Report of the Secretary-General on the Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (E/2018/64)

Friday, May 18, 2018
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In accordance with General Assembly decision 70/1, the Secretary-General, in cooperation with the United Nations system, has the.honour to transmit the 2018 report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. This report provides a global overview of the current situation of the Sustainable Development Goals, based on the latest available data for indicators in the global indicator framework.

The report can be found at:


Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

While some forms of discrimination against women and girls are declining, gender inequality continues hold women back and deprives them of basic rights and opportunities. Empowering women requires addressing structural issues such as unfair social norms and attitudes, and progressive legal frameworks that put men and women at the same level.  

Based on data from 2005 to 2016 in 56 countries, 1 in 5 ever-partnered adolescent girls aged 15-19 have already experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to the survey. 

New data confirm that the practice of child marriage has continued to decline around the world, largely driven by the progress in Southern Asia; in this region, a girl’s risk of marrying in childhood has declined by over 40 per cent since around 2000. Globally around 2017, about 21 per cent of women between 20 and 24 years were married or in a union before the age of 18. 

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation affecting girls and women worldwide, but especially in communities where it persists as a social norm. On average, around one in three girls aged 15 to 19 have been subjected to FGM in the 30 countries where the practice is concentrated around 2017, compared to nearly one in two around 2000. 

Based on data from about 90 countries, between 2000 and 2016, on an average day, women spend about three times as many hours in unpaid domestic and care work as men, and significantly more if they have children. 

Globally, the percentage of women in single or lower houses of national parliament has increased from 19 per cent in 2010 to around 23 per cent in 2018, with the lowest rate in Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand) at 5.6 per cent, and the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean at around 30 per cent. 

In three-quarters of the 79 countries with data available around 2016, less than 38 per cent of senior and middle management positions are occupied by women, with the lowest rate in Northern Africa and Western Asia and in Central and Southern Asia. 

Women's and girls’ right to make key decisions over sexual relations, contraceptive use and access to sexual and reproductive health services is key to their well-being. Based on latest available data for 47 countries from 2007 to 2016, just over half (53 percent) of women aged 15 to 49 years married or in union make their own informed decisions about these issues. 

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels 

Many regions of the world suffer critically from armed conflict or other forms of violence that occur within societies and at the domestic level. Advancements in promoting the rule of law and access to justice are uneven. However, progress is being made in regulations to promote public access to information, albeit slowly, and in strengthening institutions upholding human rights at the national level. 

Despite their detrimental and long-lasting impact, violent forms of discipline against children are widespread. Nearly 8 in 10 children aged 1-14 years were subjected to some form of psychological aggression and/or physical punishment at home on a regular basis in 81 countries (primarily developing countries) with available data from 2005 to 2017. 

More than 570 different trafficking in persons flows were detected between 2012 and 2014, affecting all regions and many involving moving from lower to higher-income countries. In 2014, the majority of detected victims of trafficking were women and girls (71 per cent) and about 28 per cent (20 per cent girls and 8 per cent boys) were children. In sub-Saharan Africa, 64 per cent of detected victims were children. Over 90 per cent victims detected were trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labour. 

Globally, the proportion of prisoners held in detention without being sentenced for a crime has remained almost constant in the last decade (32 per cent in 2003-2005 to 31 per cent in 2014-2016). Some progress has been made in parts of Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Globally, almost one out of five firms are exposed to a bribe request when dealing with regulatory and utility transactions, with a regional variation from fewer than 10 per cent of firms in North America and Latin America and the Caribbean to 28 per cent in Central Asia and Southern Asia and in Eastern Asia and South-Eastern Asia. 

Birth registration plays a primary role in ensuring individual rights and access to justice and social services. Even if many regions have reached universal or near universal birth registration, globally the average is just 73 per cent. Fewer than half (46 per cent) of all children under 5 in sub-Saharan Africa have had their births registered. 

At least 1019 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists have been killed in 61 countries across the world since 2015. This is equivalent to one person killed every day while working to inform the public and build a world free from fear and want. Among these victims were environmental defenders, indigenous peoples, community and labour leaders, minority rights advocates, reporters and bloggers. 

Freedom-of-information laws and policies have been adopted by 116 countries, with at least 25 countries adopting such laws over the past five years. Expert assessments, however, suggest that implementation remains a challenge. Among the 109 countries with implementation data, only 76 countries had sufficient provisions for requesting procedures, including those relating to clear and relatively simple procedures; clear and reasonable maximum timelines; and assistance provided by public officials to requesters. 

More than half of countries (116 of 197) had an National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) that had been reviewed for compliance with internationally agreed standards (the Paris Principles) by their peers since 1998. Only 75 out of these 116 countries have fully compliant NHRIs. 

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development 

Goal 17 seeks to strengthen global partnerships to support and achieve the ambitious targets of the 2030 Agenda, bringing together national governments, international community, civil society, the private sector, and other actors. Despite some advances in certain areas, more needs to be done to accelerate progress. All stakeholders will have to intensify and focus their efforts on the areas where progress has been slow. 


