Chapter 3. Integrated approaches for eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity1

The 2030 Agenda emphasises that the SDGs are integrated and indivisible and that a new approach is needed to address them effectively. This chapter applies policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) as a lens to identify key inter-linkages between the seven goals to be reviewed by the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in 2017 drawing on relevant OECD analysis. The chapter is intended to inform policy-making by illustrating how the implementation of the SDGs could be addressed in an integrated manner, taking into account the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.



The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an indivisible set of global priorities that integrate economic, social and environmental dimensions. They envisage a world free of poverty, hunger and inequality; where good quality education, health care and decent work are available to all; and where economic growth is not at the expense of the environment. The 2030 Agenda emphasises that “the interlinkages and integrated nature of the SDGs are of crucial importance in ensuring that the purpose of the new Agenda is realised” (UNGA, 2015). Yet policy-makers are struggling to manage and leverage linkages among goal areas, and to operationalise an integrated implementation of the SDGs.

The High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) 2017 will consider the theme: “Eradicating Poverty and Enhancing Prosperity in a Changing World”. The HLPF 2017 will review in depth the following set of goals along with SDG17 on the means of implementation:

  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

  • Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.

  • Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

This chapter applies policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) as a lens to highlight selective OECD work related to the theme of the HLPF 2017. In particular, it seeks to identify the critical interconnections among these six goals. The chapter draws on relevant OECD analysis to highlight some of the fundamental synergies and trade-offs which need to be managed to ensure an effective implementation. It also explores ways to integrate economic, social and environmental aspects in a balanced manner as well as to consider transboundary impacts in implementing the SDGs, all at the core of a PCSD approach.

Policy coherence: vital for eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development

A key starting point in the 2030 Agenda is the recognition that “eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions. . . is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development” (UNGA, 2015). Eradicating poverty will be more challenging in a planet facing natural resource degradation, scarcity and climate change. Systemic threats such as climate change have disproportionate impacts on poor people and communities and aggravate inequalities. Climate scenarios predict that tropical areas will be at higher risk of climate hazards – such as floods, drought, storms, etc. – including countries in Africa and South and South-East Asia, Small Island Developing States and the countries where livelihoods depend on climate sensitive natural resources such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry. These countries are also those least able to prevent or cope with the most adverse effects (UNDESA, 2016).

Efforts in the past at eliminating income poverty have brought about important economic and social benefits but often at the expense of the environment. In many cases these efforts have entailed significant depletion of natural resources and important costs and damage to human health and well-being, thus partly offsetting the benefits they aimed to achieve. In China, for example, three decades of openness and average annual GDP growth of 10% have helped lift hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty. The share of population living in extreme poverty declined from above 90% in the early 1980s to less than 10% today. However, as the Chinese government recognises, the growth model is no longer sustainable, and has had significant negative externalities. For example, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have more than tripled in two decades to reach 28% of global emissions in 2013, and air pollution is estimated to have caused 1.3 million premature deaths in 2010 (OECD, 2016a). China is projected to have a high number of deaths caused by outdoor air pollution per million people (Figure 3.1). In the same year, the cost of the health impact of air pollution in China was estimated to be USD 1.4 trillion (OECD, 2016b).

Figure 3.1. Premature deaths from exposure to particulate matter and ozone
Number of deaths caused by outdoor pollution per year per million people

Source: OECD (2016b). StatLink:

The 2030 Agenda underlines the need “to protect the planet from degradation, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations” (UNGA, 2015). This is critical for achieving SDG1 on eradicating poverty. Many of the natural resources that support prosperity and human well-being – such as water, land, soils, minerals – are finite or only replenished by very slow natural cycles, and need to be preserved and managed responsibly. It is estimated, for example, that without improvements in water management, by 2050 3.9 billion people – over 40% of the world’s population – are likely to be living in river basins under severe water stress, and 1.4 billion people without access to basic sanitation (OECD, 2012).

The sustainable use and management of resources to eradicate poverty and support human wellbeing calls for a better understanding of how the environment, society and economy interact. This means:

  1. (i) acknowledging the integrated nature of sustainable development, i.e. that the economy exists within a society and both are supported by the environment, which provides critical natural resources and services (Figure 3.2);

  2. (ii) addressing complex synergies and trade-offs between economic, social and environmental priorities; and

  3. (iii) “making choices between using resources to maximise current human wellbeing or preserving resources for future use; or between maximising the human well-being of one country at the expense of others” (UNECE/OECD/Eurostat, 2014).

Figure 3.2. The economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development

1. Environmental services to the economy (e.g., natural resources, sink functions, contributions to economic efficiency and employment).

2. Effects of economic activity on the environment (e.g., resource use, pollutant discharge, waste).

3. Environmental services to society (e.g., access to resources and amenities, contributions to health, living and working conditions).

4. Effects of social variables on the environment (e.g., demographic changes, consumption patterns, environmental education and information, institutional and legal frameworks).

5. Effects of social variables on the economy (e.g., labour force, population and household structure, education and training; consumption levels, institutional and legal frameworks).

6. Effects of economic activity on society (e.g., income levels, equity, employment).

Source: Adapted from OECD (2005).

Eradicating poverty and supporting the needs of the present and future generations, as called for by the 2030 Agenda, will depend on how society uses and manages its resources (natural, economic, human and social capital). The more efficiently and sustainably these resources are used and the better they are managed in the “here and now”, the more capital is left for people “elsewhere” on the planet and “later” for future generations (UNECE/OECD/Eurostat, 2014). The 2011 OECD Green Growth Strategy provided initial guidance to governments on how to achieve economic growth and development, while preventing costly environmental damage and inefficient resource use. Since 2011, progress has been made in aligning economic and environmental priorities (OECD 2015a). Green Growth Indicators have been designed to help countries assess and compare their progress (OECD 2017a, forthcoming). Enhancing policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) – included as a cross-cutting SDG target 17.14 under the means of implementation – entails considering more systematically in policy-making the potential trade-offs between the “here and now”, “elsewhere” and “later” dimensions of sustainable development.2

A policy coherence approach is needed to balance economic, social and environmental priorities, and identify synergies between goals and targets, as highlighted by the PCSD Framework (OECD, 2016c). Policy coherence can help to deliver integrated policies and ensure that progress achieved in one goal – e.g. increasing water-use efficiency (SDG6.4) – contributes to progress in other goals – e.g. raising agricultural productivity (SDG2.3) and improving food security. This link can also work in the other direction, i.e., more sustainable agriculture can support water-use efficiency targets, especially as agriculture is the major user of water, accounting for about 70% of the world’s freshwater withdrawals (OECD, 2010a). Analysing these types of interlinkages among goal areas, and considering how targets influence each other is a first step to ensure more coherent and effective implementation.

Policy coherence strategies are also necessary to address trade-offs and avoid the risk of achieving progress in one goal at the expense of progress in another goal. For example, an increase in agricultural land-use for achieving SDG target 2.1 to help end hunger could undermine progress in achieving SDG target 15.5 to halt the loss of biodiversity with potentially costly negative effects on several aspects of human well-being. OECD estimates that land use change for agriculture is the main source of biodiversity loss worldwide (OECD, 2008, 2012). Policy coherence is also critical for dealing with potential competition among sectors for resources (e.g. land, water, ocean) and gauging whether the aggregate demand for satisfying sectoral objectives is sustainable.

Coherent approaches are needed to consider the transboundary impacts of sustainable development. In a highly interconnected world sustainable development cannot be described at just a national level. In an interconnected world, the transmission channels are numerous – for example through financial flows, imports and exports of goods and services, migration or knowledge transfers – and countries necessarily impact on one another. This entails looking at the extent to which consumption in a country is depleting stocks of natural resources in other countries, or the extent to which the terms of trade undermine other countries’ ability to develop sustainably. Protectionist measures, for example, can close the door to trade opportunities, job creation, growth and poverty alleviation and have particularly negative effects on the least developed countries (LDCs). It is estimated that almost 500 protectionist measures applied by advanced and emerging economies between 2009 and 2013 deprived LDCs of USD 264 billion in export revenues (Evenett and Fritz, 2015).

