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In September 2019, Heads of State and Governments will convene for the first time in person at the United Nations in New York to review progress on their promises made after four years of working on Agenda 2030. While some countries are slowly moving forward with SDG-focused policies, they are not undergoing the major transformative change that is necessary to successfully achieve the goals by 2030.

“The Sustainable Development Report 2019 calls for six major transformations in every country to address skills and jobs, health, clean energy, biodiversity and land use, cities, and digital technology. All countries have a big job ahead to create SDG roadmaps and strategies for success.” says Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the SDSN.

“There is not much left of the historic promises made four years ago. We have to breathe life into the UN goals and transpose them into concrete measures. Poverty and unjust educational opportunities do not disappear by lip service, but only by action.”, says Aart De Geus, CEO of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

New York, 28 June 2019 – Today, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung published the Sustainable Development Report 2019 including the SDG Index and Dashboards. The report details progress by countries on their achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While not an official monitoring tool, the Sustainable Development Report is complementary to efforts conducted by National Statistical Offices and international organizations to collect and standardize indicators to monitor the SDGs.

Since its launch in 2016, the annual report has provided the most up-to-date data from official sources (including the World Bank, World Health Organization, and International Labor Organization) and non-official data sources (such as research centers and non-governmental organizations). The revised title reflects the inclusion, along with the index and dashboards, of recommended implementation strategies.

Sustainable Development Report 2019

Achieving the SDGs requires major long-term transformations

The concept of “transformative change” is gaining momentum in the research, business, and policy communities due to alarming trends in climate change and biodiversity protection that may soon become irreversible. Rising income and wealth inequalities and unequal access to key services, such as health and education, within countries also call for deep transformations of social, territorial, and fiscal policies. Designing the right mix of transformative policies and balancing short-term and long-term considerations requires the integrated efforts of scientists, engineers, and policy specialists. Broad public support and buy-in are also needed.

Key findings of the Sustainable Development Report 2019 | Presentation of the Key Findings

World nations obtain their worst performance on SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 14 (Life Below Water), and SDG 15 (Life on Land). No country obtains a “green rating” (the report’s indicator for the achievement of an SDG) on SDG 14 (Life Below Water). The authors conclude that sustainable land use and healthy diets require integrated agriculture, climate, and health policy interventions. New indicators on nations’ trophic level and yield gap closure highlight where energy and agricultural efficiency can be strengthened to support sustainable food supply while addressing negative environmental, biodiversity, and health impacts of diets.

High-income countries generate high environmental and socioeconomic spillover effects such as deforestation as a result of palm oil and other fuel commodity demands, tax havens and banking secrecy that undermine a country’s ability to raise public revenues, and tolerance for poor labor standards in international supply chains that harm the poor and women in particular.

Conflicts in many parts of the world continue to lead to reversals in SDG progress. Modern slavery and the share of waiting detainees in prison remain high, particularly in low-income countries. Trends in corruption and freedom of press are worsening in more than 50 countries covered in the report, including several middle income and high-income countries. Eradicating extreme poverty remains a global challenge with half of the world nations not on track for achieving SDG 1 (No Poverty). In middle- and high-income countries, rising income inequalities and persisting gaps in access to services and opportunities by income or territorial area remain important policy issues.

The 2019 SDG Index and Dashboards

The SDG Index and Dashboards summarizes countries’ current performance and trends on the 17 SDGs. This year’s index is topped by Denmark, Sweden and Finland, whereas the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and the Central African Republic rank last among the 162 countries assessed. Since the indicators, data, and methodology have been revised for the 2019 Index, the rankings and scores are not comparable with the 2018, 2017, and 2016 editions. Therefore, a change in a country’s ranking does not necessarily signify a change in its SDG performance. The overall SDG Index score and ranking is sensitive to methodological choices including method of aggregation and weighting. Readers are encouraged to read beyond the summary SDG Index and look at comparative performances at the goal and indicator levels.


Dr. Christian Kroll |
Senior Expert
Bertelsmann Stiftung

Dr. Guido Schmidt-Traub |
Executive Director
Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)

About SDSN

The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) mobilizes scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector to support practical problem solving for sustainable development at local, national, and global scales. The SDSN has been operating since 2012 under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. The SDSN is building national and regional networks of knowledge institutions, solution-focused thematic networks, and the SDG Academy, an online university for sustainable development.

About Bertelsmann Stiftung

The Bertelsmann Stiftung is one of the largest foundations in Germany. It works to promote social inclusion and is committed to advancing this goal through programs that improve education, shape democracy, advance society, promote health, vitalize culture and strengthen economies. The Bertelsmann Stiftung is a non-partisan, private operating foundation.