Review of the SDGs in Latin America and the Caribbean

Review of the SDGs in Latin America and the Caribbean

on August 16, 2020


In line with objective 3 of the RRING project, the research is a first step to “align RRI to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to provide a global common denominator for advancement of RRI, and address Grand Challenges globally.”

This first step was mainly done through desktop research, relying on UN reports as well as voluntary national reviews (as submitted to the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) to determine what are the most important SDGs in each region (named ‘geography’ in this task) and as geographical regions use the 5 regions defined by the UN for its regional commissions, and its monitoring of the SDGs, while noting that every state is different and regional averages can be misleading, because the 5 global regions exhibit internal variety.

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019

In July 2019, the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF) reviewed global progress on the last remaining set of SDGs. 142 countries have now presented their Voluntary National Reviews. All SDGs have now been highlighted at the HLPF. As mentioned above, this year in effect closes the first cycle of the 2030 Agenda implementation.

July also marked the launch of The Sustainable Development Report 2019, prepared by UN DESA’s Statistics Division with inputs from more than 50 international and regional organizations. It provides charts, infographics and maps on SDG progress, and presents an in-depth analysis of selected indicators. Additionally, the report highlights regional progress and analyses.

The report is accompanied by a comprehensive Statistical Annex and the Global SDG Indicator Database with country and regional data that can also be accessed interactively on the Sustainable Development Goal indicators website.

This data provides a clear overview per country and region of the progress that has so far been made on the SDGs, as well as the challenges that still remain. This allows us to select the data we need from selected countries and regions to determine if there are any trends. However, since these are UN documents, they can only consolidate the information provided by Member States, so as to reveal gaps (and call these gaps priorities). They do not reflect how each country or region is implementing the SDGs except in this broad sense of progress achieved on the basis of measurements taken (e.g. the quality of how the SDG targets are incorporated in national legislation would not be visible in the aggregated record, except by means of illustrations). There are nonetheless, broadly stated conclusions on gaps to be addressed, which may be called priorities, because all states are committed to meet all SDGs. These conclusions are backed by the most inclusive political process and documentation available, so it is considered a reliable source for identifying priorities.

According to the report, the two main challenges facing the world are climate change and inequalities among and within countries, corresponding to respectively SDG 13 ‘Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts ‘and SDG 10 ‘Reduce inequality within and among countries’. Though progress has been made, poverty remains an issue in many parts of the world and hunger has actually been increasing in recent years. The overview per region below takes many direct excerpts from the UN SG’s report.

Review on Latin America and the Caribbean

This region seems to face the biggest challenges in terms of employment (SDG8) and in terms of criminality and institutions (SDG16) as the figures indicates some of the highest gaps for those respective SDGs. Among the other most important to the region are SDG 2 (Hunger), SDG 3 (Health), SDG 4 (Education), SDG 5 (Gender equality), SDG 6 (Water), SDG 7 (Energy), SDG 9 (Industry), SDG 10 (Inequalities), SDG 11 (Sustainable cities), SDG 13 (Climate Change), SDG 14 (Oceans), and SDG 15 (Life on Land).


There are few outliers among the countries across the region so the region is considered as whole although extreme poverty still exists in certain countries, such as Haiti.


This isan important SDG for the region. In South America, hunger appears to be increasing which may be due to economic slowdown, reducing fiscal capacity to protect the most vulnerable against rising domestic prices and loss of income (SDG Indicator 2.1.1). Additional reasons could be attributed to adverse weather conditions. As an example, the price of maize climbed steeply during 2018 in Central America, because of concerns about the impact of severe dry weather on the main season’s crops. Similar to other developing regions, there are a lot of small-scale food producers that are poor; have limited capacities and resources; face regular food insecurity; and have limited access to markets and services (SDG Indicator 2.3.2).