The problem of global poverty is one of the most important issues in the transboundary impacts that countries have in terms of sustainable development (UNECE/OECD/Eurostat, 2014). Integrated and coherent approaches are needed to look at social and economic inequalities and their implications for both current and future generations. It entails looking at how climate change and unsustainable consumption and production patterns stress the natural resource base on which all people depend for survival. Policy coherence is critical to address and balance potential trade-offs between achieving sustainability and eliminating poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Enhancing coherence among the Sustainable Development Goals

The SDGs can be seen as an integrated framework of means and ends to achieve the primary aspiration reflected in the 2030 Agenda of shifting the world onto a sustainable path, while eradicating poverty in all its forms. They are an indivisible set of global priorities that integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions, and recognise their inter-linkages in achieving sustainable development. One goal or target may influence progress in other goals, positively or negatively. The SDGs cannot, therefore, be achieved through single-sector goals or approaches. Drawing on relevant OECD analysis, the following sections seek to apply a PCSD lens to the key inter-linkages among the seven goals to be reviewed by the HLPF in 2017, thus avoiding the risk of siloed responses which can leave potential synergies and complementarities unrealised.

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Eradicating poverty is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, as highlighted in the preamble of the 2030 Agenda. Poverty is multidimensional and there is widespread recognition that “eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, combatting inequality within and among countries, preserving the planet, creating sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and fostering social inclusion are linked to each other and are interdependent” (UNGA, 2015).

Goal 1 to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere” refers to all dimensions of poverty as well as to income, social protection, rights, access and control of resources, resilience to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks. Eradicating poverty in the context of the 2030 Agenda entails:

  1. (i) specific actions to completely eliminate extreme poverty while addressing both income and non-income dimensions (socio-economic, political, and environmental dimensions of poverty), including in advanced economies;

  2. (ii) considering a broader range of people beyond those falling below a defined income threshold (OECD, 2013a), while drawing attention to the most vulnerable and marginalised;

  3. (iii) focusing on the exclusion from economic opportunities, depravation related to basic needs, e.g. food, education, health, etc., as well as lack of access and rights over productive natural resources; and

  4. (iv) tackling vulnerability and increasing resilience.

Multidimensional poverty measures can provide a more comprehensive picture revealing the range of depravations and disadvantages that people experience. A research project by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative has constructed an income poverty and multidimensional poverty measure made up of several indicators of depravation. The analysis has shown striking divergence between those defined as income poor and those defined as multidimensionally poor, and that countries which fall in the same country income category can have quite different levels of multidimensional poverty (Figure 3.3).

Figure 3.3. Incidence and intensity of multidimensional poverty by income categories

Note: the MPI is a product of two elements: the percentage of people who are poor (incidence – H) times the average intensity of deprivations among the poor (intensity – A).

Source: OECD (2013), Incidence and intensity of multidimensional poverty by income categories, in Development Co-operation Report 2013, OECD Publishing, Paris. StatLink:

Goal 1 on poverty eradication is inextricably linked to all other goals. Take Goal 2 as an example: the principal obstacle to the attainment of global food security is poverty, which constrains people’s access to food. A successful achievement of SDG2 is linked to progress in achieving SDG1. But progress in SDG2 can also support the achievement of SDG1, especially as agricultural development has a key role to play in generating the incomes needed to ensure food security, particularly in the poorest economies. About three-quarters of the world’s poor and food insecure live in rural areas, where agriculture is the dominant sector. Rural areas are generally disadvantaged with inadequate infrastructure and poor access to markets and services. It is estimated that around 78% of the world’s poor are dependent on agriculture for food, but also for their livelihoods (OECD/FAO 2016). Agriculture needs to be integrated into wider growth and development strategies. The countries that have been most successful in reducing rural poverty and food insecurity have been the ones in which balanced rural development has allowed a progressive integration of rural and urban labour markets.

Progress in the SDGs related to sustainable management of natural resources (i.e. SDGs 6, 7, 13, 14, and 15) is critical for achieving SDG1. For example, the ocean, seas and marine resources (SDG14) can contribute significantly to poverty eradication worldwide by creating livelihoods and jobs. Fisheries and aquaculture (SDG14.7) have a particularly important role to play for achieving the poverty eradication targets in SDG1, as the sector is estimated to support the livelihoods of about 10-12 % of the world’s population (OECD/FAO, 2015a). Small-scale fisheries are of particular importance to jobs (SDG8) and gender equality (SDG5) in developing countries as they employ about 90% of the world’s capture fishers, of whom almost half are women (OECD, 2016d).

Aquaculture can make valuable contributions to local, national and regional economies through goods and services sold on the domestic and export markets. Generally, subsistence and small-scale aquaculture contribute directly to the alleviation of poverty and achievement of food security. In addition, small-scale and large-scale commercial aquaculture can enhance the production for domestic and export markets and generate employment opportunities in the production, processing and marketing sectors. In many countries, aquaculture’s contribution as a proportion of total GDP is small, but its importance to the national economy in terms of poverty alleviation and nutritional benefits is significant, particularly in developing countries (OECD/FAO, 2015a).

There is great potential for poverty alleviation simply by adopting production efficiency measures in aquaculture. World aquaculture is heavily dominated by the Asia–Pacific region, which accounts for roughly 90% of production, mainly due to China. In 2008, 85.5% of fishers and fish farmers were in Asia, compared to 1.4% in Europe and 0.7% in North America (FAO/WHO, 2010). However, much remains to be done to improve productivity in Asia: Fish farmers’ average annual production in Norway is 172 tonnes per person, while in China it is 6 tonnes and in India only 2 tonnes.

Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Food security is a complex multidimensional problem related to food availability, access to affordable food, the effective use by people of the food that they consume, and the stability of these elements over time. SDG2 integrates these dimensions, and features targets on hunger, malnutrition, productivity and incomes, sustainability and resilience, ecosystems, biodiversity, investment, trade and commodity markets. This means that making progress in achieving SDG2 will depend on mutually reinforcing actions with other goals.

Food is an essential human need, yet more than 790 million people worldwide still lack regular access to adequate amounts of dietary energy. It is estimated that if current trends continue, the zero hunger target will be largely missed by 2030 (UN ECOSOC, 2016). Food insecurity is a consequence of poverty. Globally, there is enough food for everyone, although many people are too poor to afford it. Achieving food security requires measures to raise the incomes of the poor and with it their access to food. Progress in SDG1 on poverty, as highlighted in the previous section, is critical for achieving SDG2 on food security. Complementary actions in other policy areas, such as health (SDG3), education (SDG4), social protection (SDG1) and infrastructure (SDG9) are also needed to translate improvements in incomes into improved nutrition.

Hunger and malnutrition have a clear geographic concentration, whether in low-income inner-city neighbourhoods, in large metropolitan regions, or in isolated subsistence farming communities in remote rural regions. Food insecurity and malnutrition within a country tends to occur in geographical clusters, and the forces that lead to food insecurity can vary by type of geography (OECD/FAO/UNCDF, 2016).

Agriculture and food systems have a crucial role to play in achieving the SDGs

The agriculture sector has a crucial role to play in achieving SDG2, but also SDG1 due to its dual role in supplying food and providing incomes to the poor. Targets in SDG2 relevant for the agricultural sector include the doubling of agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers; the correction of international trade restrictions; increased investment in agricultural research, extension services and technology; and the implementation of sustainable food production systems and practices by 2030. All SDGs are either directly or indirectly relevant for agriculture and agricultural policies. Box 3.1 highlights the relevance of the set of seven SDGs to be reviewed by the HLPF in 2017 for agriculture.

