Sustainable Development Goals: Japan Has an Important Role to Play in Global Effort to Eliminate Poverty

A number of countries have reached an agreement on high ideals, but in reality, they have been unable to eradicate poverty and hunger yet. Japan should make use of the knowledge it has accumulated over many years of assistance to developing countries and strive to stabilize people’s lives.

The latest Sustainable Development Goals Summit, a high-level political forum, has been held at U.N. headquarters. At the summit, a political declaration was adopted with a focus on advancing policies to achieve such goals as eradicating poverty, providing quality education and mitigating the impact of climate change.

The SDGs are 17 goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015, with an aim to achieve them by 2030. This year marks the halfway point on that timeline, but progress has been slow. According to the United Nations, 30% of 169 SDG targets derived from the 17 goals have either stalled or gone into reverse.

Goals No. 1 (“no poverty”) and No. 2 (“zero hunger”) face the most serious challenges.

In the sub-Saharan region, which covers areas south of the Sahara desert, such as South Sudan and Rwanda, it is reported that more than 30% of the population still lives in extreme poverty.

Although developed countries have increased their food assistance to developing nations, the effects of the aid have not become fully visible — largely due to Russia’s blockade of grain exports from Ukraine. Food prices have skyrocketed throughout the world, causing food shortages in many developing countries.

Bringing the Russian invasion to an end is crucial not only for Ukraine but also for those developing countries.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are suffering political instability. Children become soldiers due to a lack of food and jobs, prolonging regional conflicts and exacerbating poverty as a result. This vicious cycle must be broken.

To this end, it is necessary to ensure educational opportunities and support the development of countries where people can engage in sound economic activities. It is also essential to ensure that residents of those nations have access to appropriate medical services.

Providing support related to education as well as medical and health care is an area in which Japan excels. Many civilians and nongovernmental organizations have dedicated themselves to supporting activities in developing countries. It is hoped that the public and private sectors will work together to help these countries become self-reliant.

Japan has maintained a certain level of say in the international community owing to its long history of supporting developing nations. It is important for the Japanese government to make efforts to use official development assistance strategically and secure necessary funding.

In recent years, emerging and developing countries such as African nations, collectively called the “Global South,” have become increasingly prominent. Supporting the development of these countries is likely to be in Japan’s national interest, as is deepening cooperation with India, which considers itself a leading power among these countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 23, 2023)