Nationalistic ‘my country first’ approach is threatening global goals, says UN, as US and China lag

Resurgent nationalism and protectionism may be putting sustainable development at risk

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 12:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 10:43pm

Nationalism, protectionism and attitudes of “my country first” pose threats to the United Nation’s global goals, said a report on Thursday that showed the United States, Russia and China lagging in efforts to meet the ambitious agenda for 2030.

Scandinavian countries are leading the way among 157 nations ranked by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German social responsibility foundation.

But income inequality, high consumption levels and carbon emissions put the United States at No 42 in the list while Russia was ranked 62nd and China 71st.

The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, were approved in September 2015 by the 193 UN members as a road map to tackle the world’s most troubling problems by 2030.

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The 17 goals, and their accompanying 169 targets, range from halting deforestation to raising living standards, reducing child mortality and promoting global peace. The cost of their enactment has been estimated at US$3 trillion a year.

The SDSN, a UN-connected group that promotes the SDGs, said the world’s most powerful nations are failing to lead the way.

“A rising ‘my country first’ approach by many heads of government threatens the realisation of the SDGs,” it said in a statement released with the report.

“Not only does a rising trend of nationalism and protectionism impede the implementation of the goals, but as the report shows, industrialised countries are not serving as role models,” it said. “Many of the richest countries in the world are nowhere near achieving the global policy objectives.”

Using extensive data and information submitted by nations, the report noted so-called spillovers have a major impact on measuring progress among nations.

For example pollution caused in one nation can harm water quality in another or weapons production in one nation affects peace and security elsewhere.

At the top of the list were Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, with Germany and France also in the top 10. Britain was 16th and Canada 17th.

At the bottom were Central African Republic, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with a cluster of developing nations plagued by food insecurity, extreme poverty, lack of education and violent conflict.

Release of the report comes ahead of the G20 summit on Friday in Hamburg, a global forum where German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host world leaders including US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The progress report’s results “highlight the need for urgent action on the part of G20 countries in making sustainable development a reality both within and beyond their borders,” said Jeffrey Sachs, SDSN director, in a statement.

“If the world is to achieve the SDGs, all countries must take up the goals as part of their national development strategies and ensure that they take responsibility for their impact on the rest of the world.”