Renewable Energy in IcelandAs the world continues to modernize, there are still several regions with no access to energy and no chance for development. Finding solutions for the inadequate and unequal distribution of energy is more urgent than ever. Amid a global pandemic, 25% of hospitals in “Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Kenya, Ethiopia and Niger” have no electricity. Electricity is essential in fighting this crisis (or any other). Taking a closer look at the struggles of energy poverty, renewable energy in Iceland provides an example of a nation that overcame these issues.

The Importance of Energy

The United Nations recognizes the importance of energy for development with SDG 7: “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” Reliable energy systems benefit all sectors, including businesses, medicine, education and agriculture. Inadequate electricity creates obstacles in situations that citizens of developed countries take for granted. For example, without electricity, clinics cannot store vaccines and students cannot do homework at night. SDG 7 states that affordable and clean energy is necessary to raise any developing nation out of poverty.

Energy Poverty and Off-Grid Energy Systems

The World Economic Forum defines energy poverty as conditions that “lack of adequate, affordable, reliable, quality, safe and environmentally sound energy services to support development.” Currently, 13% of the world’s population (one billion people) lack access to electricity. The vast majority live in Africa and South Asia while 57% of the sub-Saharan African population (600 million people) live without electricity. Any form of sustainable development requires access to energy. Nations suffering from energy poverty cannot afford the energy that could propel them out of poverty. This locks them in the cycle of poverty.

Geography stands as one of SDG 7’s biggest obstacles. The countries in the most need typically cannot access grid electricity. In developing countries, expanding the electricity grid is neither financially nor logistically realistic. These rural areas need off-grid or stand-alone solutions to their energy problems. Renewable energy can provide off-grid energy and “give developing countries the opportunity to erase the electricity gap without passing through a phase of fossil fuels, that would be hard to sustain in terms of cost, natural resources and global environment.”

The Success Story of Iceland

At the beginning of the 20th century, Iceland was ranked as a developing country. In 1970, the largest share of Iceland’s energy consumption was derived from imported fossil fuels and the United Nations Development Program labeled the nation as a developing country. As of 2018, Iceland was the fifth most prosperous nation in Europe, acquires nearly 100% of consumed electricity from renewable energy.

Iceland has always been very spread out, making an interconnected energy grid too costly. This combined with fluctuating and unsustainable oil prices drove the Icelandic government to seek alternative energy systems. Through government funding and incentive programs, geothermal and hydropower energy systems took over the Icelandic economy.

The link between energy and poverty reduction is evident and undeniable. Renewable energy in Iceland transformed an impoverished, developing nation, dependent on imported coal and local peat into a prosperous, green energy leader. Many people believe the green energy movement is exclusive to wealthy nations, businesses and individuals. This is understandable considering the price of electric cars and solar panels. However, Iceland proves this idea wrong. Iceland completely transformed into a green economy as a small, developing nation.

One might argue that Iceland is a unique and unrepeatable example because of its proximity to renewable resources; however, this is far from the truth. Iceland overcame the two biggest obstacles that every energy-poor nation faces: poor funding and excessive off-grid populations. Iceland’s success does not provide a one-size-fits-all solution for every nation facing an energy crisis; however, developing countries around the world should gain hope and inspiration from renewable energy in Iceland.

Ella LeRoy
Photo: Flickr

Haiti's most important SDGsThe 2020 Human Development Index ranked Haiti 170th out of 189 countries. Between the devastating earthquake in 2010, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and the current COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti struggles to make lasting improvements. To combat its history of extreme poverty, Haiti adopted the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. This article will break down everything you need to know about poverty in Haiti through the lens of some of Haiti’s most important SDGs.

SDG 1: No Poverty

Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere.

  • The Issue: As much as 60% of the population (equating to more than six million people) lives below the poverty line in Haiti. Even more concerning, nearly 2.5 million of Haitians live below the extreme poverty line of $1.23 per day.
  • The Progress: Haiti has taken small steps toward poverty reduction. The number of citizens living in extreme poverty in Haiti decreased by 7% between 2000 and 2012. However, natural disasters and other crises continue to undermine this progress.

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

Haiti suffers from one of the highest levels of food insecurity in the world.