There are no particular outliers in the indicator data among the countries across this region, for this SDG. Neglected topical diseases (NTDs) are a problem, as over 75 million people required intervention is 2017 (SDG Indicator 3.3.5). The region also has the an extremely high death rate due to road traffic injuries second (19.2 per 100,000 population in 2013, SDG Indicator 3.6.1) and, compared to other regions, has the world’s highest adolescent birth rate although the situation is improving (61.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years in 2018, SDG Indicator 3.7.2).


In 2015, one in two children and adolescents was not proficient in mathematics and over one third was not proficient in reading (SDG Indicator 4.1.1).


As previously indicated, there is no data in the report of its statistical annex by region on SDG Indicator 5.1.1 ‘Whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non‑discrimination on the basis of sex’ though it could be interesting to include them at a later stage. Apart from that Latin America and the Caribbean has some of the highest numbers of women in parliament (31.6% in 2019, SDG Indicator 5.5.1)) and in managerial positions (39% in 2018, SDG Indicator 5.5.2)) though still no achieving gender parity.


This SDG has mixed results. Huge progress has been made in terms of proportion of population using safely managed drinking water in the region (SDG Indicator 6.1.1). In terms of population using safely managed sanitation services, progress has also been made but remains low overall (31.3% in 2017, SDG Indicator 6.2.1). As mentioned before, water quality has been deteriorating since the 1990s in most rivers in Africa, Asia and Latin America (SDG Indicator 6.3.2). The degree of integrated water resources management implementation (0-100) is the lowest for this region at 35 (2018, SDG Indicator 6.5.1).


The region did not improve much in terms of primary energy intensity rate between 2010 and 2016, with only 0.8% being far below target of 2.7% (SDG Indicator 7.3.1)


This can be considered another important SDG for the region for several reasons. First of all, annual growth rate of real GDP per capita decreased by 0.2% in 2017 (SDG Indicator 8.1.1). Second, annual growth rate of real GDP per worker only increased by 0.5% in 2018 which was the second lowest number for all regions and well below the average (SDG Indicator 8.2.1). Third, unemployment rate is second highest for all regions with 8% in 2018 (SDG Indicator 8.5.2). The figures become worse when disaggregated by sex and age. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the unemployment rate for women was almost 3% higher and even 14% higher for young women.


The manufacturing value added share in GDP are below the global average in 2019 (13%, SDG Indicator 9.2.1). The region does score well on providing access loans or lines of credit for small-scale industries (SDG Indicator 9.3.2). As regards, research and development (R&D) expenditure as a proportion of GDP the region is lagging behind and total researchers as proportion of population (SDG Indicators 9.5.1 and 9.5.2).


There are no particular outliers among countries of this region in the indicator data in the report. Of note is that, despite a global decrease, the labour income share increased from 48.4 to 50.5% between 2004 and 2017 in Latin America and the Caribbean.


One of in five people living in cities are still living in slums in 2018 (SDG Indicator 11.1.1). Furthermore, as the region is prone to seismic activity, SDG Indicator 11.5.1 is of importance.


No particular outliers in the indicator data for the SDG.


As for all other regions, this is considered a ‘priority’ SDG.


As for all regions, this SDG is of general importance. Of particular note in the report is the fact that ocean pollution is most acute in equatorial zones, including in Central America (SDG Indicator 14.1.1).


Although the region has a high Forest area as a proportion of total land area, the net forest area decreased with 0.23% between 2011 and 2015 (SDG Indicator 15.2.1). Furthermore, land degradation is 26.5% in Latin America (SDG Indicator 15.3.1).


This is a very important SDG for the region. Most importantly, Latin America and the Caribbean remains the most violent region that is not afflicted by war. The region has the highest homicide rate worldwide with 24 per 100,000 population in 2017 (SDG Indicator 16.1.1) and the number has been increasing since 2005. 34% of all homicides worldwide in 2017 occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean. The number of unsentenced detainees is also higher than average (40.3% of prison population in 2015-2017, SDG Indicator 16.3.2).


No countries stood out in the indicator data as not being on track for this SDG.