Are we making progress in key areas of the Sustainable Development Goals?



Using data from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), we analyzed bilateral development assistance to five sectors that are both a focus of the Donor Tracker and critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The analysis looked at the past four years (2012-2016) and included donors, recipients, sub-sectors, and an outlook on where funding for each sector as a whole is headed. 

The analysis found that development assistance in all five areas – agriculture, education, global health, global health R&D, and nutrition – has increased since the start of the SDG era in 2015. Except global health R&D, funding reached an all-time peak in 2016. A closer look over the five-year period 2012-2016, however, reveals more nuance:

  • Funding patterns differ across sectors – funding increased by 33% for nutrition but has declined by 2% for global health R&D.
  • As overall development assistance has grown, the share going to these areas has remained largely stable (for agriculture, education, nutrition), or even declined (global health, global health R&D).
  • Donor funding is heavily concentrated – in each of the five sectors, between two and four donors provide over half of all funding.

Overall, there is progress, but at least these five areas of the SDG agenda remain under-financed. While funding is likely to rise, at current growth rates it will remain well below what is needed. Moreover, funding is highly dependent on decisions made by a few donors. Changes in the priorities of one donor thus pose a threat to funding for each sector as a whole.