Box 3.1. The relevance of the seven goals to be considered by the HLPF in 2017 for agriculture

SDG 1. No poverty: Includes targets for the eradication of extreme poverty (incomes of less than USD 1.25 a day) and at least 50% reduction of poverty (in all its dimensions according to national definitions) by 2030. Reference is also made to ownership and control over land and natural resources.

SDG 2. Zero hunger: Numerous relevant targets, including the ending of hunger and malnutrition; the doubling of agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers; the correction of international trade restrictions; increased investment in agricultural research, extension services and technology; and the implementation of sustainable food production systems and practices by 2030.

SDG 3. Good health and well-being: Includes the reduction of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.

SDG 5. Gender equality: Includes the eradication of gender discrimination, including in land ownership.

SDG 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure: Agriculture-relevant targets include the development of sustainable and resilient infrastructure, increased SME access to financial services and their integration into value chains, and the encouragement of innovation.

SDG 14. Ocean, seas and marine resources: Includes the prevention and significant reduction by 2025 of marine pollution, nutrient pollution in particular; the effective regulation of fishing to ensure sustainable fishing practices; and the prohibition of certain fisheries subsidies by 2020.

SDG 17. Partnerships for the goals: Features agriculture-relevant targets on international trade, including the promotion of an open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system and the conclusion of the WTO Doha Development Round.

Source: Adapted from OECD(2016e).

Increasing agricultural productivity – one of the targets in SDG2 – is central to ensuring that food will be available and affordable to all. With the world’s population expected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050, it is estimated that agricultural production needs to increase by 60% over the next 40 years to meet rising food demand (OECD, 2013c). That means an additional billion tonnes of cereals and 200 million more tonnes of meat a year by 2050 compared to 2005/07 levels. Globally, the scope for expanding agricultural land is limited. Total arable land is projected to increase by less than 5% by 2050, so additional production will need to come from increased productivity (OECD/FAO, 2012). In addition, climate change is expected to negatively affect both crop and livestock production systems in most regions. Higher average temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and floods will add pressures on global agricultural and food systems, all of which threaten food security.

Agricultural systems will face increased competition for increasingly limited natural resources, such as water. In many regions, farmers will face increasing competition from non-agricultural users due to rising urban population density and water demands from the energy and industry sectors (Figure 3.4). Projections reveal that agricultural production will have to rely on much less freshwater resources than before. It is also expected that additional agricultural production will also be necessary to provide feedstock for biofuel production (OECD/FAO, 2012). A potential trade-off between SDG2 on food security and SDG 7 on energy comes through the use of agricultural products as a source of renewable energy with the diversion of land to biofuel production. Policies that subsidise or mandate the use of biofuels might therefore undermine efforts toward more food-secure communities (OECD, 2013c).

Figure 3.4. Global water demand is projected to substantially increase in near future

Note: This graph only measures blue water demand and does not consider rainfed agriculture.

Source: OECD (2012).

Sustainable food systems and climate-resilient agriculture are critical for ending hunger and malnutrition, but also for achieving other SDGs related to the use of natural resources. A large share of the world’s agricultural production is based on the unsustainable exploitation of water (SDG6) and land resources (SDG15) which implies trade-offs between sustainability and immediate food security. Land use change and the conversion of habitat to other land uses, notably for agricultural production, is a main driver of biodiversity loss (OECD, 2016f). Irrigated agriculture remains the largest user globally, accounting for around 70% of water used in the world today. At the same time, agriculture is also a major source of water pollution from excess nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants. Agriculture contributes a significant share of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are causing climate change – 17% directly through agricultural activities and an additional 7-14% through changes in land use. More sustainable agriculture and food systems will also be critical to ensure progress towards several SDGs related to natural resources, such as SDG15 on land and ecosystems; SDG6 on water; SDG13 on climate; and SDG14 on conservation of the oceans, seas and marine resources.

More efficient animal production is needed in a way that also respects the need for greater sustainability in agriculture. For example, chicken is more sustainable than beef, owing to lower greenhouse-gas emissions and water needs. Genomic information is now being applied to chicken breeding programmes. Genomic technologies will need to be applied to more foods, as they have been to dairy cattle, chicken, salmon, tilapia, rice and bananas (El-Chichakli et al., 2016). However, these modern techniques of biotechnology should not be performed in ignorance of the value of traditional breeding techniques (Gilbert, 2016), such as in preventing soil exhaustion and degradation.

Cereal crops have a huge nitrogen demand, necessitating a vast global enterprise in synthetic fertilizer production. These fertilizers are polluting, energy-intensive to produce and consume large quantities of natural gas in the process. Self-fertilizing versions of main food staples like maize, wheat, barley and rice and fertilizing soils by microbial communities in the soils are visions of the future. Synthetic biology may even enable some level of biological nitrogen-fixation in cereals within the next decade, but to completely replace inorganic fertilisers with nitrogen fixation will likely take much longer. Apart from the environmental advantages, this would help decouple subsistence farming from the fossil industry. Such self-fertilizing cereal crops could make up for the shortage of fertilizer that plagues poor farmers in the developing world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa (Stokstad, 2016).

The ocean, seas and marine resources can contribute significantly to global targets for achieving food security and nutrition

The ocean can supplement the food supplies produced by agriculture and help meet the expected growing demand for food driven by population growth and changes in diets. As highlighted before, global agricultural production will need to increase by 60% over the next 40 years to meet rising food demand (OECD, 2013c). Globally, consumption of animal protein is expected to double in the first half of this century (OECD, 2013b). Meeting the increasing food demand will be more challenging in a context of natural resource degradation, scarcity of land and water, and climate change.

Fish is the primary source of animal protein for about one billion people worldwide, the large majority of whom are poor and food deficient. Fish is also an important source of fatty acids and micronutrients, which are an essential complement to the predominantly carbohydrate-based diets of many poor people. These micronutrients include vitamins A, B and D as well as iodine, iron, zinc and calcium. In least-developed countries, fish is often the cheapest and most easily accessible source of protein (OECD/FAO, 2015a). Progress in achieving SDG2 on food security and nutrition will be inextricably linked to progress in efforts to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources (SDG14).

Overfishing is undermining the potential of the ocean as a source for sustainable development. It is estimated that the global marine capture production peaked in 1996 at 86.4 million tonnes and has been relatively flat or declining since that time. The percentage of world marine fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels declined from 90% in 1974 to 69% in 2013 (UN ECOSOC, 2016). The cause of this decline is the increasing proportion of fisheries that are fully overfished or over-exploited (OECD, 2015b). According to FAO, 31% of global fish stocks in 2013 were overfished (FAO, 2016). Efforts in achieving SDG target 14.4 to, “by 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices” will be critical for achieving the food security and nutrition targets of SDG2.

Rebuilding fish stocks will be critical for supporting food security targets. It is estimated that rebuilding overfished stocks could increase fishery production by 16.5 million tonnes and annual rent by USD 32 billion (FAO, 2016), which would certainly increase the contribution of marine fisheries to food security, economies and well-being of the coastal communities, who represented 37% of the global population in 2010 (UN ECOSOC, 2016). It has been estimated that if global fisheries were optimally managed, they would generate an additional USD 50 billion in extra income or more, and could produce 13% more fish by 2030 (OECD, 2015c).

The capacity of the ocean to secure a sustainable food supply is increasingly undermined by marine pollution. Agriculture run off of nutrient and phosphorus, which leads to eutrophication and increases in coastal hypoxia, is the most damaging marine pollution (OECD, 2016d). The five large marine ecosystems most at risk from coastal eutrophication, according to a global comparative assessment undertaken in 2016 as part of the Transboundary Water Assessment Programme, are the Bay of Bengal, the East China Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, the North Brazil Shelf and the South China Sea (UN ECOSOC, 2016). Any efforts in reducing marine pollution as called for by SDG target 14.1, in particular from land-based activities, will enhance the potential of the ocean for supporting food security and nutrition. This also requires enhancing the sustainability of food production systems to help maintain ecosystems, as highlighted in SDG target 2.4.

