Nearly every indicator of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is off track at the halfway point for achieving them by 2030, said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in its sixth annual Goalkeepers Report.

However, it was optimistic that despite significant setbacks caused by overlapping global crises, there are opportunities to accelerate progress towards ending poverty, fighting inequality, and reducing the impact of climate change.

Co-authored by the Foundation’s Co-chairs Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates, “The Future of Progress” report discusses the impact of the pandemic, wars in Ukraine and Yemen, ongoing climate and food crises, and macro-economic headwinds on global ambitions, to improve and save millions of lives by 2030.

“It’s no surprise that progress has stalled amid numerous crises,” said Bill Gates. In their essays, French Gates and Gates respectively call for new approaches to achieve gender equality and food security. They also cited the progress in dealing with HIV/AIDS - a nearly 60 per cent decline in annual deaths between 2000 and 2020—as an example of what can happen when the world invests in long-term solutions and innovative approaches to entrenched issues, the note said. French Gates added, “We know progress is possible because the global community has faced difficult odds before and won. And we can do it again.”

On September 25th (2015), at the UN headquarters, 193 world leaders committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which aimed to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change by 2030.

Hanging in balance

This year’s report includes best and worst-case scenarios for ending preventable infectious diseases and malnutrition, improving access to quality education, increasing access to financial services, and achieving gender equality.

“At this historical inflection point, how the world responds to setbacks is a choice that will impact what happens now and for generations to come. Millions of lives hang in the balance,” said Gates Foundation Chief Executive Mark Suzman. He called on governments, the private sector, civil society, and philanthropic organizations to do more to meet the ambitious goals and to keep investing in new ways of thinking, new tools and data, and proven solutions to ensure every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life.

In her essay, French Gates cites data that shows the world will not reach gender equality until at least 2108—three generations later than previously projected. She called for approaches that do more than just ensure a woman’s ability to earn a livelihood, but to control it.

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She highlighted two proven approaches to increase women’s power in their families and communities: building economic resilience through expanded access to digital financial tools, and implementing robust caregiving infrastructure that enables women to earn an income.

In his essay, Gates said that hunger cannot be solved solely through humanitarian assistance. Using a new data visualization tool to predict the impact of climate change, the report provides bleak projections for future crop yields and agricultural productivity, particularly in Africa.

Gates also pointed to examples of planting “climate-smart” crops and utilizing predictive modelling as proven solutions that have helped smallholder farmers in Africa and India increase their productivity and protect their crops from the disruptive effects of climate change.

“The world should be generous and prevent people from going hungry, but in another sense, it doesn’t solve the larger problem. The goal should not simply be giving more food aid. It should be to ensure no aid is needed in the first place,” he said.