Harpinder Collacott, Executive Director at Development Initiatives said, “We welcome a comprehensive and thoughtful report from the UK on its progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals at home and abroad, and applaud the extensive use of data to demonstrate progress on the goals. We are pleased to see that the pledge to Leave No One Behind emerges as a central theme, however it is vital that the UK’s use of aid reflects this priority better than is currently the case.
“The UK review also highlights critical gaps in data and the fact that there is limited disaggregated data, making it difficult to identify who is most risk of being left behind. If the UK is facing this challenge, a country that has data on 74% of the indicators, this will be an uphill struggle for developing nations where data systems are weak and patchy. The UK’s leadership in tackling this issue will be important and is particularly welcome when such information is the only way to ensure everyone is included in progress between now and 2030.”
There are four key points on Leave No One Behind worth noting in particular:
- The UK has reported on 74% of the 244 SDG indicators, one of the highest levels of coverage in the world. However, data is lacking for 64 indicators, and there are insufficient levels of disaggregation to identify who might be being left behind. We are pleased to see the VNR make the link between Leave No One Behind and the importance of counting people and having good quality disaggregated data in order to make this possible. The UK’s international leadership in this area is welcome and is a reminder that UK aid must focus on supporting countries to increase their statistical capacity in a way that ensures people are being counted.
- The VNR reaffirms the UK’s commitment to meeting the 0.7% Gross National Income target, and the target of spending at least 0.15–0.2% in the Least Developed Countries. While this is welcome, it should be noted that the proportion of UK aid invested in the Least Developed Countries has actually been decreasing – failing to 28% in 2016 and 29% in 2017, down from 39% in 2011, after peaking at 41% in 2001. The UK government should reverse this trend and increase funding to the countries and people who need it the most and are at risk of being left behind.
- Similarly, while the VNR notes that the UK’s contribution to social protection schemes is meeting the Goal 1.1 target, it fails to acknowledge that UK funding to this area has declined sharply from US$431 million (3.7% of gross bilateral ODA) in 2016 to US$263 million (2.2% of gross bilateral ODA) in 2017. The commitment to Leave No One Behind implies that more, rather than less, should be invested in the poorest countries, and in core human capital priorities such as social protection, health and education – to ensure everyone has an equal start in life and can benefit from the opportunities growth has to offer.
- Finally, the UK’s VNR emphasises the central importance of inclusive economic growth in driving progress. While few would dispute this sentiment, there is no agreed definition of what inclusive growth looks like, and DI’s analysis confirms that the income gap between the poorest 20% and the rest is growing globally, and in most countries, despite economic growth. This highlights the fact that current patterns of growth are not sufficiently inclusive to achieve the ambitions of Agenda 2030 in eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and leaving no one behind. Government policies need to support growth to ensure the benefits are more inclusive and that specific groups of the population are not missing out.