Global Responsibilities. International spillovers in achieving the goals

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Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted by all member states of the United Nations in 2015, describe a universal agenda that applies to and must be implemented by all countries, both developed and developing. Sound metrics and data are critical for turning the SDGs into practical tools for problem-solving by (i) mobilizing governments, academia, civil society, and business; (ii) providing a report card to track progress and ensure accountability; and (iii) serving as a management tool for the transformations needed to achieve the SDGs by 2030. We are encouraged that countries around the world, including the G20, are aligning long-term development strategies with the SDGs. Similarly, business and other non-government stakeholders are increasingly working towards the SDGs as operational goals. 

To track the SDGs, the UN Statistics Commission has recommended over 230 official indicators. Of these, some 150 have well-established definitions, but not all have data for all UN member states (UN Statistics Division, 2017). Countries are invited to submit voluntary national reviews of their progress to the High-Level Political Forum. A first review of reports submitted so far (Bizikova and Pinter, 2017) found that countries report best on socioeconomic SDGs (health, education, gender equality, infrastructure, decent work, and economic growth). In contrast, reporting was particularly weak on the environmental SDGs 12-15 and goal 17 (international partnership). To complement the official SDG Indicators and voluntary country-led follow-up and review processes, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung issued a first global unofficial SDG Index and Dashboards in 2016 (Sachs et al., 2016). That report synthe- sized metrics with available data – based whenever possible on the official SDG indicators – to enable countries to take stock of where they stood in 2016 with regards to fulfilling the SDGs and to help countries set priorities for early action. 

To help fill a major gap in last year’s report and in SDG dis- cussions more generally, we focus this year’s report on countries’ global responsibilities and international spillover effects in achieving the SDGs. Such spillovers must be understood and measured since countries cannot achieve the goals if others do not do their part. For example, rising sea levels will submerge Small Island Developing States (SIDS) unless all countries curb greenhouse gas emissions, and African elephants and rhinos face extinction unless demand for ivory and horns is curbed outside of Africa. Poor countries require increased Official Development Assistance to co-finance the investments needed to achieve the Goals, and all countries must avoid a race to the bottom on taxation and transparency to protect the public revenues required to finance the goals. Only if such positive and negative spillovers across countries are managed carefully can the promise of Agenda 2030 be ful- filled, particularly since negative effects tend to flow from rich to poor countries. 

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