The U.S. is Lagging on U.N. Goals for ‘Sustainable Development’

By Yessenia Funes Jul 25, 2016

A new report shows that the United States is seriously behind in reaching the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. It’s No. 25 out of 149 countries—behind Singapore and barely above the Republic of Korea.

Private German foundation Bertelsmann Stiftung and the global Sustainable Development Solutions Network released the joint report last week following the U.N.’s high-level forum for international leaders to review the goals.

The study ranks achievement level with red, yellow and green boxes. (The United States’ evaluation is above.) Red stands for "seriously far from achievement," yellow stands for "caution lane" and green means the "country has already achieved the goal." The U.S. is in the green for clean water and sanitation and industry, innovation and infrastructure. But it’s far from reaching most of the other goals, especially environmental ones such as life on land, climate action and clean energy. 

And the goals the U.S. is credited for reaching don’t apply to all communities. For example, the study says the country has reached the goal of access to improved water. But tell that to Flint, Michigan, the predominantly Black, low-income city still drinking lead-contaminated water. The report shows that the U.S. is doing well on climate-change vulnerability, but that general rating negates the vulnerability of the Southeast.


Southeast states including Florida, Louisiana and Texas will experience increased drought, floods, hurricane force winds and sea level rise, as the interactive map from Oxfam America above shows. This region is full of Black, Latinx and Native American people: Fifty-five percent of the country’s Black population lives in the South. Florida is 55.3 percent Latinx. And the South holds the second-largest proportion of Native Americans in the United States.

Find the full report, along with data tables, here.