By John Kerr 22/07/2016

New Zealand gets a few ‘Fs’ in a new report card examining how we are doing on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

In September last year New Zealand, along with 192 other countries, signed up to the goals, which described by the UN as “a bold and ambitious global plan to end poverty, address inequalities and tackle climate change.” There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals in total, ranging from providing universal clean water to eliminating gender inequality.

Timed to coincide with UN meetings this week, a new independent report has provided a country-by-country snapshot of performance for each of the goals. The Sustainable Development Goal Index and Dashboard gives a ‘traffic light’ report card for each country, tracking progress and ensuring accountability across the 17 goals.

The aim of the report card is to help countries identify priorities for early action to meet the aspirational deadline of achieving all goals by 2030.

NZ’s Sustainable Development Goals report card

In an overall index of progress towards the goals New Zealand ranks 22nd out of the 149 countries included, with an index score of 74/100 – a little below the average for the region (75.4). When it comes to specific goals, environmental issues appear to be our weak point.

Sustainable Development Goal Index and Dashboard (Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Bertelsmann Stiftung)
Sustainable Development Goal Index and Dashboard. (Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Bertelsmann Stiftung)


New Zealand gets a Red rating on the ‘Life on Land’ and ‘Life Below Water’ goals as well as a Red for ‘Climate Action’.

The Red rating for the ‘Zero Hunger’ goal is a little misleading as the full goal goes beyond food availability, encompassing: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” New Zealand’s high rate of obesity (about a third of the adult population, according to the report) and a poor rating on nitrogen management in agriculture is what earns the Red Card for goal No. 2.

The final shortfall is on ‘Partnership for the Goals’ where New Zealand’s level of Official Development Assistance (as a percentage of Gross National Income) needs improvement.

You read the full report card, along with a breakdown of the indicators behind each Goal here.

Ratings not ‘pessimistic’

The authors of the report admit the index is a work in progress and the rankings may shift as better data becomes available. They also recognise that their grading might be considered tough, or even unfair, by some. Their response:

We are hard graders at this stage, not to be punitive or vindictive, and still less to be pessimistic. The hard grading is to highlight for each country in the world the major priorities that must be addressed in order to achieve the SDG goals and targets. The SDGs are indeed stretch goals for every country, so we recommend that nations carefully study their performance against each indicator to identify the areas where greater progress is required.

Featured image: Flickr / Joan Campderrós-i-Canas