The UN takes a temperature check

As the 2023 UN General Assembly enters its final day, member nations are trying to find a way to get a passing grade on the world’s hardest group project. 

Driving the news: This year’s assembly has been called a “halftime summit” as the UN checks in on the 17 sustainable development goals it aims to achieve by 2030. At the midway point, UN nations are currently on track to meet *check notes* zero of these goals.

  • Before the assembly convened, UN Secretary General António Guterres pleaded with member nations to come together and devise a “rescue plan” for the goals. 

Catch-up: The far-reaching, ambitious (some have argued too ambitious) set of goals includes everything from ending hunger to achieving gender equality to protecting marine wildlife, with each of the 17 goals divided into a more quantifiable set of sub-targets. 

  • Of the 169 sub-targets that make up the goals, only 15% are on track to succeed, while 48% are off track, and another 37% have stalled or even gotten worse.

Why it matters: The limited progress is indicative of surprise calamities like the pandemic, inflation, and war in Ukraine that have become bigger priorities for UN members. It also represents deteriorating cooperation between nations to work together on big problems. 

Zoom out: Failure to reach these goals won’t just be a symbolic L for the UN — it will mean that over 600 million remain in extreme poverty, average global temperatures will have risen past the 1.5°C benchmark, and attaining gender equality is still 300 years away.—QH