Aquaculture is an increasingly important component of global food security

As capture fish stocks are considered close to full exploitation worldwide, it is expected that most of the future growth in sea food production will be through aquaculture. Aquaculture produces 50% of the world’s food fish (OECD, 2013b), and overall, aquaculture production has grown at an annual 8.6% rate from 1983 to 2012 (OECD, 2015b). According to some projections, it is estimated that the share of aquaculture in human consumption will reach 56% by 2024, 96 million tonnes from aquaculture and 79 million tonnes from capture fisheries (Figure 3.5). It is also estimated that the expected expansion in aquaculture production capacity will occur largely in the ocean (OECD, 2016d).

Figure 3.5. Aquaculture has surpassed capture fisheries as main source of human consumption
Consumption of fisheries products (million tonnes)

Source: OECD (2015), Aquaculture and capture fisheries, in OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2015,

The benefits generated by the rapid growth in aquaculture can be undermined by environmental, social and production challenges. These include: the reliance on wild fish as feedstock, which remains an important issue in many countries as they are often derived from scarce wild resource (though investments in innovation continue to reduce the dependence of aquaculture on wild feed over time); the competition for marine space, which increases with the number and extent of economic activities that depend on it (tourism, maritime transport, extraction of minerals and hydrocarbons, production of electricity through windmills and tidal wave systems, naval activity, dumping and disposal of waste from production on land, all these activities use marine space). There are also constant challenges in terms of fish health, rearing and containment.

Fish losses in aquaculture are a production challenge for the industry. Marine biotechnology, in the form of new vaccines and molecular-based diagnostics, has already helped to increase production, reduce the use of antibiotics and improve fish welfare (Sommerset et al., 2005). In many places, the use of antibiotics has plummeted. In Norway, for example 99% of farmed salmon are produced without the use of antibiotics (OECD, 2016d).

Trade has a key role to play in ensuring global food security

Agricultural markets play a key role providing the food we eat and in determining the incomes of producers. Well-functioning and open markets – as highlighted in SDG17 on means of implementation – provide the best means to ensure that food is produced where it is most efficient to do so and that producers respond to market demands and produce the food that is needed (OECD, 2015d). On the global scale, international markets balance food deficit and surplus regions and ensure adequate supplies of diverse food products without the costs imposed by artificially higher prices. Making progress in SDG target 2.b which calls for correcting and preventing distortions in world agricultural markets will be fundamental for achieving food security. Trade-distorting policies, such as border protection and distorting forms of producer support, not only create costs for domestic economies, but work against global food supplies, making efforts for multilateral reform an important part of the policy package for addressing global food security (OECD, 2016g).

Importantly, open international markets also allow for the sharing of production risks across countries, supporting adaptation and compensating regional changes in productivity induced by climate change, and thus aiding the overall stability of access to and availability of food (OECD, 2015e; 2015f; 2017b). Distorting trade and domestic support policies can also work against producer incomes through reducing participation in global agriculture and food value chains (Greenville et al., 2017). In the longer run, they can limit productivity by increasing pressure on already constrained natural resources, thus jeopardising agricultural development and raising consumer prices. Trade reforms should be accompanied by policies that enable countries to reap gains from trade, yet mitigate any specific losses – such as through the provision of targeted support to vulnerable households.

Policy coherence is vital for achieving food security

Achieving food security and nutrition, while ensuring sustainable agriculture, requires a cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach. Food security and nutrition policies are characterised by a sectoral, top-down and “one-size-fits-all” approach that has been unable to deliver appropriate long-term responses to food insecurity. The regional and context-specific nature of food security and nutrition has been broadly overlooked. There is a need for a new approach that embraces multisectoral, bottom-up and place-based interventions. This can be achieved through a territorial approach to food security and nutrition (Box 3.2). In this framework, aligning objectives and actions across levels of government is critical to improve vertical and horizontal coherence of diverse policies. Similarly, a territorial approach allows the diversity of different territories to be taken into account, and leads to a better understanding of differences in development opportunities that are so often missed with silo or sectoral policies. A territorial approach also recognises and capitalises on the benefits of urban-rural linkages, instead of addressing urban and rural areas through different, often disconnected, policies.

Box 3.2. The territorial approach to food security and nutrition policy

A territorial approach can help food security and nutrition policy and should focus on four key domains:

  1. Enhancing strategies and programmes beyond agriculture. Most countries now recognise Food Security and Nutrition (FSN) as a multidimensional issue, but implementation is still very sectoral, and the opportunities offered by the off-farm rural economy are often unexploited. There is also insufficient attention paid to differences in geographic conditions and to income inequalities.

  2. Promoting multi-level governance systems to strengthening horizontal and vertical co-ordination. OECD case studies show that lack of vertical and horizontal co-ordination at the central level and weak, decentralised government bodies and stakeholders are a major obstacle to the implementation of FSN strategies and policies. Improving capacity at the local and regional levels is a key priority since it can help with the implementation of FSN policy. It is also a necessary condition to promote a bottom-up approach that can scale-up innovations undertaken at the local level.

  3. Increasing the availability of data and indicators at the local and regional levels to support evidence-based FSN policy. The case studies highlight the lack of reliable data as one of the main constraints for effective FSN policy, particularly at the sub-national level. More information at the local and regional levels can help identify the bottlenecks that are hampering food security and establish areas of priority.

  4. Linking social policies with economic growth policies. FSN is usually addressed through social policies and programmes (e.g. social protection) that are key to supporting people facing food insecurity. These policies could be made more sustainable and have a much stronger impact if they were better co-ordinated and integrated with growth policies.

Source: OECD/FAO/UNCDF, 2016.

Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Health is an essential need, a key determinant of sustainable development and poverty reduction, and a precursor for well-being. Health is critical to human capital. Adults in good health are more productive; children in good health do better at school. Good health also has economic benefits that extend beyond the individual, particularly in developing country contexts. For example, in countries with high fertility rates, lower maternal and infant mortality rates influence family planning decisions, thereby contributing to a faster demographic transition (OECD forthcoming).

At the same time, progress in health is dependent on economic, social and environmental progress. This means that achieving SDG3 will depend on the achievement of other SDGs, including SDG1 on eradicating poverty, SDG2 on food security and nutrition, SDG4 on education or SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation. It also means that there is a two-way relationship between health and sustainable development. The poor, less educated and unemployed are more likely to be in worse health or die prematurely than those in more favourable socioeconomic circumstances. This means that progress on health (SDG3) cannot be achieved without progress in addressing poverty (SDG1). Environmental degradation and climate change also adversely affect health outcomes.

Effective health policies can contribute to sustainable development and poverty reduction if people have access to the services they need to promote and protect their health. The health system, as significant employer, contractor, investor and purchaser of medical goods and technologies, contributes to the economy and social cohesion. On average, health and social work activities constituted around 11% of total employment for OECD countries in 2014 (OECD 2016i).

Prevention policies, as highlighted in SDG 3.4, are fundamental for ensuring healthy lives

Changes in lifestyles, diets and food systems – as a result of demographic trends, urbanisation, economic growth, culture and technical progress – have been a factor in reducing average rates of prevalence of undernourishment, but they have also been an important factor in pushing up rates of over-nutrition (overweight and obesity), which in turn is associated with negative health impacts related to the increasing risk of non-communicable diseases (Figure 3.6). Obesity is a major health concern for many countries. In OECD countries, for example, the majority of the population, and one in five children, are overweight or obese. There is a clear case for action to address obesity, and evidence of the gains to be made through different prevention strategies has built up over time. OECD analyses have shown the potential health and economic impacts of a range of policies in countries covering over two-thirds of the world population. Globally, obesity is estimated to account for between 0.7% and 2.8% of a country’s total healthcare expenditures. Obese individuals often have medical costs that were approximately 30% greater than their normal weight peers.