  • The Issue: At least 44% of Haitians (more than four million people) need immediate food assistance, 1.2 million suffer from extreme hunger and 22% of children live with chronic malnutrition, making this one of Haiti’s most important SDGs.
  • The Progress: The World Food Programme (WFP) works to “build sustainable systems to address the root causes of food insecurity and promote resiliency.” In the last academic year, the WFP’s school feeding program provided daily hot meals for about 300,000 children at 1,000 different public schools. In 2016, Haiti signed its first national school feeding policy, requiring schools to make nutritious foods available for their students.

SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being

The life expectancy in Haiti is staggering low and far behind the rest of the world at only 63 years old.

  • The Issue: For every 100,000 live births, nearly 500 mothers die during childbirth. For every 1,000 live births, 62.8 children are expected to die before reaching the age of 5. In 2016, about 150,000 Haitians were living with HIV.
  • The Progress: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opened an office in Haiti in 2002. The CDC’s impact in Haiti increased HIV testing to 98% for all pregnant women who visited health facilities. Haiti now boasts one of the highest tuberculosis treatment success rates in Latin America and the Caribbean at 82%. Additionally, the Haiti Animal Surveillance Program decreased the likelihood of dying from rabies by 60%.

SDG 4: Quality Education

The average Haitian 25 years or older has completed less than five years of school.

  • The Issue: Illiteracy plagues nearly 40% of the adult population. Approximately 75% of teachers do not have any training or credentials. Most Haitian children spend less than four years in school and 35% of them never learn to read.
  • The Progress: Between 1993 and 2011, the net enrollment rate rose from 47% to 88%. The United States Agency for International Development has spearheaded several academic initiatives to combat poverty in Haiti with the goal of providing internationally-approved reading curricula to 28,000 children and 900 teachers.

SDG 5: Gender Equality

Women face inequality every day in social, political and economic spheres.

  • The Issue: Gender-based violence (GBV) rates are extremely high in Haiti. At least one in three women between the ages of 15 and 49 has experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Rape only recently became a punishable offense in 2005, however, spousal rape is still not recognized as a crime.
  • The Progress: USAID seeks to increase female empowerment through economic opportunities. Some 53% of the 27,000 jobs created through USAID programs benefited women. Women also receive about 43% of Homeownership and Mortgage Expansion Program housing loans. In 2019, USAID announced its Building Enduring Systems To End Trafficking in Persons project, which intends to create a GBV-free Haitian society.

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Poor water and sanitation are the root causes of neglected tropical disease outbreaks.

  • The Issue: Only 65% of Haiti’s population can access clean water. Furthermore, only 35% of the population has access to basic sanitation.
  • The Progress: Sanitation improvements have eliminated cholera in Haiti, with no new cases since February 2019. By 2022, USAID plans to provide basic sanitation to 75,000 Haitians and clean water access to 250,000 people.

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

Poverty in Haiti is not evenly distributed. Haiti suffers some of the greatest wealth disparities in Latin America.

  • The Issue: Between 2000 and 2012, extreme poverty in Haiti decreased from 31% to 24% in cities and urban areas, however, there was no change in rural areas. More than 64% of the total wealth is held by the wealthiest 20% of the population, while the most impoverished 20% struggle to hold 1%.
  • The Progress: Major challenges still remain for Haiti. However, the wealth gap is slowly closing. Haiti’s Gini coefficient (a standard measure of economic inequality) decreased by almost 20 points between 2015 and 2017.

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Haiti ranks fourth among the countries most affected by extreme weather events.

  • The Issue: In the last 20 years, Haiti lost 17.5% of its GDP annually due to natural disasters, making sustainable cities and communities one of Haiti’s most important SDGs.
  • The Progress: The recurring natural disasters in Haiti further exacerbate the economic and political struggles and disparities. To create a more resilient nation, Haiti adopted the National Risk and Disaster Management Plan 2019-2030. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of several projects.

Looking Ahead

Haiti has undoubtedly experienced more success in some areas than others. The nation must overcome major challenges to meet Haiti’s most important SDGs by 2030. Although the country still has a long way to go, Haiti is making significant progress for a nation plagued by natural disasters, uncertainty and instability.

– Ella LeRoy
Photo: Flickr

SDG 14 in Germany
Germany is aiming to fulfill Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Life Below Water while also strengthening its maritime economy. The country passed an agenda that aims to bolster the industry and simultaneously provide clean energy throughout national and international waters by 2025. While aquaculture remains a small component of Germany’s maritime sector, the country is hoping to incorporate clean, sustainable energy tactics and preserve quality maritime food production. Here are some updates on SDG 14 in Germany.

