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Philippines and the Pace of Progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Philippines is one of the 193 UN Member States that have decided to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that was approved on September 25, 2015.

Philippines and the Pace of Progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Agnes in Bulalacao, Philippines

Background of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Tarsier, Philippines

The Philippines is one of the 193 UN Member States that have decided to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that was approved on September 25, 2015. The SDGs are developed on the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and seek to go further to abolish all forms of poverty. The new Goals are unique in that all countries are encouraged to take action and promote prosperity while protecting the planet. It is acknowledged that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve economic growth and tackles a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while addressing climate change and environmental protection. The UN member states, including the Philippines, have all pledged to leave no one behind.

The SDGs and Their Impact on Economy, Society and the Environment

The three areas that the SDGs target are the environment, society and economy. The starting point for all of this is having a healthy environment because if we do not meet the targets on clean water, sanitation, marine life, life on land and climate action, we will be hard pressed to achieve the other higher objectives. The development of society will not commence if the environment is abused and natural resources depleted. The SDGs associated with clean energy, the eradication of poverty and hunger, gender equality and health, serve as a base for the goals that are financial in nature. Supported by a flourishing environment and society, the DSGs from an economic viewpoint are focused on industry, innovation and infrastructure, the reduction of inequality, responsible production and consumption; decent work and growth that do not contribute to environmental deterioration.

SDG Monitoring in the Philippines

After agreeing to the SDGs, the Philippines then immersed in a series of technical and multi-sectoral workshops that aimed to review, discuss and identify the relevant SDG indicators to be monitored. They have assigned the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) as the official repository of SDG indicators in the Philippines which complies and maintains the SDG Watch and SDG Database. They also decided which methodologies to use in estimating the progress in achieving the SDGs.

For the year 2021, the Philippines’ goal was to gain support in the SDG Monitoring by building commitment and massive support through effective collaboration, enactment of statistical policies and monitoring and review. Using the Current Status Index, out of the 17 SDGs, 7 SDGs have progressed (41.18%), 2 SGDs have regressed (11.76%), 6 SDGs have insufficient data (35.29%) and 2 SDGs were not monitored (11.76%). The Anticipated Progress are 4 targets are on track (11.80%), 22 targets need to accelerate (64.70%) and 8 targets are regressing (23.50%). For the Time Distance Measure, 13 main indicators are on Time Lead (41.90%) while 18 main indicators are on Time Lag (58.10%). Challenges encountered by the PSA are about the sufficiency of data, asynchronous reference periods of data inputs, insufficiency of indicators and inclusion of vulnerable group.

For 2021, one of the impacts of tracking the SDGs in the Philippines is being able to track and monitor programs and policies of the Philippine government since most of the indicators of the SDGs are already included in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP).  Other impacts include using data from SDG Watch as input in the Voluntary National Report, integrating activities with initiatives from the private sector, evidence based legislation, policy ad program formulation and guiding organizations responsible in achieving the 2030 Agenda.

For 2022, using the Current Status Index, out of the 17 SDGs, 5 SDGs have progressed (29.41%), 3 have regressed (17.65%), 7 have insufficient indicators (41.18%) and 2 SDGs are not monitored (11.76%). The Anticipated Progress are 11 indicators on track (18.30%), 32 indicators need acceleration (53.30%) and 17 indicators are regressing (28.30%). Also notable in the Anticipated Progress Index is the data that shows 37 out of 97 (38.14%) targets as well as 60 out of 155 (38.71%) indicators have a measurable pace of progress.

From the data available on 2021 and 2022, we can see that the SDGs that have progressed on 2021 have decreased on 2022 and the SDGs that were regressing on 2021 added one more SDG that regressed on 2022. Meanwhile, the on-track indicators have increased but those indicators that have regressed also became numerous from 2021 to 2022.

Current State of SDGs and What the Future Holds

Sadly, for the Philippines as well as other parts of the Asia-Pacific region, the UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Mr. Gustavo Gonzalez stated that “The region is not on track to achieve any of the SDGs.” During the Asia-Pacific consultation workshop that was convened to aid the preparation of the Global Sustainable Development Report 2023 (GSDR 2023) last November 29, 2022, Mr. Gonzalez stated that at the current rate of progress, the Asia-Pacific region will only attain the SDGs in 2065. With eight years left to the 2030 Agenda, the whole region is now at the half-way point and would need practical solutions to accelerate the progress for the SDGs and make up for lost ground. The Philippines, as with most of the countries worldwide, progress on the SDGs was hindered by global challenges such as COVID-19 as well as conflict and climate change. There is a great need to realize that the national and subnational actors are leading the way to SDGs therefore they must be localized.

Mr. Gonzalez stressed that there are three entry points for sustainable development that must be discussed during the workshop which were:

  • Achieving energy decarbonization with universal access to energy

  • Promoting sustainable urban and peri-urban development

  • Securing the global environment commons

With this, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) remains optimistic that 2023 can “offer an opportunity to accelerate action to deliver progress for the people and the planet” in spite of the challenges that have caused setbacks in the past years.

The UNDP listed some key moments for sustainable development to look forward to this 2023, including:

  • 8th biennial High-level Meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum in Marc

  • UN 2023 Water Conference in March

  • 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) in March

  • Global Space Conference on Climate Change in March

  • High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July

  • SDG Summit in September

  • 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) in November

  • 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence in November

The UNDP posed that while it may be “tempting to see the SDG glass as half empty due to the challenges faced, the SDGs are still our best chance to spread prosperity, security and human rights to all corners of the world”. They believe that “2023 brings the possibility to reset and recommit to this transformative agenda for humanity.”

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