since 2015.

Countries must also work to fill data gaps: progress for more than 40 per cent of environment-relevant SDG targets cannot be measured for the region. Without urgent action to improve data availability, the region may run out of time to respond effectively to climate challenges.

6 For a list of climate and environment targets and indicators, see United Nations Environment Programme (2019). Measuring Progress: Towards Achieving the Environmental Dimension of the SDGS. Nairobi: United Nations.

The region must address critical issues to improve peace and justice (goal 16).

By all available measures, countries in the UNECE region are getting safer. Homicide is extremely rare in most countries (indicator 16.1.1) and robberies (indicator 16.1.3) are decreasing. Still, one quarter of people across countries with data do not feel safe walking alone after dark (indicator 16.1.4), and overall progress to reduce violence across the region is too slow (target 16.1).

The region is on track to reduce corruption and bribery (target 16.5) significantly by 2030. Access to justice (target 16.3) varies considerably across countries. The share of unsentenced detainees in the prison population (indicator 16.3.2) ranges from below 10 percent to 50 per cent. The number of countries in the region with an independent national human rights institution in compliance with the Paris Principles (indicator 16.a.1) has remained unchanged at 31 since 2000. Decision-making bodies across the region are becoming more reflective of the populations they represent (target 16.7) but acceleration is needed to achieve proportionate representation of women and young people in parliaments and judiciaries by 2030.

Critically, the region must reverse trends in order to eliminate human trafficking (target 16.2) and strengthen public institutions (target 16.6).

Partnerships and evidence for sustainable development (goal 17) must be strengthened to achieve targets.

Macroeconomic stability (target 17.13) has deteriorated, and available data do not fully reflect the impacts of the multiple crises faced by the region. As they work to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and combat the effects of war, inflation, and energy shortages within their own borders, countries have fewer resources to commit to international cooperation and support for the implementation of SDGs. The share of the domestic budget funded by domestic taxes (target 17.1) declined in 2020 in nearly every country with data. Progress towards development assistance to least developed countries (target 17.2), technology transfer (target 17.7), more open trade (target 17.10) and improved market access for developing countries (target 17.12) is slow. Financial and technical development assistance for SDGs (target 17.9) is decreasing, as is the use of country-owned results frameworks in development interventions in the region (target 17.15).

Data availability for monitoring SDGs is improving. Progress for the UNECE region can be measured towards 115 of the 169 targets, which is an increase from 105 targets in last year’s assessment. Still, the region needs to intensify its investment in statistical capacity (targets 17.18, 17.19). Nearly a third of targets cannot be measured for the region due to insufficient data or other measurement challenges. For four goals (5, 11, 12, 13), progress can be assessed for half or fewer targets. Sufficient national data to track change over time are available for 156 (63 per cent) of the 248 global monitoring indicators. Technical notes on the progress assessment, including a complete list of the used indicators, are presented in the end of this report.