About the Sustainable Development Goals

The month of June 2021 served as the focal point for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 13: Climate Action; 14: Life Below Water; and 15: Life on Land. Germany is one of many countries dedicating its resources and research to fulfilling the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda. Adopted by all U.N. Member States in 2015, it includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for each state to reach by 2030.

Germany’s focus is on SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being; SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production; and SDGs 13, 14 and 15. SDG 14 calls upon countries to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, countries’ efforts to complete SDG 14 did not diminish. According to the U.N., the ocean can be an ally against COVID-19, as marine life – such as bacteria – are useful in detecting the presence of the virus through rapid tests. Organisms in the ocean are also an asset to pharmaceutical companies when developing vaccines and immunizations.

Updates on SDG 14 in Germany in 2021

Surprisingly, only 10% of the German population had knowledge of the SDGs in 2018, according to the European Environmental Agency. The country needed public support from the population to complete the environmental SDGs, including SDG 14. The German federal government created a campaign to draw attention to the goals and outline the importance of sustainable energy in Germany, particularly in the maritime sector.

The government also created the German Sustainable Development Strategy in 2016 to match the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda, which tracks the country’s progress in completing SDG 13, 14 and 15, specifically. The Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development launched plans for marine conservation and sustainable fisheries with an allocation of over €180 million and also created MAREN, a federal research and development program. The “N” stands for Nachhaltigkeit (sustainability).

Currently, Germany’s overall score for all the SDGs is 82.5, compared to the regional average of 77.2. However, the country is below 75% for achieving SDG 12, 13 and 14. The country is facing significant challenges to achieve SDG 14 but is moderately improving as time goes on.

The United Nations reported that in 2020, the mean protected area coverage for marine life sat at 44% globally. As of February 2021, Germany reported a protection rate of 69.4% regarding the country’s areas important to marine life biodiversity. A member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Germany holds an international spillover index of 60.4, almost 10 points behind the 70.1 average for OECD members.

How Germany is Improving in Regard to SDG 14

Among the six indicators for SDG 14, Germany is improving in two areas. The amount of fish that fishermen caught from overexploited or collapsed stocks – 46.6% as of 2014 – remains a significant challenge for the country, despite Germany’s progress towards achieving SDG 14. Fishing by trawling or dredging (21.3 as of 2016) is a slight challenge, but also is improving at an SDG-approved rate.

Germany’s most significant challenge is achieving a clean waters score in the Ocean Health Index. The index measures to what degree chemicals, human pathogens and trash contaminated marine waters. The country’s score is 51.0, with 0 being the worst and 100 being the best.

According to a 2020 report from the Ocean Health Index, the decrease in Germany’s score comes from three areas: Clean Water, Food Provisions and Fisheries (a subgroup of Food Provisions). While Germany is not one of the top 10 countries for fish provisions and aquaculture, these three areas directly correspond to the success of Germany’s maritime industry.

The Situation in Bremen

Bremen is one of Germany’s forefront maritime cities, with a long history of shipbuilding companies and suppliers. It is the second-largest port in Germany and is important to the job industry. In 2019, Bremen was home to 1,300 companies and at least 40,000 employees. Bremen’s ports make up 30% of the region’s economy.

In the same year, Bremen had the highest poverty risk rates in Germany, sitting at 22.7%, compared to Bayern, which had a poverty risk rate of 11.7%, and Berlin, with a rate of 18.2%. In 2020, Bremen’s percentage increased to 24.9%. According to Deutsche Welle, in 2017, one in every four adults and one in every three children in Bremen were poor. Bremen has experienced significant unemployment. In fact, it had a 5.1% unemployment rate in 2019. Improving the maritime industry with SDG 14 efforts could lower the poverty risk in maritime cities such as Bremen, by providing jobs and boosting the economy as a whole.

How the Maritime Industry is Important to the German Economy

Strengthening Germany’s maritime economy is vital to the country’s success. Estimates from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy have placed an annual turnover at €50 billion and 400,000 jobs. The Ministry is researching effective methods to improve the maritime sector while also adhering to efforts towards sustainable energy, mitigating environmental challenges, creating jobs and protecting the global environment.

In 2017, Germany’s Federal Cabinet approved the Maritime Agenda 2025, dedicated to turning the country into a maritime hub. The agenda placed emphasis on sustainability. The federal government will set aside funding for clean energy fuel sources and ship propulsion systems. The agenda also calls upon the international system to develop environmental standards similar to that of the SDGs. Area of action four of the agenda focuses on shaping maritime transport sustainability. In 2013, the federal government presented options for alternative fuels and new, energy-saving technologies that can support those fuels.

