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SOUTHEAST ASIA is behind the pace in meeting any of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030, according to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

“Southeast Asia is not on track to achieve any of the 17 Goals by 2030, given the current pace of progress by countries in the subregion,” UNESCAP said in a report released on Thursday.

According to UNESCAP, slow progress has been noted in SDG 4, or educational quality, adding that there are signs of regression in inequality indices and low proficiency in reading and mathematics among young students. 

“Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand recorded less than 50% of lower secondary students achieving minimum reading and mathematics proficiency for both sexes,” the report found.

However, UNESCAP said there has been some progress in Southeast Asia in SDGs related to poverty (SDG 1); industry, innovation, and infrastructure (SDG 9); and life on land (SDG 15).

 “The subregion remains on track to eradicate poverty for individuals living below international and national poverty lines, including in Indonesia and the Philippines, which have the highest prevalence of poverty in the subregion with 5 to 6% of the population living below $1.90 a day,” UNESCAP said.

“Factors negatively affecting the progress of SDG 1 are losses due to natural disasters and the continued lack of government spending on basic services (education and health),” it added.

The report also found a lack of progress in SDG 8 or decent work and economic growth, and SDG 17 or partnership for the goals.

“Relatively stable rates of gross domestic product (GDP) growth and increased economic activity contributed to progress towards decent work and economic growth (Goal 8). However, regression in improving efficiency in use of natural resources (material footprint and domestic material consumption) as well as a lack of progress towards compliance with labor rights have undermined overall progress,” UNESCAP said.

“Partnership for the goals (Goal 17) also showed little progress in the subregion because most governments’ revenue fell below 30% of GDP and technical cooperation for official development assistance was significantly reduced,” it added.

Meanwhile, UNESCAP said Southeast Asia is regressing on five SDGs — SDG 6 or clean water and sanitation, SDG 11 or sustainable cities and communities, SDG 12 or responsible consumption and production, SDG 13 or climate action, and SDG 14 or life below water.  

The report found that increased greenhouse gases emissions and casualties from various disasters affected the region’s efforts towards achieving SDG 13, while responsible consumption and production was affected by increased material consumption and material footprint, setting back efforts to achieve SDG 12.

“A reverse trend in clean water and sanitation (Goal 6) occurred owing to increased water stress and the inability of countries to protect and restore water-related ecosystems. Sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11) was greatly affected by road traffic deaths and human and economic loss from disasters,” the report said.

“Southeast Asia needs to accelerate progress or reverse current trends in Goals 4, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16 and 17 if the subregion is to meet the 2030 deadline. The trends in these goals must be reversed if the subregion is to make sufficient improvement towards achieving the SDGs by 2030,” it added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave