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Integrated SDG Insights

UNDP’s Integrated SDG Insights explore how to achieve the SDGs by 2030. So that no one is left behind.

How To Read This Report

‘SDG Insights’ playbooks transcend development “as usual,” and leverages data innovation, AI and systems analysis to chart credible pathways that help countries meet the 2030 Agenda.

SDG Moment This section provides an overview of a country's economic growth trajectory, with new insights on sustainability and inclusiveness of growth pathways.

SDG Trends & Priorities This section builds from the foundation of national SDG progress and uses machine learning to analyse national development ambition with an SDG lens.

SDG Interlinkages Combined, these insights are mapped against SDG interlinkages to define policy choices the accelerate SDG progress, tailored to national context.

Finance & StimulusThese policy choices are made against fiscal constraints and opportunities for stimulus mapped in this section to ensure choices translate to development impact and leave no one behind.

1. SDG Moment

While economic growth is a key element in achieving the SDGs, many countries are intent on moving beyond growth as a yardstick for progress. In the short run, growth enables the SDGs; but in the long run, the SDGs aim to transform the pattern of growth itself.

GDP Growth Pathways


Poverty: Percentage of the population under each threshold (PPP$ a day).


Carbon Intensity: CO2 emissions intensity of GDP (tCO2 per PPP $1,000).

Iraq’s pace of growth during the cycle 2023-2025 is in acceleration, characterized by being 7% higher, on average, than that of the world, and well above the country’s growth trajectory projected before the pandemic.1 Accordingly, Iraq’s commitments to achieving the SDGs are focused on increasing people’s well-being.

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However, this pace of growth occurs at the expense of the environment as Iraq’s carbon emissions intensity of GDP is expected to increase at an annual rate of around 5% due to fossil fuel usage and land-use change.2 On the other hand, the economic expansion is not expected to exert a noticeable effect on lowering the incidence of poverty, leaving the percentages of the population living under the international poverty lines of $3.65 and $6.85 a day virtually unchanged in the short-term. Hence, significant distributional challenges remain to overcome this stagnation in progress.

3. SDG Interlinkages

Maps synergies and trade-offs of national priorities to the most relevant SDG targets to chart policy pathways with most potential to accelerate progress.

2.3: By 2030 double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment

Agriculture is the largest employer, especially in rural areas. However, the sector has suffered from low productivity, inefficiency and neglect. Poor yields and post-harvest management have made Iraq dependent on imports to meet its domestic food needs, making it a major importer of agricultural products.

To boost economic diversification in Iraq, an increase in agricultural and food productivity would lead to an overall growth in the economy that benefits the poorest. Indeed, agriculture- and food-led growth would reduce the poverty headcount ratio and inequality (Gini index) .

3.8: Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all

The health system in Iraq has been strained in the past two decades. Infrastructure has been damaged and many of the skilled health professionals have fled the country.

Iraq is experiencing a critical shortage of health workers, with a ratio of physicians, nurses and midwives below 23 per 10,000, below the threshold level of 44.5 physicians, nurses and midwives per 10,000 population needed to advance universal health coverage.

Access to services, including health is crucial to build social cohesion, in particular in the territories reintegrated from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

4.1: By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes

The government currently spends an average of only 9 per cent of general government expenditure (GGE) and 3.1% of GDP on education, far below the international and regional benchmarks of 15%-20% of GGE, and 4-6% of GDP.

When comparing the female and male population with at least a secondary education, there is a persistent deficit of almost 11%.  Moreover, shortages and/or inefficiencies in the allocation of teaching staff, textbooks and learning materials pose challenges, recognizing also that a reliable education management information system to support planning is under development.

Access to services, including education, is crucial to build social cohesion, in particular in the territories reintegrated from ISIL.

7.1: By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services

Inadequate supply of electricity in Iraq impacts daily life, development, economic growth, private sector regeneration and job creation. Prior to the emergence of ISIL, the country’s electricity sector suffered from a series of challenges, including sanctions and conflict. Recent investments in reconstruction, rehabilitation and expansion of generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure have been insufficient to cope with growing demand, leading to a dilapidated national electricity grid and poor supply reliability.

To ensure access to energy (7.1) the government aims to undertake the following: (i) accelerate the rehabilitation of all types of power plants; (ii) remove bottlenecks in the transport and distribution sector; and (iii) complete the construction of stations and projects of conversion, transmission and generation of the electrical system, and focus on solar generation, as indicated in the Ministerial Programme.

Access to services, including energy, is crucial to build social cohesion, in particular in the territories reintegrated from ISIL.

8.2: Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors

Resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth in Iraq will require economic diversification through the development of the non-oil economy and the private sector for job creation and enhanced productivity. In addition, digitalization and improved governance will be among other critical approaches that are likely to play an important role in supporting economic transformation, export development and trade policy reform.

Faster productivity growth, particularly in the non-oil sector, is critical to economic diversification. By economic activity contributing to GDP, the commodities activities ranked first with a contribution of 55.4% of GDP in the first half of 2021, the distribution activities ranked second with a contribution of 20.7%, while the service activities ranked third with a contribution of 23.7%, according to the Ministry of Planning.

Economic productivity and innovation can be critical for achieving the nexus between water (SDG 6), energy (SDG 7) and food (SDG 2).

8.5: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.

Iraq's private sector, which accounts to roughly 40 per cent to 50 per cent of employment, is mainly informal. Compared to the public sector, employment in the private sector has lower average wages, job security, and often lacks formal contracts. Job opportunities for youth are more likely  in the informal sector.