Wind Energy

One of the options includes wind power. As of June 7, 2021, Germany plans to expand offshore wind power in the Baltic and North Seas, particularly along with Dogger Bank, which sits in the middle of the North Sea. Building offshore wind turbines is a significant step in Germany’s progress toward reaching SDG 14 and its Maritime Agenda 2025. Using sea winds as a renewable energy source was the last of the new alternative technologies that emerged as part of the environmental plan for sustainable energy in Germany.

Various environmental groups raised concerns about how the introduction of turbines on the Dogger Bank will affect marine life and fisheries in the area. Germany created co-use options that will both provide sustainable energy for Germany and allow fish to pass through fish traps, baskets and nets. By 2030, one area in both the Baltic and North Seas undergo designation as a priority area for wind energy.

German wind farms in the North Sea have already safely produced more electricity than in years prior. It is clear that progress in creating sustainable energy in Germany is moving in a positive direction, bringing the country closer to achieving its goal of reaching SDG 14 in Germany.

– Rachel Schilke
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in NigeriaAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.” In 2019, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria exposure. Despite being preventable and curable, there were still a staggering 229 million global cases and 409,000 malaria-related deaths. With a population of around 201 million people at the time, Nigeria accounted for 23% of those deaths. Children under 5 are especially vulnerable and constituted 67% of all malaria deaths in 2019. Though malaria is present in various tropical areas around the world, Africa accounts for 94% of malaria cases and deaths, with Nigeria maintaining the highest percentage of both.

GBCHealth

GBCHealth is a partnership of companies and organizations that invest resources into improving global health. The nonprofit encourages its network to use its power and resources to progress the health of society and achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in innovative ways.

One of the organization’s initiatives to eliminate malaria is the implementation of the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA). CAMA serves as a platform for African corporations to share successful approaches, create new alliances, gain visibility and advocate for malaria control and prevention across Africa. The initiative also acts as a networking forum for businesses to engage and develop relations with key government and civil society stakeholders whose focus is combating malaria. GBCHealth stated that “CAMA companies both lead and support innovative malaria prevention, control and treatment activities and collectively deploy millions of dollars to programs that serve the needs of malaria-affected people and communities.”

Status of Malaria

Despite the improvements in malaria control over the past decade, long-term success in reaching the WHO Global Technical Strategy goals for Malaria 2016-2030 is still far off. The 2020 World Malaria Report stressed that countries in Africa continue to struggle to make significant or consistent gains in the fight against malaria. In 2006, Marathon Oil launched CAMA in Nigeria with members such as Chevron, Access Bank, ExxonMobil, The Aliko Dangote Foundation and Vestergaard. The alliance works with global partners, including The Roll Back Malaria Partnership and The Global Fund, to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Together, these organizations are making strides in the fight against malaria.

CAMA Strategic Plan

CAMA’s 2021-2023 Strategic Plan aims to improve awareness and scale up prevention efforts through private sector initiatives. The End Malaria Project, a major initiative under the new strategic plan, will increase private sector resources in Nigeria and then expand to other high-burden countries, rescuing 50,000 lives in Africa. The project will further the government’s efforts in achieving a malaria-free Nigeria by 2023 and channel private sector resources and capabilities into reducing the incidence and prevalence of malaria in the most endemic communities in Nigeria.

Although malaria has presented a significant challenge to Nigeria, the country is benefiting from the work of GBCHealth. Through its efforts, Nigeria is well on its way to becoming free of malaria.

– Nelia Blackman
Photo: Flickr

Private Sector BusinessesThe U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be met by 2030, are 17 goals aimed at increasing environmental and socially sustainable solutions to poverty, inequality and injustice, among other things. The goals are both ambitious and achievable but funding gaps hamper the progress of these goals. Through conscious investments toward SDGs, private sector businesses could close this gap. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres calls on business leaders to use their positions of power, finance and influence to help meet the SDGs, to the benefit of the entire globe.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the U.N. created 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. The overarching aim of the SDGs is, “peace and prosperity for people and the planet.”

The goals principally involve less discrimination worldwide, eliminating poverty, giving more individuals more economic and educational success, increased justice, prioritizing the environment, improving global health and more.

The SDGs are meant for everyone to tackle, from the average person to national governments and major corporations such as private sector businesses.