Taxation is an important instrument in financing domestic development activities. However, the regions most in need of resources still face challenges collecting taxes. The rate of taxation (ratio of tax revenue to GDP) in the LDCs declined from the peak of 11.1 per cent in 2012 to 8.8 per cent in 2016. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa faced a similar trend: a decline from 14.9 per cent in 2006 to 10.7 per cent in 2016. 

In 2017, net ODA from member countries of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) totaled $146.6 billion, a decrease of 0.6 per cent from 2016 level in real terms. ODA as a share of donors’ gross national income (GNI) remained low at 0.31 per cent. Only five DAC countries – Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom – met or exceeded the United Nations benchmark for ODA contributions of at least 0.7 per cent of GNI. 

Remittances sent by international migrants to their home countries in the form of personal transfers and compensation of employees have declined to $538 billion (0.72 per cent of global GDP) in 2016 from $555 billion in 2015. Recent trend of stricter immigration policies in many migrant-destination countries continue to constrain the flow of remittances. 

Debt service as a proportion of exports of goods and services has been on the rise for five consecutive years in LDCs: from a low of 3.5 per cent in 2011 to 8.6 per cent in 2016. The recent upward trend followed a decade-long decline in debt service from its height of 13.4 per cent in 2001. The ability to sustainably service debts out of export earnings is crucial for countries most in need of resources for development. 

Information and communications technology 

Despite the worldwide increase in fixed-broadband subscriptions, access to high-speed connections remains largely unavailable in the developing countries. In 2016, high-speed fixed-broadband penetration reached 6 per cent of the population in developing countries, compared to 24 per cent in developed countries. Limitations in the capacity and speed of fixed-broadband connections will affect the quality and functionality of this development tool, and widen the already existing inequalities. 


Total ODA for capacity-building and national planning amounted to $20.4 billion in 2016 and represented 18 per cent of total aid allocable by sector, a proportion that has been stable since 2010. Of the total, Latin America and the Caribbean received $5.1 billion, sub-Saharan Africa received $4.6 billion and Southern Asia received $3.8 billion. The three main sectors assisted were public administration, environment and energy, which received a total of $10.2 billion. 


The latest available data show that tariffs applied under preferential trade agreements, which include bilateral and regional free trade agreements, has been declining over time. In 2016, the trade-weighted average preferential tariff rate applied to imports from LDCs was 7.9 per cent, a two-percentage points drop from the 2005 level. For developing regions, the average preferential tariff rate dropped by 1.2 percentage points during the same period. 

The stagnation in global trade since 2011 has been followed and accompanied by a break in the expansion of developing regions' and LDC's world market shares. The developing regions' share in world merchandise exports declined for two consecutive years: from 45.4 per cent in 2014 to 44.2 per cent in 2016, a sharp contrast to an average annual 1.2 percentage point increase between 2001 and 2012. For LDCs, the share of world merchandise exports decreased from 1.1 per cent to 0.9 per cent between 2013 and 2016, compared to the rise from 0.6 per cent to 1.1 per cent between 2000 and 2013. 

Systemic issues 

Development partners should align their support with governments' national development strategies and results frameworks, particularly in fragile countries in respect of countries’ own policy space and path towards sustainable development. In 2016, 82 per cent of new development projects had objectives aligned with national priorities. However, more than half of the projects relied on parallel systems and data to monitor progress and development results, instead of integrating these efforts as part of national statistical and monitoring systems. 

In 2016, 81 developing countries undertook national exercises to monitor development effectiveness, demonstrating their commitment to strengthening the means for SDG implementation and the quality of multi-stakeholder partnerships. Half of the countries showing overall progress are fragile states and SIDS. 

Data, monitoring and accountability 

In 2017, 102 countries or areas were implementing national statistical plans. Sub-Saharan Africa remains at the lead of implementation with 31 countries implementing such plans, however only 3 of them were fully funded. 

In 2015, developing countries received $541 million in financial support from multilateral and bilateral donors for all areas of statistics. This amount accounts for only 0.3 per cent of total ODA, short of what is needed to ensure that countries in developing regions are better equipped to implement and monitor their development agenda. 

Population and housing censuses are a primary source of disaggregated data needed to formulate, implement and monitor development policies and programmes. During the 10-year span from 2008 to 2017, 89 per cent of countries or areas around the world conducted at least one population and housing census. 

The coverage of birth and death registration and completeness of vital statistics remain a challenge, even among countries with functioning civil registration systems. Over the period of 2012-2016, 143 countries have birth registration data that are at least 90 per cent complete and 148 countries have death registration data that are at least 75 per cent complete. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 8 out of 53 countries have birth registration data that are at least 90 per cent complete, and only 9 out of 53 countries have death registration data that are at least 75 per cent complete. 

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Report of the Secretary-General on the Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (E/2018/64)