Halfway into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a lot of the progress made towards its food and agriculture-related targets has stagnated or reversed, compounding the challenges in eradicating poverty and hunger, improving health and nutrition, and combating climate change, according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The report, entitled Tracking progress on food and agriculture-related SDG indicators 2023, was published today, just days before world leaders gather in New York to attend the UN’s SDG Summit to review the state of the Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“At the SDG summit, there will be enormous expectations for concrete commitments to be made for reversing the SDGs’ current predicament with tangible actions and results. To do so, leaders around the world need data that can guide their decisions and help them make priorities,” José Rosero Moncayo, Director of FAO’s Statistics Division, said at the report’s launch.

The main conclusions of the report are that while the world was already off track from meeting the SDGs even prior to 2020, the past few years have seen multiple shocks that have further stalled or even reversed progress across several targets. These include the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of armed conflicts around the world, high inflation, along with the escalating effects of the climate crisis.

The food and agriculture-related SDG indicators, of which FAO is among the UN agencies’ main custodian, are in a particularly critical state. The proportion of the world population facing chronic hunger in 2022 was about 9.2 percent, compared to 7.9 percent in 2015 (the latest FAO estimates put the global hunger figure for 2022 between 691 million and 783 million people). Investment in agriculture has stalled, there is no progress in conserving animal genetic resources, and forest area across the globe continues to shrink.

The few positive trends are in the area of conservation of plant genetic resources, water use efficiency, and the adoption of instruments to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

In conclusion, the vision of a world with zero hunger and malnutrition and sustainable agriculture is still within reach, and the distance to be covered is not insurmountable. However, to achieve the food and agriculture-related SDG targets, urgent coordinated actions and policy solutions are imperative to address entrenched inequalities, transform agri-food systems, invest in sustainable agricultural practices, and bolster resilience against shocks. Improving data capabilities plays a key role in ensuring progress. Despite extensive efforts towards building stronger data and statistical systems for Sustainable Development Goal monitoring, significant data gaps still exist. There is the need to speed up investments in data generation, in particular in less developed countries, to be able to guide transformative change.

Still, today’s report is a useful tool for informing the discussions at the UN SDG summit in New York, which offers countries a unique opportunity to recommit to taking all the necessary measures to get back on track towards achieving the targets by 2030.