The Need for SDG Funding

Reaching all 17 SDGs by 2030 will cost between $5-7 trillion per year, according to the United Nations. Although in 2016, development assistance funds hit a high of $142.6 billion, there is still a need for a much greater infusion of funds and a significant need for the support of private sector businesses.

The lack of available funds from the public sector, specifically, is the main reason why there has not been more progress toward the SDGs. Public sector sources of funding are predominantly national governments and government organizations.

Referencing this lack of funding, Guterres lamented the lack of progress made toward the SDGs and urged business leaders in the private sector to step up. “We need business leaders to use their enormous influence to push for inclusive growth and opportunities,” states Guterres. “No one business can afford to ignore this effort and there is no global goal that cannot benefit from private sector investment.”

Businesses Leading Change Through SDGs

Because there is an apparent need for more corporations to invest in SDGs, it is important to recognize those businesses fighting poverty through a commitment to achieving the SDGs.

The U.N. and 30 leaders of multinational companies created the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance in September 2019. They immediately began supporting initiatives for clean energy in Latin America, Africa and Asia, among other goals.

The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative drafted the Principles for Responsible Banking to serve as guidelines for banks to commit themselves to the SDGs. Worldwide, more than 200 banks have committed to these principles. This figure represents more than one-third of the global banking industry. The signatory banks must report on their achievements, goals and growth regarding the principles. They must also accomplish all principle requirements within a set timeline. This ensures tangible strides toward actualizing the SDGs.

The company, PepsiCo, is also making good strides with the SDGs. It is committed to multiple projects in agreement with specific SDGs. The company established a “Green Bond” worth $1 billion in 2019 to do so.

A notable project is the company’s aspiration to restore 100% of the water it uses for manufacturing to areas that are “high water risk.” It aims to do this by water reuse and recycling initiatives, supplying smallholder farmworkers with “water-saving technologies” and sustainable agricultural techniques. PepsiCo cites SDG 6, “Clean Water and Sanitation,” SDG 15, “Life on Land” and SDG 12, “Responsible Consumption and Production,” as aligning with this particular objective.

The Contribution of Foundations

Private sector businesses fighting poverty go beyond business transactions and profitable decisions. Many companies commit to progressing the SDGs by supporting foundations. Top contributing foundations include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund and Gothic Corporation. Total global funding for the SDGs from foundations is upwards of $216 billion.

All these examples of private sector businesses committing to the SDGs prove it is a worthwhile endeavor that needs support on a broad scale. In the words of Guterres, “Corporate leadership can make all the difference to creating a future of peace, stability and prosperity on a healthy planet.”

Claire Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Ending Poverty, Updates on the SDGs in BoliviaThe first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” and requires every nation to develop a comprehensive plan to address systemic problems that contribute to the creation of poverty. This requires international cooperation. Although the United States appears to be a likely ally in Bolivia’s effort to eradicate poverty and accomplish its SDGs, America’s relationship with Bolivia has historically been imperfect.

Background

In the 1970s, economists from the University of Chicago drove Bolivia’s economy into the ground with a series of free-market reforms that generated widespread poverty. More recently, the United States was accused of participating in a coup that led to the removal of President Evo Morales. Compared with less affluent nations, America’s disproportionate influence with the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund is worrisome to less influential nations, like Bolivia.

Bolivian officials brought their criticisms of the language used to write the introduction and preamble of the U.N.’s sustainable development goals to the U.N.’s attention, and revisions were made. Their chief complaint was, “That the preamble and the introductory section of the proposed document are setting out a western and anthropocentric mindset of the world, reinforcing a mindset which has originated the current problems of the world for not achieving sustainable development.”

This called into question the U.N.’s ability, functioning as it currently does, to address the global poverty and environmental crises.

National SDG Progress in 2021

Every few years, a group of U.N. member nations volunteer to present their progress on SDG goals. In July 2021, Bolivia will be among four other nations to present for the first time during the U.N. High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). This demonstrates Bolivia’s eagerness to cooperate with the U.N., despite stated differences in perspective and approach.

The first SDG goal will be emphasized by the forum, as well as goals 10, 12 and 13. These last three goals deal with issues related to ethnic diversity and environmental sustainability, which are at the forefront of Bolivia’s national development policy. Significantly, as a first-time presenter, Bolivia will have half an hour to present to the forum.