Figure 3.6. Obesity and overweight in OECD and non-OECD countries

Note: For Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovak Republic, United Kingdom and United States, rates are based on measured, rather than self-reported, body mass index (BMI).

* The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

Source: OECD Health Data 2010, and WHO Infobase for Brazil, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Russian Federation and South Africa, in OECD (2010), Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat, OECD Publishing, Paris.

People with less education and lower socio-economic status are more likely to be obese, and the gap is generally larger in women. The social gradient observed in obesity is consistent with similar gradients in healthy eating and physical activity and with poorer labour market outcomes (particularly employment and wages) for people who are obese. Actions in diverse goal areas such as food systems (SDG2), education (SDG4), health (SDG3) are critical.

Strategies to increase physical activity, walkable urban environments through better planning (SDG11), taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, dietary guidelines to decrease intake of added sugar, etc. are some effective measures. Interventions aimed at tackling obesity by improving diets and increasing physical activity in at least three areas, including health education and promotion, regulation and fiscal measures, and counselling in primary care, are all effective in improving health and longevity and have favourable cost-effectiveness ratios relative to a scenario in which chronic diseases are treated only as they emerge. When interventions are combined in a multiple intervention strategy, targeting different age groups and determinants of obesity simultaneously, overall health gains are significantly enhanced without any loss in cost-effectiveness.

Universal health coverage – one of the priorities included in SDG3 – is essential to improve health, but also to ensure that “no one is left behind”

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is about everyone having access to affordable high quality health services. Countries’ experiences demonstrate the positive impact of universal health coverage on health outcomes. A positive association exists between life expectancy and core UHC components (population coverage, financial coverage and service coverage). Across 153 countries for the period 1995-2008, a 10% increase in government spending on health was associated with a reduction in under-five mortality by 7.9 deaths per 1000 and adult mortality by 1.6 (women) and 1.3 (men) deaths per 1000 (OECD, 2016i).

Universal health coverage is affordable for middle-income countries, but requires strong political commitment. Small increases in GDP/capita can make UHC much more attainable: a 1% increase in GDP/capita leads to an almost 6% increase in the probability of UHC. Japan, Korea, Chile, Colombia and Portugal all achieved UHC when GDP/capita was only around or below USD 10 000 (OECD, 2016i). But while economic growth facilitates UHC, it is not enough by itself. Strong political commitment is required to deal with implementation bottlenecks such as extending coverage to the self-employed and those working in smaller, unregulated firms. A key challenge in many countries is to extend health coverage to informal workers.

Ageing populations make universal health coverage an imperative. Rapid ageing population in many countries will raise demands for health care. In 1950, 12 working-age people supported one elderly person. By 2060, 2 working-age people will support one elderly person in OECD. In emerging economies 1.8 billion people will be 65 years and over by 2060, which makes UHC a particularly pressing goal (OECD, 2016i).

Achieving a sustainable UHC requires the right policies. Countries need to build in financial sustainability from the start: diversifying the revenue base for health, value-for-money reforms, and being innovative with service delivery modalities are all crucial policy areas. The OECD joint network of senior budget and health officials provides an effective platform to discuss such issues from different stakeholder perspectives.

Box 3.3. Supporting countries to achieve and sustain Universal Health Coverage

The International Health Partnership (IHP) for UHC 2030 was launched in June 2016 as the platform to co-ordinate and consolidate global efforts towards achieving goal 3.8 on UHC. Much of the focus of the platform is on strengthening health systems in low income countries. As such there is little discussion of relevance to higher income country health systems. To address this, the OECD has proposed a complementary strand of work to support OECD member countries and emerging economies. It will also facilitate the two-way sharing of ideas and experience between higher and other, particularly middle income, countries. The OECD is keen to broaden the group of countries that can benefit from the OECD’s health work and to enable this wider group of countries to benchmark their performance against OECD countries and learn from the process.


People-centered care should be at the core of the next generation of health system reforms. While many higher income countries face growing financial sustainability pressures, people’s expectations are also rising. People-centered care seeks to transform the healthcare paradigm, by better meeting peoples’ needs and expectations. Some of the key issues that need to be addressed include integrating health and social care, addressing the needs of an ageing society, encouraging people to take responsibility for their own health, and focusing on preventing ill health rather than treating the consequences of ill health. This is an area where the OECD can play a leading role, building on the recent policy forum: first, by developing a vision on what a people-centered care system could look like by 2030; and second, by articulating the needs in terms of health workforce skills, health literacy, governance and service delivery.

The ocean, seas and marine resources (SDG9) have the potential to make a significant contribution to human health

Advances in genomics and computer science have transformed earlier views of the ocean. It is no longer simply a source of food and a way to transport goods but a vast reservoir of genetic potential and a means of achieving a wide range of socioeconomic benefits. The application of marine biotechnology in a number of sectors suggests that it may help to meet the global challenges of population health, food and fuel security and greener industrial processes: The Ocean is recognised as a source of drugs and natural products with various functionalities. As of 2012, seven marine-derived drugs had received FDA approval, eleven were in clinical trials and 1 458 were in the pre-clinical pipeline. Marine microbes are of particular interest as new sources of antibiotics for treating drug-resistant bacterial infections (OECD, 2013b).

Marine bioresources are contributing to new health-related products. Nutrients, enzymes, metabolites and other compounds from marine bioresources are being used for nutraceutical applications and the development of functional foods (OECD, 2013b). Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have a positive effect on human health, most notably by preventing cardiovascular disease and diseases associated with metabolic syndrome, such as type-2 diabetes and obesity. Macroalgae, fish and even bacteria are used as sources of essential fatty acids, including arachidonic acid (ARA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The marine environment is one of the main sources for the food lipid supply. The global omega-3 ingredients demand was estimated to be worth USD 1.595 billion in 2010 and is expected to rise to around USD 4 billion by 2018, which corresponds to an annual growth rate of over 15% from 2013 to 2018 (OECD, 2016d).

The future opportunities are large. Some marine organisms contain, or produce, bioactive or structural compounds that can be used to manage pain or reduce inflammation, to treat cancer or other diseases, as new materials for dressing wounds, or to regenerate tissue. Marine sponges or symbiotic microbes have been used as sources of products, as have fungi and, increasingly, marine bacteria (OECD, 2106d). The marine environment has produced promising leads for a remarkable number of pharmacological targets: antitumour, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antimalarial, antituberculosis, antiprotozoal, anticoagulant, cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory, marine compounds affecting the immune system and nervous system (Mayer et al., 2011).

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Gender equality is a necessary foundation for prosperity and sustainable development. Gender equality is a prerequisite for the health and the wellbeing of families and societies, and a key driver of economic growth. Gender equality features as a stand-alone goal (SDG5) and is integrated throughout the other goals. It represents a cross-cutting priority. SDG5 features targets related to persisting challenges in the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women, universal access to sexual and reproductive health, equal rights to economic resources, property rights, women’s participation in decision-making, and enabling technology, among others.

SDG5 calls for reforms to ensure women’s access to economic resources. Gender gaps have been narrowing in labour markets but they are not closed yet. In 2015 female participation rates, at 71.3% on average across the OECD, were 8.5 percentage points lower than for men. Women are concentrated in fewer sectors than men, and they are more likely to work part-time and work for lower pay. The gender pay gap is around 15% at the median, with little change in recent years. With regard to the public sector, the majority of OECD countries have in place some form of political affirmative action to close the gender gap in political representation; however, in 2016, women held only 29% of seats in lower or single houses of Parliament. Within Central Government institutions, in OECD countries for which data are available, women held only 33% of senior management posts. In the private sector in 2016, women occupied 20% of board seats of publicly listed companies and only 4.8% of chief executive officers were women. In nearly every OECD country women are still much less likely to be self-employed than men.

