Behind at Halftime

by | Aug 31, 2023 | Formation, Vincentian Family at the U.N. | 1 comment

If this were a sporting event, the coach would be screaming.

The 193 Member States of the United Nations pledged to create a world of peace and prosperity for People and the Planet by 2030.  A promise, almost a dream.  A pledge to eliminate poverty and hunger, provide a clean environment, and a life harmonious with nature for everyone.

The current assessment:

2015 to 2030 17 Sustainable Development Goals
2023 half-way there 12% accomplished
30% regressing
50% stalled
  • SDG 13 Climate: July the hottest month in recorded history
  • SDG 2 No Hunger: 783 Billion hungry (worse than 2019 pre-COVID)
  • Poverty increased for 1st time in a decade as gap between rich and poor expands. Inequality, the root of all social ills (Pope Francis)
  • SDG 16 “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”: no target on track
  • Global financial system for development morally bankrupt

The 193 nations, “Member States” of the UN, have so far failed to deliver.

Let’s be real.  We will never totally eliminate poverty in spite of SDG 1: End Poverty.  It is a social ill, the product of growing inequality and the policy decision made by too many leaders using economic systems favoring only those at the top.  Greed abounds; the Common Good in short supply.

But it is possible to eliminate extreme poverty, providing vast improvements in the quality of life for everyone.  Were we to realize the SDGs the world would be vastly improved for every person.  Not a paradise but a world with less poverty, no hunger, a climate under control, and life with dignity.

The SDGs are not on track.  The pandemic was a huge setback but not entirely responsible for the disappointing results.  At this point tweaks are useless.  Governments must stop talking and start running, in the words of one youth delegate to the UN, towards implementation of the goals.  This was the conversation at the UN during its annual High Level Political Forum in July.

The president of the General Assembly says we’re stuck on Old Fashioned thinking and approaches, business as usual, narrow national self-interests trumping global solidarity, and spending development funds with an eye on profit instead of the Common Good.  We need non-conventional thinking based on science and an absolute commitment to inclusion and mutual solidarity. “To save the world we must transform the world.”  Quite a tall order.


The process of shared sustainable development needs an injection of spirituality, a “Unitive” approach.  A sense of shared belonging– to one another, to nature, to one human family in the increasingly interconnected nature of everything.  We could understand “That all might be one” not only as an ecumenical call but an existential necessity.  The pandemic should have taught us that we’re not safe until everyone is safe.  We must stop “othering” those outside our “tribes.”  If we all “belong” we will build the Common Good.

Vincentian Spirituality can make a valuable contribution by helping to address one of the key SDG mantras: “leave no one behind.” People in poverty are the ones always left behind!  The last to be considered, the last to be favored.  They are at the heart of our Spirituality and without people in poverty our charism makes little sense.  The marginalized and homeless, migrants and refugees, the disadvantaged…to them we go, with them we share the Good News and together we build the Kingdom.  Our focus is critical for the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

So we might:

  • Pray for the UN’s efforts to create a better future for everyone;
  • Sharpen our analysis of issues and events through the lens of our charism;
  • Continue to advocate for the homeless (common project of the Vincentian Family)

Jim Claffey
NGO representative of the Congregation of the Mission to the United Nations

1 Comment

  1. MaryAnn Dantuono

    Thanks Jim. I’m praying!