It has been almost 2 years since the initiation of the Global Sustainable Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network along with the Berteksmann Stiftun has done a reflection of where we are today. Thus, the SDG index was launched and has marked the progress made by each country and where these countries are positioned as per their performance in line with the Global Sustainable Development Agenda. It is important that the outcomes of each of these countries be analysed, as the journey towards 2030 is not a lone battle but a war to be fought together. The SDG Index provides insight to what has been done right, where can we find room for improvement and who needs more support
Sri Lanka is ranked 81st out of 157 countries with a score of 65.9. It does not reflect as a standout performer but it is the highest ranked nation in South Asia, which itself shouts out for the necessity and importance of more concentration on sustainability work in the region. It is a small island nation in the Indian Ocean renowned for its rich bio diversity as well as for it unique culture.
The island nation has performed well in the goals of “No Poverty”, “Good Health and Wellbeing”, “Quality Education”, “Clean Water and Sanitation”, “Decent Work and Economic Growth” and “Climate Action”. Most of it is facilitated by the state sponsored welfare economy, which supports to maintain acceptable living conditions for the citizens, while the relatively high ranking with Climate Action is due to moderate industrialization as well as for the increasing concern among the public, the government and private sector. Sri Lanka has been relatively strong in aspects facilitated by the state which of course has the ability to improve through introduction of more inclusive mechanisms in the future.
However, Sri Lanka has found itself low on the goals for “Zero Hunger”, “Gender Equality”, “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” and “Partnership for the Goals”, while it has been average on the goals “Affordable and Clean Energy”, “Reduce Inequalities”, ”Sustainable Cities and Communities”, “Responsible Consumption and Production”, “Life below Water” and “Life on Land” with considerable room for improvement.
The country sees high levels of undernourishment and stunting mostly among the young children. The high scores of no poverty seems not be a criteria for quality living as a considerable fraction of the population seem to be just above the poverty line leading up to the undernourishment. The country’s low rating in Gender equality is resulted mostly through its traditional roots as the families are used to the stay at home mother structure. However, things seems to be changing with the evolving economic and social structures as more women are now entering the workforce. However, female representation at the political hierarchy is low while new bills allowing more nominations for women and youth are in the process of being formulated. The country has scored low in its partnerships for goals resulted by its low spending in relations to national GDP for health and education and also its low tax revenue. However, Sri Lankans should be deeply concerned at the extremely low rating at Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. The country is coerced by the limited funds for research and development and also limited infrastructure in the sub-urban regions of the country. It seems important for Sri Lanka to focus into the more balanced budget allocations and invest more on the futuristic aspects leading from education and health while also investing on sustainable infrastructure and community building.
As noted above, Sri Lanka is highest ranked nation in South Asia. Bhutan is just below at 83rd while Nepal is at 105. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are ranked at 116, 120 and 122. The high population density, lack of infrastructure and high levels of corruption effects most of the region. The cultural background in the region has been also segmenting the society who have been marginalized. The region is climbing out of that shell and it seems the rate of improved inclusivity is mostly effecting the regions progress in the sustainable development agenda.
Sri Lanka as well as all other South Asian neighbours finds considerable room for improvement. It is encouraging to note that Sri Lanka has found progress since the initiation in 2015, and there is evidence of more awareness and action related to the goals. Many organizations including youth led volunteer movements are leading much of the change in the communities. It is encouraging to note that the Government of Sri Lanka is taking more action that is progressive. The ban on polythene based products from September 2017, itself is seen a critical conjuncture. There is little doubt on the need for honestsupport of external stakeholers in Sri Lanka as well as in the much of South Asia. However, as a region South Asia has shown progress, which allows the world to be pessimistic towards the Sustainable Development Agenda.
Darshatha Gamage is an undergraduate from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka. He has been an active social worker and has been a part of many youth led volunteering initiatives. He served as the Editor for Rotaract District 3220 for Sri Lanka and Maldives for the year 2016-17. Darshatha is also an active member of the student community as he has led multiple initiative within the university driving sustainable action.