Greater recognition by governments of unpaid work through the provision of services, infrastructure and social protection policies, as called for by SDG target 5.4, is critical for addressing gender inequality. In all countries for which data exist, women do more unpaid work than men. As a result they have less time for paid work. Evidence from the OECD shows that countries with the smallest gender gaps in caring responsibilities also have the smallest gender gaps in employment rates. Better sharing of unpaid and paid work will be an important element of any strategy to reduce the gender gap in labour force participation.

Many countries made significant progress towards gender equality in education. In OECD countries girls and young women have higher levels of education: on average in 2014, about 58% of bachelor’s and master’s (or equivalents) graduates were women. In a global perspective, the gender gaps in primary, secondary and tertiary school enrolment rates have decreased between 2000 and 2014 (World Bank, 2014) but girls are still much less likely than boys to complete secondary and tertiary education in many regions of the world. Across the world, gender gaps also persist in choices and performance by subject. Girls do better in reading and boys continue to do better in mathematics in PISA testing; and girls are under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) fields. In 2014 across OECD countries, less than 20% of graduates in computing and 17% of graduates in engineering were women.

Gender equality is a pre-requisite for poverty eradication (SDG1), sustainable development and well-being. Closing gender gaps in education (SDG4) will contribute to improving well-being in terms of income (SDG8), health (SDG3) and education because higher maternal education is associated with lower child and maternal mortality, better education outcomes for children, as well as better employment opportunities for women themselves. Removing barriers to employment for women and improving the quality of their jobs will also help reduce poverty among single-parent households – who are predominantly headed by women – and among elderly women. In many countries, women are more likely than men to be in the most vulnerable informal jobs, facing high poverty risks and limited prospects of upward mobility. Overall, closing the gender gap in political representation and achieve a representative public administration, also at the decision-making level, is crucial to ensure that government policies, programmes and budgets reflect the diversity of the citizenry they serve, and thus are able to respond to the different needs of men and women and their diverse challenges to overcome poverty and realise long-lasting well-being.

Throughout the world, women earn less than men for every hour of work they do. Figure 3.7 shows that in all the countries analysed the median monthly earnings of full-time employees are significantly lower for women than for men (OECD, 2016j). Closing the gender wage gap can generate additional welfare gains and reduce poverty (SDG1) overall as women (to a greater extent than men) tend to reinvest their income in improved nutrition, health and education – not only for themselves but also for their children and other household members. This contributes to increasing living standards and reducing not only income poverty but also “non-income poverty” in the long term.

Figure 3.7. The gender pay gap remains substantial in most countries
Difference between male and female median earnings divided by male median earnings

Note: Earnings refer to the monthly earnings of full-time employees (usually persons working at least 30 hours per week). The pay gap has been averaged over the available years within each decade.

a. Selected urban areas.

b. OECD is the unweighted average of the gender pay gap for the 34 OECD member countries.

c. Weekly earnings for India.

Source: OECD estimates based on the EPH for Argentina, the PNAD for Brazil, the CASEN for Chile, the GEIH for Colombia, the ENAHO for Costa Rica, the NSS for India, the SAKERNAS for Indonesia, the ENOE for Mexico, the ENAHO for Peru, the RLMS for the Russian Federation, the NIDS for South Africa, the EU-SILC national files for Turkey and the OECD Earnings Distribution Database for the OECD average,, in OECD (2016), OECD Employment Outlook 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris. StatLink:

Gender equality and women’s empowerment would significantly strengthen the prospects of achieving global food security (SDG2). A joint AFD-FAO (2013) report suggests that if women were given the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30%. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4%, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17%.

For many women across the world, in addition to meeting subsistence needs for food, land also provides an asset and means for accessing credit, agricultural extension services and new technologies. Women’s limited access to land and other productive assets can therefore affect their ability to sustainably manage and conserve the land that they depend on for their income – potentially exacerbating land degradation (SDG15).

Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation

Infrastructure, industrialisation and innovation are key components of the economic capital for achieving sustainable development. Infrastructure investment is vital to underpin truly sustainable growth: ensure that investment is consistent with global pathways to net-zero global GHG emissions by the second half of this century and with the vision and aspirations in the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

Effective energy and transport infrastructure underpins almost all economic activity. The positive relationship between high-quality public infrastructure and economy-wide, long-run productivity is well-known. Infrastructure investment can stimulate short-term demand and support growth in periods of recession. Access to and use of infrastructure services can also play a key role in the integration of individuals and households into social and economic life and as such is central to the delivery of the SDGs.

Current investment in infrastructure is sub-optimal. The quality of infrastructure is declining in many advanced economies, and more investment is needed in developing countries to achieve universal access to basic services. With the right accompanying frameworks, efforts to close the infrastructure investment gap can underwrite long-term growth in addition to being a source of short-term stimulus, by ensuring investment is consistent with long-term low-carbon and climate resilient development pathways and with the SDGs.

The urgency of the climate challenge (SDG13) is an opportunity to shift and increase investment in quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure (SDG9), while sustaining growth (SDG8). Given the long life span of infrastructure projects, short term actions and existing infrastructure investment plans and pipelines should be consistent with global pathways to net-zero global GHG emissions by the second half of this century, clarifying how short-term actions align with longer-term objectives. The failure to invest in the right type of infrastructure in the next 10-15 years will lock the world in a GHG-intensive development or risk creating a wave of stranded assets. The later the transition to a 2°C trajectory is deferred, the more difficult and disruptive it promises to be for the energy sector and other GHG-intensive activities.

Developing resilient infrastructures is critical for achieving food security (SDG3)

Infrastructure is a key source of vulnerability for the agricultural sector. In addition to the direct effects of climate change on the agricultural sector, damaged infrastructure – such as roads, bridges, ports, markets, storage sites, electricity distribution and irrigation – may indirectly inhibit agricultural production, processing and market access, undermining the ability to ensure that sufficient nutritious food is able to reach communities that need it. The costs of preparing agricultural infrastructure for climate change are high, but the costs of inaction are higher. In particular, OECD estimates suggest that strengthening water infrastructure will be the main adaptation cost in the coming decades. Delays in implementing such initiatives will only increase the costs.

Broader investments in innovation (SDG9) and the agricultural enabling environment will also be critical for improving food security. Sustained increases in funding for agricultural research and development are needed in many countries. In the long term, sustainable agricultural development depends on farmers having access to a supply of innovations that meet diverse and complex needs (OECD, 2017c). Yet many countries invest less than 1% of agricultural gross value added in agricultural research and lack the research capacities – including laboratory facilities and sufficiently experienced and skilled research staff – to develop and adapt innovations that address the challenges facing their agricultural sectors, including food insecurity. At the same time, further efforts to enhance the agricultural enabling environment are also needed to maximise the payoff to investments in agricultural research and development. This includes investments in agricultural infrastructure to connect farms to markets and knowledge, along with education systems that equip producers with the core skills to adopt and apply new developments.

Inclusive infrastructure services can foster women’s economic participation

Female time use between home and market work can be influenced by infrastructure and technology. Access to water or electricity in the household can raise women’s time available for outside work. In South Africa, electrification led to a large jump in female participation. Safety and availability of transport also impacts on the ability to go to work, or access markets. The absence of infrastructure supporting girls (e.g., sanitary provisions at school and safe transport) often compounds attitudes and social institutions in limiting the participation of girls in education and work.

