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Lack of early action in the first 1,000 days of the SDGs could put goals in jeopardy – new report

Written by Elizabeth Stuart, Kate Bird, Tanvi Bhatkal, Romilly Greenhill, Steven Lally, Gideon Rabinowitz, Emma Samman, Moizza Binat Sarwar

Failure to take urgent action to help the poorest and most vulnerable within the first three years of the UN’s new development goals could jeopardise the chance of them being achieved, warns a new report by the Overseas Development Institute.

Published ahead of the UN’s High-level Political forum on Sustainable Development this month, the report, ‘Leaving no one behind: a critical path for the first 1,000 days of the Sustainable Development Goals’ sets out a policy road map for governments to follow if the ambitious new targets are to be realised for everyone, including the poorest.

Sub Saharan Africa is the continent that has the furthest to go in terms of ensuring all citizens benefit from progress. The report reveals that to eliminate ultra-poverty – people living on less than one dollar a day – in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030, the current rate of progress needs to double. But if no action is taken within six years, the rate of progress would need to be three times as fast - a formidable task.

The ODI analysis also shows that to eliminate education poverty, African nations need to reduce the number of children attending school for less than four years by 15% each year between now and 2030. But if nothing is done until 2018, the rate increases to 18% per year - and by 2021 the rate will need to be 23.5% each year.

Likewise, African countries need to reduce preventable child deaths at a rate of over 7% a year between 2015 and 2030 to meet the SDG target. If no action is taken until 2018, the rate increases to over 9% a year, or 12% by 2021.

However, the report does show how major results can be delivered in just three years, detailing examples from countries that are already making successful strides to reach their poorest people:

  • In Eritrea, an educational programme for children of nomadic herders and other excluded groups saw more than 5,000 nine to 14-year-olds attending school within the first two years
  • In Senegal, an electrification project targeting 191 villages in rural areas increased the number of people with access to electricity from 17,000 in 2010 to over 90,000 in 2012
  • In Ecuador, government spending on programmes for people with disabilities increased from $2million to $150million between 2007 to 2011, after it was made a priority by the Vice-President

Report author Elizabeth Stuart, Research Fellow at the ODI, said: ‘We have learned from bitter experience that delaying action will jeopardise our chances of attaining the ambitious SDG targets, and this report sets out just how difficult it will become if governments do not step up to these challenges within the first 1,000 days.

‘However, our research also shows that it is possible to make the necessary progress. To support this, we have mapped out a critical pathway for governments to follow which is achievable, so long as action begins now. We’ve shown that countries can make extraordinary achievements in just three years.’


Notes to editors

  • ODI researchers calculated the (compound) rates of change needed to meet selected SDG targets within each region and, to the extent the data permit, how these changes compared with past performance since 2000
  • Data on poverty came from the World Bank’s PovcalNet; on education, from the UNESCO World Inequality Database (WIDE); and on child mortality from the WHO Health Equity Monitor
  • The ultra-poverty and education poverty targets are not official SDG targets, but are the most basic achievements that need to be made before the poverty and education goals are met – in other words, they are minimum standards
  • The UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development will take place in New York from July 11 to 20
  • More details on the educational programme for children of nomadic herders in Eritrea can be found on the UNICEF website http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/eritrea_56989.html
  • Data from the electrification project in Senegal comes from the 2012 Peracod paper 'The Rural Electrification Senegal (ERSEN) Project: Electricity for over 90,000 persons'
  • Figures on the Ecuadorian government's spending on programmes for people with disabilities comes from a 2013 Global Post article by J Otis called 'Ecuador's wheelchair revolution'