In addition to reduced employment prospects for the youth, women, persons with disabilities and internally displaced persons (IDPs) also suffer from some of the highest unemployment rates. The International Labour Organization estimates that while the female labour force participation in Iraq is low – estimated at 20 per cent – Iraqi women who participate in the labour market are more likely to be underemployed or employed only part-time. Young women in particular struggle to find employment: In 2021, 65 per cent of young women aged 15 to 24 were unemployed, compared to 23.5 per cent of young men. According to the World Bank, approximately 27 per cent of IDPs are unemployed, and, within that group, the most vulnerable are women and children, 49 per cent of whom are less than 18 years old. All of these put young women at higher risk when there is a crisis or external shock.

By investing in initiatives to advance on SDG 8.5, Iraq can jointly address employment challenges, while also help close the gaps on poverty, health, well-being and inequality target indicators. For Iraq to advance to a resilient economic recovery it is important to ensure that employment and livelihood initiatives target women and dismantle long-standing obstacles, such as unequal access to knowledge, land, credit, technology, social protection and care services – all development priority areas for the government.

16.6: Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels

Iraq was ranked 157th out of 180 on Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks countries based on indices that measure the prevalence of political, economic and administrative corruption within its various institutions.  Even though the country has the second largest oil reserves in the world, corruption remains a challenge, and has compounded a protracted economic and social crisis, with many Iraqis suffer from high unemployment, poor public services and extreme poverty.

SDG 16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions, which includes rule of law and effective public institutions and services, are a critical accelerator of the SDGs in Iraq.  Investing in Target 16.6 has multiple potential multiplier effects across several SDGs and targets that are relevant to Iraq. National and local level governance are drivers of effective basic service provision, including education, health and a just energy transition.

4. Futures Scenarios

SDG Push is a futures scenario based on 48 integrated accelerators in the areas of Governance, Social Protection, Green Economy and Digital Disruption. It uses national data to explore the impact on human development by 2030 and 2050 across key SDG indicators. It does this by using ‘International Futures,’ a systems model designed to explore interactions across development systems.

Poverty in Iraq Under Different Scenarios

5. Finance and Stimulus

Many countries are facing reduced fiscal space, high debt levels, rising interest rates and downgrades on credit ratings. Fiscal and financial constraints tend to slow or even reverse SDG progress.

Iraq's gross government debt has come down significantly in recent years and is projected at 47.9% of GDP in 2023, which is more than 20 percentage points (pp) lower than that of the emerging market and middle-income economies (EMMIE) group. The country is projected to collect 40.7% of GDP in revenue this year, which is almost 15 pp higher than the EMMIE group. Iraq collects 90% of its revenue from oil.

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Iraq’s external debt servicing this year is projected at 3.8% of revenue, which is much lower than the EMMIE average of 12.3%. Despite significant reductions in debt in recent years, Iraq’s credit rating has not yet improved from its ‘substantial risk’ category, making it difficult for the country to access international financial markets.

Low-Frequency Indicators

Financial Indicators

Total external debt servicing (% of revenue)




SDG Stimulus

The UN Secretary General’s SDG Stimulus Plan lays out a blueprint for action within the existing financial architecture. It includes:

Along with the SDG budget-tagging exercises, which provide insights on efficiently allocating public funds for a relative increase in public goods and service provision, the UN Secretary General’s SDG Stimulus Plan lays out a blueprint for action within the existing financial architecture. It includes:

  • Providing liquidity to support recovery in the near term
  • Enhance debt relief for vulnerable countries.​
  • Expanding development financing by MDBs
  • Align financial flows with the SDGs and Paris Agreement, according to country-level priorities and needs, for example through the rollout of the UN Integrated National Financing Framework (INFFs).

Given the projected fiscal and financial constraints faced by Iraq, possible funding options for the investments derived from the identified interlinkages are as follows:

  • Tax and revenue reform
  • Climate finance
  • Blended and public-private finance
  • SDG-aligned business environment and investment
  • Remittances, philanthropy and faith-based financing

Methodology & Data Sources

Click here to view the Methodological Note for the Integrated SDG Insights.

SDG Moment

Assesses challenges and opportunities in national growth trajectories with insights on environmental sustainability and inclusiveness.

Data Sources
Future trajectories to 2025 are based on IMF-WEO GDP projections, distributions of per capita income or consumption from the World Bank, and CO2 emissions from the Global Carbon Budget 2022 and EDGAR (JRC and IEA).​

Trends & Priorities

SDG trends tracks progress from 2015 to date for the 231 indicators. National priorities are analysed using machine learning to reveal the most prominent SDGs referenced in national policy documents.

Data Sources
SDG trends tracks progress from 2015 to date for the 231 indicators. National priorities are analysed using machine learning to reveal the most prominent SDGs referenced in national policy documents.


SDG trends tracks progress from 2015 to date for the 231 indicators. National priorities are analysed using machine learning to reveal the most prominent SDGs referenced in national policy documents.

Data Sources
The exercise globally considered a total of 454 documents published from 2015 to August 2022. (Miola et al., 2019 updated in 2021-2022)​

Finance & Stimulus

Provides insight into indicators of fiscal and financial stress with options (INFF) for stimulus and other means to accelerate progress.

Data Sources
Most recent resource data from UNU-WIDER GRD (between 2018 and 2021), debt and revenue from IMF WEO (between 2020 and forecasts for 2023), external debt from IDS (2023), yields from Haver Analytics (8 June 2023), credit ratings from S&P, Moodys and FITCH (2023), and DSA ratings from World Bank/IMF (31 May 2023).