Ireland near bottom of table in meeting UN development goals

Social Justice Ireland report says State lagging behind on environment and inequality challenges

Ireland is lagging behind other European countries when it come to meeting a series of United Nations' targets, particularly when it comes to combatting climate change, a report from Social Justice Ireland has found.

The research carried out for the independent think tank and justice advocacy organisation examined 15 similarly developed European countries and gauged how well each was performing in achieving the sustainable development goals.

There are 17 such targets, set by the UN in 2015 and to be reached by 2030, which include tackling poverty, lessening the impact of climate change and securing gender equality and economic growth.

Ireland ranked second out of 15 in terms of quality education and was fifth in relation to the provision of clean water and sanitation.


Social Justice Ireland's scorecard drew on statistics from the OECD, the World Health Organisation, Eurostat, and other bodies.

Ireland’s poorest performance came in meeting climate action goals, reducing inequality and achieving gender equality. In relation to the environmental target of responsible consumption and production, Ireland ranked second last.

The research was conducted by Prof Charles Clark of St John's University in New York and Dr Catherine Kavanagh of University College Cork.


Speaking as the report was published, Fr Seán Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, said there were several areas where Ireland was "seriously underperforming".

He said that while the State ranked well on progress made towards some targets, poor performance in areas such as the environment was “dragging our overall ranking down”.

Sweden topped the index followed by Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands. Of the 15 EU countries examined, Greece ranked last with Spain 14th, Italy 13th, and Portugal 12th.

Dr Kavanagh said the 15 countries selected for comparison on the sustainability targets were all of broadly the same level of national income and development. This way any laggards who were falling behind on commitments would be most noticeable, she said. She said it was clear that Ireland “could do better”.

Prof Clark said solely measuring a country’s development based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was problematic.

He said Ireland had in 2015 reported economic growth of 26 per cent based on GDP figures, which was “basically impossible to have”. The figures, which drew international criticism, were due to a handful of multinational companies in tech, pharma, and aircraft leasing sectors, basing their headquarters in Ireland.

“As a measure of how the economy is going, [GDP]really isn’t all that accurate,” Prof Clark said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times