Rosa Vera Fund

As part of its updates on the first SDG goal in Bolivia to the United Nations, perhaps Bolivia will summarize the work done by the Rosa Vera Fund, which provides physical therapy to Bolivian children with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and physical disabilities. Through physical therapy, the Rosa Vera Fund ultimately helps children with physical disabilities lead lives with greater economic independence. In the short term, the Rosa Vera Fund works with children during hours when their mothers are at work, thus freeing many Bolivian women from the obligation to take care of their children during the day. This program leads to immediate and long term benefits for Bolivian workers.

In partnership with the Consejo de Salud Rural Andino Montero, the Rosa Vera Fund was established in 2005. It provides essential care to approximately 60,000 patients in Montero. While its impact cannot be measured in rough trends, the Rosa Vera Fund has impacted thousands of Bolivians’ lives. Its work seeks to reduce poverty rates for Bolivians with physical disabilities, as well as poverty rates for the mothers of Bolivian children with physical disabilities.

Recently, the Rosa Vera Fund acknowledged that it faced obstacles when it delivered service to its clients because of widespread unrest in Montero after the removal of President Evo Morales. The updates about the SDGs in Bolivia indicate some of the historical precedents for political unrest in Bolivia.

Regardless of political strife, the Rosa Vera Fund is confident in the ongoing viability of its mission: “As future political changes unfold, we are confident that the Rosa Vera Fund will be able to weather the storm and just keep plugging along, doing what we do best: Provide medical care and social interventions for children with special health care needs, who have no other options.”

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

SDG Goal 1 in Switzerland
Switzerland is a landlocked nation, directly intertwined within Europe’s great powers: it borders Italy to its south, France to the west, Germany to the north and Liechtenstein and Austria to the east. Switzerland is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, ranking consistently among the highest of all nations with regards to GDP per capita at roughly $82,000 in comparison to a global average of slightly under $11,500. It is also home to excellent infrastructure and a reputation for timeliness. Moreover, it can boast that it is one of the few nations that has actually managed to have eradicated poverty within its borders according to Sustainable Development Goal 1. Here is some information about SDG Goal 1 in Switzerland.

Sustainable Development Goal 1 and Income in Switzerland

Part of Sustainable Development Goal 1 prioritizes increasing incomes of people across the world, such that they may work to earn at least $1.90 per day. Switzerland has found massive success reaching SDG Goal 1 in Switzerland: according to the 2020 Sustainable Development report, less than 0.1% of all Swiss citizens fall into this category. Indeed, when expanding the scope of the Goal and its expectations to $3.20 per day, Switzerland still maintains a rate of less than 0.1% of its citizens living within this category. 

If anything, this is a testament to the Swiss tradition of higher education. Studies have demonstrated that higher education frequently leads to higher incomes, resulting in Swiss policymakers improving access to, and quality of, education throughout the nation. Indeed, Swiss schools are receiving recognition as among the best in the world at every level: elementary, secondary and post-secondary. Given the role of education in breaking the cycle of poverty, Swiss excellence in education has been remarkable in establishing the nation’s role as a major financial hub across the world.

The Veil of SDG Goal 1 in Switzerland

However, even if one thinks that poverty does not exist in Switzerland, it is extremely real and is largely a function of the country’s extremely high cost of living. In the canton of Geneva, a law passed requiring a $25 per hour minimum wage, the highest in the world. The push for Switzerland to implement this wage was largely as a result of exacerbated inequalities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Likewise, while the 2020 Sustainable Development report notes that the poverty rate after taxes and transfers has decreased over time — a sign that the welfare system, as well as the overall governance of Switzerland, is extremely strong — it still stood at 9.1% as of 2015, the last year data was available.

Swiss Solidarity

Non-governmental organizations have been present in Switzerland to help its most vulnerable citizens get out of poverty. Swiss Solidarity, an umbrella organization working to coordinate the efforts of 26 smaller groups, has donated more than 50 million Swiss francs to improving the lives of Swiss citizens throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This money focused on buying more temporary housing for the homeless during the pandemic, as well as the elderly and those facing a precarious financial situation prior to the pandemic.

The scope of Sustainable Development Goal 1 is so narrow, only measuring nations by the number of people living under $1.90 per day, $3.20 per day and the post-taxes and transfers poverty rate. If one looks at poverty through the lens of Sustainable Development Goal 1, then,  it appears that Switzerland has completely eradicated every single form of inequality and poverty within the nation. However, that is simply untrue, as nearly 10% of Swiss people can attest to.