Innovation plays a key role for enhancing the governance, conservation and sustainable use of the ocean

Fostering innovation as called for by SDG9 is crucial for addressing many of the ocean-related environmental challenges, improving ocean governance, and leveraging sustainable ocean-based economic activities. Innovations in advanced materials, subsea engineering and technology, sensors and imaging, satellite technologies, computerisation and big data analytics, autonomous systems, biotechnology and nanotechnology are expected to stimulate improvements in efficiency, productivity and cost structures in many ocean activities, from scientific research and ecosystems analysis to shipping, energy, fisheries and tourism. For example, marine aquaculture is building on advances in biotechnology to improve fish health and welfare and reduce dependence on wild fish catches for feed. Similarly, renewable ocean energies are making increasing use of advances in new materials and sensors. In the same vein it is estimated that fisheries, maritime safety, ocean observation and environmental assessment will continue to benefit from advances in satellite technologies (communications, remote sensing, navigation) (OECD, 2016d).

Inter-sectoral synergies can be promoted, through network creation and co-operation among national maritime-cluster innovation schemes, centres of excellence, and innovation incubators. Already many centres of excellence have been created to leverage the potential synergies among marine and maritime industries – e.g. offshore wind and ocean renewable energy with offshore oil and gas operations; marine aquaculture, tourism, marine research and marine biotechnology with offshore structures and platforms. Different models exist around the world, such as maritime industry clusters, acting as agents of cross-sectoral technology transfer and stimulators of innovation synergies, not least among small and medium size enterprises. Some best practices are starting to emerge. As part of a dedicated OECD programme of work for 2017-18 on Innovation and the Ocean Economy, which has the objective to provide decision-makers with an improved toolbox to foster innovation for harnessing the ocean economy’s potential in a responsible and sustainable way, new practices and new platforms of collaboration will be studied.

Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

The ocean is an essential global resource for achieving the SDGs. It provides indispensable resources and services to address the economic, social and environmental challenges and commitments embodied in the SDGs. The ocean has the potential to contribute to a wide range of goals and targets in the SDGs, from food security (SDG2) and climate change (SDG13) to the provision of energy (SDG7), employment creation (SDG8) and improved health (SDG3). The ocean is a vital natural resource because of the global regulating services it provides which are critical for human well-being. These include: the regulation of atmospheric and marine carbon dioxide concentrations, the provision of oxygen, the hydrothermal convection cycle, the hydrological cycle, coastal protection and vital contributions from marine biodiversity (OECD, 2016d). The ocean is the largest natural carbon sink and plays a key role for supporting climate change mitigation. It absorbs about one-quarter of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year (OECD, 2013b).

The ocean is a key source of economic growth and jobs

Ocean-based industries contribute to the global economy and have a great potential for boosting sustainable economic growth, as called for by SDG8. Ocean-based industries – such as shipping, fishing, maritime and coastal tourism, offshore oil and gas – contributed roughly USD 1.5 trillion (2.5%) to global gross value added in 2010 (OECD, 2016d). According to OECD projections, between 2010 and 2030, ocean-based industries could more than double its contribution to global value added, reaching over USD 3 trillion.

The ocean contributes significantly to job creation and can make an important contribution to the global targets on employment embodied in SDG8. OECD estimates that ocean-based industries contributed some 31 million direct full-time equivalent jobs in 2010, around 1% of the global work force. Industrial capture fisheries (36%) and maritime and coastal tourism (23%) were the largest employers (Figure 3.8). Employment in artisanal fisheries would add approximately a further 35 million full-time jobs in capture fisheries, although this figure contains both inland and marine production. This number would double if part-time fishers were included, according to FAO estimates. In 2030, ocean-based industries are anticipated to employ approximately 40 million full-time equivalent jobs (OECD, 2016d).

Figure 3.8. Employment in the ocean-based industries in 2010 by industry

Note: Artisanal fisheries are not included in this overview.

Source: OECD (2016d). Statlink

The potential of the ocean as a major resource for sustainable development is constrained by the current deterioration of its health

The ocean is increasingly exposed to pollution from different sources (agricultural run-off, plastic, oil and chemical pollution, residential waste, noise or the spread of invasive organisms) which are threatening species and marine habitats. Plastic pollution is of particular concern due to its abundance and persistence in the environment more generally. Plastic pieces in the ocean were estimated to be over 5 trillion, and weighing over 250 000 tonnes. Moreover, it is estimated that about two million tonnes of oil enter the marine environment annually. Apart from effects in the open oceans, many economically important activities are affected by contamination of the shore (OECD, 2016d).

Overcapacity, waste and inefficiency as well as illegal fishing and harmful fishing practices add pressure to marine ecosystems and fish stocks. It is estimated that 7.2 million tonnes of non-target fish are lost as discards as a consequence of market or regulatory constraints (OECD, 2016d). According to some estimates, between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught by IUU fishing annually, representing 18% of global catches across all fisheries. IUU fishing has reached a global annual value of EUR 10-20 billion (OECD, 2016d). It damages the environment and threatens biodiversity by diluting the effects of policies aimed at conserving fish stocks and protecting ecosystems. It also harms markets for legally caught fish, encourages corruption, reduces prospects for economic growth and food security, and undermines labour standards (OECD/FAO, 2015a).

The environmental, social and economic consequences of further declines of fish stocks are significant, particularly for developing countries reliant on the fisheries sector for food security and broader economic activity. The cumulative economic loss to the global economy over the last three decades associated with overfishing is estimated in USD 2 trillion. In the future, the cost of declining fishing yields is expected to continue to rise to USD 88.4 billion by 2050 and USD 343.3 billion by 2100 (OECD, 2016d).

Marine biotechnology can contribute to the sustainability and rebuilding of capture fisheries. Almost 34% of the world’s fisheries catch from 1950–2002 lacked species level identification and traceability is becoming an increasingly urgent need. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing remains a major threat to marine ecosystems (FAO, 2014). A common fraudulent practice is species substitution, which can be unintentional or intentional for tax evasion, for laundering illegally caught fish or for selling one fish species for a higher-priced species. The use of DNA barcodes for species delimitation, and the availability of a standardised and globally accessible database (Barcode of Life Data System, BOLD)3 , facilitates numerous related applications, including issues relating to traceability, eco-labelling, illegal fishing and fish fraud (Costa et al., 2012), and more fundamental information such as migration and dispersal behaviour.

The combining pressure of rising sea levels and temperatures, acidification, changes in ocean currents and the hydrological cycle, pollution, overfishing, and habitat loss can affect the wider economy by altering resources and increasing risks to public health, human well-being and security. Ocean acidification, pollution and overfishing are causing important damages to coral reefs and marine ecosystems, on which many small island developing states (SIDS) depend on for food and tourism. According to UNEP, 60% of the world’s major marine ecosystems have been degraded or are being used unsustainably (UNEP, 2011). The expected acceleration of economic activity in the ocean will inevitably increase the pressures on the ocean environment – including over-fishing, pollution and habitat destruction – and the ocean space including on economic exclusive zones (EEZs) where most of this activity takes place.

There are diverse policy instruments available which can help address several pressures on marine biodiversity (Table 3.1). Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for example, can help address over-fishing and habitat degradation, and ensure the provision of multiple ecosystem services for human well-being, including for fisheries, coastal protection (buffering against storms and erosion), tourism and recreation. MPAs cover about 4.12% of the total marine environment (OECD, 2016l), and further efforts are required to achieve the SDG target 14.5 to conserve 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020, as well as to ensure these are more effectively sited and managed (e.g. monitoring, effective compliance, sustainable financing) so as to achieve their intended objectives (OECD, 2016l; 2017c forthcoming).

Table 3.1. Examples of policy instruments for marine biodiversity conservation and sustainable use

Regulatory instruments (i.e. command-and-control)

Economic instruments

Information and voluntary approaches

Marine protected areas

Taxes, charges, user fees (e.g. entrance fees to marine parks)

Certification, eco labelling (e.g. MSC)

Marine spatial planning

Individually transferable quotas

Voluntary agreements, including public private partnerships (which can include e.g., voluntary biodiversity offset schemes)

Spatial and temporal fishing closures; limits on number and size of vessels (input controls); other restrictions or prohibitions on use (e.g. CITES)

Reform of subsidies harmful to marine ecosystems and use of subsidies that promote conservation and sustainable use

Standards (e.g. MARPOL for ships); bans on dynamite fishing or fishing gear

Payments for ecosystem services

Catch limits or quotas (output controls)

Biodiversity offsets

Licenses e.g. aquaculture and offshore windfarms

Non-compliance penalties

Planning requirements (e.g. Environmental Impact Assessments and Strategic Environmental Assessments)

Fines on damages

Source: OECD (2016l).

