Countries are struggling to meet SDG 2020 targets on biodiversity and hunger, warns FAO


How close has the world come to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals' (SDGs) 2020 targets? Conservation of 10 percent of coastal and marine areas was achieved; significant action has been taken to protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species; the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity now features more prominently in national and local planning; but countriesstill need greater support to monitor and safeguard their biodiversity and ecosystems. 

These were just some of the areas that FAO and other UN experts touched on during a four-hour UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)-led webinar on Monday 6 July “2020 targets: Renewing commitments and galvanizing action”, confirming that countries are unlikely to meet all the SDG targets on biodiversity and hunger by the end of the year. 

Zero Hunger 

Irene Hoffmann, Secretary of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture reported on indicator 2.5, which refers to the number of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture secured in medium or long term conservation facilities.   

“Overall, there is negligible progress in maintaining plant and animal genetic diversity for food and agriculture,” Hoffman said. She went on to explain that the on-going efforts to conserve these critical resources appear inadequate given the threats posed to their diversity by increasingly rapid environmental, climate and social changes.   

“Plant and animal genetic resources are the basis for sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition”, she added.  

Hoffman also referred to FAO’s flagship report on the State of the World's Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture that lists more than 20 practices that are considered biodiversity friendly and often location specific. She explained that a crucial component is an enabling environment that encourages farmers to take on sustainable practices and maintain local genetic diversity. 

Life on land 

Anssi Pekkarinen, FAO Team Leader of the Global Forest Resources Assessment, gave his insight on indicators 15.1.1 related to Forest area and 15.2.1 on Sustainable forest management.  

Four out of five sub-indicators, namely the aboveground biomass, the proportion of forests in protected areas, forest under long-term management plans, as well as certified forest area, increased or remained stable at the global level and in most regions of the world”. 

“The world’s forest area continues to shrink, though at a slightly slower pace than in previous decades. Africa has become the hotspot of forest loss with an average annual net forest area loss of 3.9 million hectares in the period 2010–2020”, he added, describing the growing efforts to manage forests sustainably.  

Life below water 

Yimin Ye, Head of FAO’s Marine and Inland Fisheries Branch and Matthew Camilleri, Head of the Fishing Operations and Technology Branch reported on target 14.4 and target 14.6 -  effective regulation of fishing; ending overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and destructive fishing practices; implementation of plans to restore fish stocks to produce sustainable yields; prohibition of certain forms of fishery subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing; and the elimination of subsidies that contribute to IUU fishing. 

“Over the last decade the rate of decrease in fish stocks harvested at biologically sustainable levels has slowed down but there is an urgent need for global partnerships to strengthen technical capacity and governance in developing countries” Ye explained, adding that FAO is working to facilitate stock assessments under country reporting. 

Camilleri reported that “whilst significant progress has been made in the implementation of international instruments to combat IUU fishing across the globe, capacity development is still heavily required by developing countries to fulfil their responsibilities”. 

He identified information exchange at global level, the development of international standards for the regulation of transshipment practices, and the conclusion of negotiations at the World Trade Organisation on the new regulation to prohibit certain forms of fishery subsidies, as key next steps in the fight against IUU fishing.  

The webinar took the form of live online presentations and Q&As, presenting the status of the 2020 targets and plans for enhanced action amid challenges posed by COVID-19.   

FAO is the custodian organization for 21 of the 247 indicators under the 169 targets of the SDGs and a contributing agency to another five. The Organization supports its Members in implementing the SDGs and invests in strengthening the capacities of countries to collect data and monitor the 21 SDG indicators and their methodologies. 

21 SDG targets should be achieved this year, they are essential for the success of the SDGs, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. The 13 targets focusing on biodiversity come from five separate SDGs to which FAO contributes: SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land) (and one, 13.a, in which FAO is not involved). 

The 2020 targets are a test of the SDGs, they show that national implementation must be accelerated and strengthened to achieve the SDGs. The webinar provided important input by experts into ongoing High-Level Political Forum discussions. 

The webinar recording and presentations are available here 

For more information on the 21 indicators under FAO’s custodianship: Fact sheet