– Alexander Bloukos
Photo: Flickr

SDG Goal 1The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 U.N. goals aiming to achieve global sustainability through smaller subgoals like eradicating poverty and moving toward clean energy. Member states of the U.N. aim to achieve all of the SDGs by 2030. Goal 1, in particular, hopes to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.” In recent times, achieving the SDGs by the target date has become uncertain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Canada has shown progress in meeting SDG Goal 1.

Poverty Overview

Canada is the second-largest country in the world by land area. The country has a universal healthcare system and a high standard of living. Despite this, the country is not immune to poverty. In 2018, 5.4% of Canadians were experiencing deep income poverty, which means having an income below 75% of Canada’s official poverty threshold. In addition, Canada’s indigenous population, which make up around 5% of the population, are often subject to extreme political and societal marginalization, making them more susceptible to poverty and homelessness.

Poverty remains a reality in Canada, in spite of its reputable presence on the global stage. The country has not yet met SDG Goal 1 but continues to make efforts toward it. The Canadian Government has developed several initiatives and allocated resources to attempt to meet these goals. In 2018, a budget of $49.4 million spread over 13 years was approved to help meet the SDGs.

Tracking Canada’s Poverty Progress

The Canadian Government has been funding and supporting numerous initiatives to alleviate poverty in the country. In total, since 2015, the Canadian Government has invested $22 billion in efforts to alleviate poverty and grow the middle-class. The results have been positive. In 2015, the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy resolved to reduce poverty by 20% before 2020. The 2015 poverty rate was 12% and this strategy aimed to achieve a 10% poverty rate by 2020. Canada achieved this goal in 2017 when the Canadian Income Report reported that the country had reached its lowest poverty rate in history.

These improvements are due to several poverty reduction initiatives. Canada’s Guaranteed Income Supplement, for example, provides monetary assistance to senior citizens with low incomes, preventing them from falling into poverty. The reforms also introduced the Canada Child Benefit, granting families with young children more financial assistance. Additionally, the Canada Workers Benefit was introduced with an aim to lift 74,000 people out of poverty.

The Canadian Government has also resolved to aid its indigenous populations. In 2010, just over 7% of individuals who identified as indigenous were found to make less than $10,000 annually. Recent government initiatives have attempted to remedy these poverty gaps, including the National Housing Strategy’s promise to help indigenous populations.

Looking Forward

While Canada is yet to meet SDG Goal 1, the country has made substantial progress in reducing poverty. As of 2018, the poverty rate was measured to be 8.7%, a decrease from the 12% poverty rate in 2015. Increased poverty-related challenges are apparent as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens people’s economic security. Still, however, the data on Canada’s progress shows just how much the country has done in the fight against poverty and the positive impact of its poverty reduction initiatives.

Maggie Sun
Photo: Flickr

SDG 8 in India 
The Sustainable Development Goal 8 aims for the promotion of “sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” In India, the government has launched various schemes to ensure that people, especially the youth, receive sustainable work opportunities through programs like Make in India, Startup India, Skill India and Digital India. Here are some updates on SDG 8 in India, and in particular, what its performance has been regarding each indicator pertaining to the goal.

Indicators Regarding SDG 8 in India  

  1. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Per Capita: One of the major indicators of the goal is the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, and in the least developed countries, it should be 7% per annum. In 2019, India’s GDP growth per capita was at 4%. The major share in the growth of GDP in India is from the service sector, which is more than half. This model is useful in countries with less population. With a population of over 1.3 billion, there is a need to create opportunities in the manufacturing sector. 
  2. GDP Per Capita Growth Rate Per Employed Person: GDP per capita growth rate per employed person is the second indicator to achieve economic productivity by making technological advances, diversifying and innovating, through a focus on adding a high-value labor force. This indicator gauges the annual change in the real GDP per employed person and captures the change in the productivity of a country’s labor force and the use of resources. India experienced a 5.8% increase in the GDP per capita growth rate per employed person in 2018.
  3. Informal Employment: The third extremely important indicator captures informal employment which is defined as the “proportion of informal employment in non-agriculture employment, by sex.” This is an extremely important goal as according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 81% of the population has employment in the informal sector. This goal interconnects with the fifth Sustainable Development Goal of gender equality. Rural poor women are participating in Self Help Groups (SHGs) and obtaining support to participate in economic activities through services such as savings, credit and livelihoods support. According to reports from the World Bank, 67 million women are mobilized into 6 million women’s Self-Help Groups in this flagship program to reduce poverty and empower women. To promote women’s entrepreneurship, under the startup India scheme, some have undertaken policies and initiatives to create networks and empower women.   
  4. Ease of Doing Business: The performance of India in ease of doing business is mediocre with a rank of 49 out of 190 countries based on data benchmarked to May 2019. A higher rank indicates a more conducive regulatory environment that allows ease in initiating and operating a local firm. The rank is based on aggregate scores on several topics like working to start a business, obtaining electricity and several others. It is imperative to work towards providing a better space for doing business to allow foreign direct investment (FDI), which would further create work opportunities and generate employment.   