However, the extent of marine biodiversity has been difficult to study and therefore assess. Advances in biotechnology such as whole genome sequencing and metagenomics are revealing great biodiversity in the marine environment, diversity that remains largely untapped (Kennedy et al., 2008). Using biotechnology to uncover marine biodiversity also helps to understand it and manage it.

Harnessing the potential of ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable development calls for integrated and coherent approaches

Breaking out of sectoral silos and fostering greater coherence in managing ocean resources and regulating ocean activities will be fundamental to deal with these pressures in an effective way. In addition to MPAs, complementary instruments are needed to effectively manage pressures such as over-fishing, marine pollution (including from land-based sources), climate change, and invasive alien species. When managing at higher levels, i.e. ecosystems or integrated ocean management, interest groups are spread more widely and pursue a variety of economic activities and more ministries and agencies have competence. For example, managing coastal ecosystems might require agriculture, rural development, fisheries, aquaculture, tourist, zoning interests etc. to be taken into account in decision making. Whole of government approaches, multi-stakeholder involvement and a comprehensive package of policy measures are needed to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources, including policies that lie beyond the mandates of environmental ministries (Box 3.4).

Box 3.4. The need for policy coherence and the Sustainable Development Goals

Embedding MPA design issues into other policy approaches, such as Marine Spatial Planning and ecosystem-based management approaches, and establishing inter-Ministerial Committees to develop national marine and coastal development strategies, help bring together multiple stakeholders. This can contribute to ensuring a better understanding of the costs and benefits of decisions to different users (i.e. the winners and losers), and the possible transitional measures needed to address any vulnerable groups most adversely affected. It can help to address political economy issues that arise e.g. between conservation and fishing communities. And it can help to foster policy coherence necessary as part of a strategy that can meaningfully contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including those for oceans and marine biodiversity, for food security, and for poverty alleviation.

Source: OECD (2016l).

One of the reasons for overfishing is policy objectives related to rural development, employment, and preservation of traditional communities and production methods that translate to sector supports and pressure on the resource. Achieving coherence between these and sustainability objectives will require new approaches to fisheries governance that take these trade-offs more explicitly into account and recognise healthy fish stocks as a precondition to achieving broader objectives (OECD 2013d).

IUU fishing is a lucrative activity because regulatory penalties are low. But IUU fishing is usually associated with other crimes such as money laundering, tax evasion and document fraud that have significant criminal penalties. Providing an effective deterrent to criminal activity in the fisheries sector will require co-operation between fisheries managers, police, prosecutors and tax authorities (OECD 2013e).

Policy coherence will also be critical for improving the governance of the high seas, which is facing numerous risks and uncertainties. These include a plethora of different agencies looking after different activities, gaps in the governance framework, weak compliance, lack of enforcement, new and emerging issues, including high seas industries such as energy production, and lack of an equity framework for exploitation of genetic resources. These uncertainties will impact a variety of economic-related activities, including for example, a lack of legal clarity about economic activities in the oceans beyond national jurisdiction as well as the potential for increased competition between states for access to resources in the seas (OECD, 2016d).

In economic exclusive zones, there is a growing recognition that management of the ocean needs to be based on ecosystem approaches. Most coastal nations of the world already have a variety of sectoral policies in place to manage different uses of the ocean (such as shipping, fishing, oil and gas development). But a number of them are increasingly developing an integrated, ecosystem-based vision for the governance of ocean areas under their jurisdiction. This integrated vision includes goals and procedures to: harmonise existing uses and laws, promote sustainable development of ocean areas, protect biodiversity and vulnerable resources and ecosystems, and co-ordinate the actions of the many government agencies that are typically involved in oceans affairs. Some experiences in Asia are illustrated in Box 3.5.

Box 3.5. Some Asian countries are embracing integrated ocean management

China is moving toward a unified marine governance approach in order to protect their ocean interests and develop ocean-related industries. In 2013 four of its five maritime law-enforcement commands were consolidated into the SOA (State Oceanic Authority).

The Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries was created in 2013 with responsibilities to provide a fully integrated approach to all marine issues.

India established the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) in August 2014 in order to have a more integrated fisheries governance system. The NFDB will promote the fisheries sector and co-ordinate activities related to fisheries undertaken by different ministries or departments in the central government and state or union territory governments.

Source: OECD (2015a).

Given the acceleration expected in the use of the ocean and its resources, it will be critical to spread the application of integrated ocean management around the world. The OECD has put forward a number of recommendations to enhance the sustainable development of the ocean economy in the future (Box 3.6).

Box 3.6. What policy recommendation to foster a sustainable ocean economy?

In order to boost the long-term development prospects of emerging ocean industries and their contribution to growth and employment, while managing the ocean in responsible, sustainable ways, policy-makers would need to:

  1. Foster greater international co-operation in maritime science and technology as a means to stimulate innovation and strengthen the sustainable development of the ocean economy. This would involve for example undertaking international comparative analyses and reviews of the role of government policy on technological innovations in marine and maritime activities.

  2. Strengthen integrated ocean management. In particular, this should involve making greater use of economic analysis and economic tools in integrated ocean management, for example by establishing international platforms for the exchange of knowledge, experience and best practice, and by stepping up efforts to evaluate the economic effectiveness of public investment in marine research and observation.

  3. Improve the statistical and methodological base at national and international level for measuring the scale and performance of ocean-based industries and their contribution to the overall economy. This could include, among other tasks, the further development of the OECD’s Ocean Economy Database.

  4. Build more national and international capacity for ocean industry foresight, including the assessment of future changes in ocean-based industries.

Source: OECD (2016d).

The sustainable use of the ocean cannot be achieved unless the management of all sectors of human activities affecting the ocean is coherent. Missing SDG 14 which call on the international community to “conserve and sustainably use oceans and marine resources”, as well as other key related international agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC, may result in additional cost, especially for developing countries where fish catch and tourism revenues provide jobs, livelihoods and nourishment for millions of coastal communities. In November 2017, the Green Growth and Sustainable Development Forum will focus on the fast growing ocean-based industries. The outcomes of this Forum will be relevant to the implementation agenda of SDG 14 on Oceans (Box 3.7).

Box 3.7. Green Growth and Sustainable Development Forum on Greening the Ocean Economy

As OECD’s work on green growth is of crosscutting nature, the annual Green Growth Sustainable Development (GGSD) Forum is a dedicated space for multi-disciplinary dialogue on green growth bringing together experts from different policy fields and disciplines. In 2017, the GGSD Forum, to take place on 21-22 November, will focus on the fast growing ocean-based industries. The Forum will explore how the economic development and conservation needs can be balanced successfully through innovations in established and emerging (new) industries as well as marine spatial planning instruments. The outcomes are relevant to the implementation agenda of SDG 14 on Oceans as the exchange of knowledge and exploitation of potential synergies might help policy-makers in achieving the targets under SDG 14 and in identifying knowledge gaps and areas of future work.



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← 1. The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlement in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

← 2. The joint UNECE/OECD/Eurostat Task Force for Measuring Sustainable Development has developed a broad measurement framework that links three conceptual dimensions of sustainable development, i.e. human well-being of the present generation in one particular country (referred to as “here and now”), the well-being of future generations (“later”) and the well-being of people living in other countries (“elsewhere”). This framework has served as a basis for developing the policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) approach promoted by the OECD.

← 3.