SEATTLE —The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says progress is still possible even as nearly every indicator of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is off track at the halfway point for achieving them by 2030. In its 6th annual Goalkeepers Report released on Monday, the foundation noted significant setbacks caused by overlapping global crises, the report is optimistic, underscoring opportunities to accelerate progress toward ending poverty, fighting inequality, and reducing the impacts of climate change.
Co-authored by foundation Co-chairs Melinda French Gates and Bill Gates, this year’s report, “The Future of Progress,” notes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, wars in Ukraine and Yemen, ongoing climate and food crises, and macro-economic headwinds on global ambitions to improve and save millions of lives by 2030.
“It’s no surprise that progress has stalled amid numerous crises,” said Bill Gates. “But this is not a reason to give up. Every action matters to save lives and reduce suffering. Turning away would be a mistake.”
In their respective essays, French Gates and Gates call for new approaches to achieving gender equality and food security. They also cite dramatic progress in dealing with the HIV/AIDS epidemic—a nearly 60% decline in annual deaths between 2000 and 2020—as an example of what can happen when the world invests in long-term solutions and innovative approaches to entrenched issues.
“The world faces many challenges—some of which may seem insurmountable. Yet, despite the setbacks, I’m filled with hope that we can solve these problems together and save millions of lives through human ingenuity and innovation,” French Gates said. “We know progress is possible because the global community has faced difficult odds before and won. And we can do it again.”
This year’s report includes best- and worst-case scenarios for ending preventable infectious diseases and malnutrition, improving access to quality education, increasing access to financial services, and achieving gender equality.
“At this historical inflection point, how the world responds to setbacks is a choice that will impact what happens now and for generations to come. Millions of lives hang in the balance,” said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman. “We call on governments, the private sector, civil society, and philanthropic organizations to do more to meet the ambitious goals and to keep investing in new ways of thinking, new tools and data, and proven solutions to ensure every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life.”
In her essay, French Gates cites data that shows the world will not reach gender equality until at least 2108—three generations later than previously projected. She calls for approaches that do more than just ensure a woman’s ability to earn a livelihood, but to control it.
“When it comes to the future of progress—not just on the global goals related to gender equality but on those on good health, quality education, ending poverty, and more—there is one engine that can drive them all: women’s power,” French Gates writes.
She highlights two proven approaches for increasing women’s power in their families and communities: building economic resilience through expanded access to digital financial tools and implementing a robust caregiving infrastructure that enables women to earn an income outside of the home.
In his essay, Gates asserts that hunger cannot be solved solely through humanitarian assistance. He cites recent shocks to the world’s supply of grain from Eastern Europe and the ongoing threat of climate change to underscore the vulnerability and interconnectedness of the global food system. Using a new data visualization tool to predict the impact of climate change, the report provides bleak projections for future crop yields and agricultural productivity, particularly in Africa.
Gates points to examples of planting “climate-smart” crops and utilising predictive modelling as proven solutions that have helped smallholder farmers in Africa and India increase their productivity and protect their crops from the disruptive effects of climate change. He calls for increased investment in R&D and other proven solutions to significantly boost agricultural productivity, particularly in Africa, where 14 countries depend on Russia and Ukraine for half their wheat.
“The world should be generous and prevent people from going hungry, but in another sense, it doesn’t solve the larger problem. The goal should not simply be giving more food aid. It should be to ensure no aid is needed in the first place,” he writes.