Looking Ahead

The COVID-19 pandemic brings to focus the need to invest in the skills of people to ensure stability in work. India faced a major challenge during the March-April 2020 lockdown where millions of laborers migrated from cities to their villages due to work instability and lack of opportunities. Generating employment opportunities, robust infrastructure, empowerment of the informal workers and bridging the gender gap in earnings are areas that require immediate attention to achieve SDG 8 in India.    

– Anandita Bardia
Photo: Flickr

updates on sdg goal 15 in mauritiusMauritius is an island nation of 1.3 million people situated in the Indian Ocean about 700 miles to the east of Madagascar. The island is home to incredibly unique and rare species found nowhere else on the planet, although many have gone extinct in recent decades. One of Earth’s most famous extinct species, the dodo, was a flightless bird endemic to Mauritius. Unfortunately, updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius reveal ongoing problems for biodiversity in the country.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, Life on Land, tracks each nation’s attempt to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.” For this goal, Mauritius has the dire U.N. classification of “major challenges remain.” Still, valiant organizations are striving to protect the stunning species and ecosystems found in Mauritius. Here are four updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius.

4 Updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius

  1. The mean area protected in terrestrial sites is important to biodiversity. This statistic is particularly important in Mauritius’s case due to the array of endemic species found on the island. The average area protected for these crucial sites is just over 9%. However, limited protection poses major challenges for protecting biodiversity and preventing native species from going extinct. Despite the efforts of groups like the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, the average protected area has risen by less than 1% since 2000. The fascinating species found within these habitats, like the extraordinary Mauritian flying fox, contribute to the beauty and wonder of the natural world. This may disappear if protected areas do not grow.
  2. Mauritius’ score on the Red List of species survival is getting worse. The Red List measures “the change in aggregate extinction risk across groups of species” with zero being the worst rating and one being the best. Mauritius comes in at 0.39 with its score decreasing steadily each year. Unfortunately, more and more species in Mauritius go extinct every year. There are, however, some success stories. For example, the Saint Telfair’s skink is an abnormally large species of skink (a type of lizard) only found on islands off the coast of Mauritius. The skink used to be dangerously near-extinct, with just 5,000 individuals. But the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust‘s careful recovery efforts have raised the population to 50,000 individuals. Thus, NGOs are fighting to save species from extinction in Mauritius.
  3. Mauritius struggles with the effects of permanent deforestation. This phenomenon occurs when people cut down trees for urbanization or agriculture with no plan to re-plant them. Updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius are the most positive for this statistic. However, challenges remain, as less than 2% of Mauritius’ original forest coverage survives. According to Douglas Adams in “Last Chance to See,” “[v]ast swathes of the Mauritius forest have been destroyed to provide space to grow a cash crop [sugar] which in turn destroys our teeth.” Thankfully, NGOs like Fondation Ressources et Nature are carrying out reforestation projects in Mauritian biodiversity hotspots. The One Million Trees Project also aims to plant one million trees in Mauritius by 2030.
  4. Imports threaten terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity in Mauritius. There is only one nation (Guyana) in the entire world that has a worse ranking than Mauritius in this category. Industrialized nations like the U.S., Canada, Japan and many E.U. countries also struggle with this goal. However, none come close to Mauritius’s ranking. Furthermore, imports that threaten biodiversity in Mauritius only compound the rest of the island’s ecological problems.

Moving Forward

Overall, the forecast for life on land and in Mauritius is grim. Biodiversity hotspots are severely threatened, leading to more species going extinct each year. Additionally, permanent deforestation decimates habitats, and Mauritians’ dependence on imports ravages native species. The country needs to make a concerted effort to save its amazing organisms and environments found nowhere else on Earth. Organizations like the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation are already doing this work, and they could use more international support if Mauritius is to progress on SDG Goal 15.

Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Needpix