Sustainable Development Goals

The Nordic Countries and SDG 2: Zero Hunger

Tracking the progress of Nordic countries in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2, using the latest data from the UN and OECD.

In 2015, all United Nations (UN) member states adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), establishing a global agenda to create a better world by 2030. Described by the UN as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet,” these goals are to be achieved by all countries through global partnerships.

This data tracker examines the latest official data to assess the progress of Nordic countries in achieving the SDGs. In particular, this page focuses on SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. The goal comprises 8 distinct targets.

Each of the targets that are part of SDG 2 is presented by first examining global trends, then narrowing in on the Nordic countries to evaluate their performance. The assessment is based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) analysis of progress made toward the SDGs across all OECD member countries.

Target 2.1

By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round


2.1.1Prevalence of undernourishment
2.1.2Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population, based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)

Global trends

A. Undernourishment

According to recent data from the United Nations, approximately 770 million people, or 10% of the global population, experienced undernourishment in 2021. After declining in the early part of the century, undernourishment has been on the rise the last years.

The share of undernourished people may continue to increase in 2022 due to lingering effects of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine disrupting global food supply.

About 3 out of 4 people who are undernourished reside in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia. In both regions, the number of undernourished have increased since 2015. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 23% are undernourished, compared to 18% in 2015.

Number of people

Share of population

B. Food insecurity

Food insecurity has also been on the rise in recent years, with the share of the world population who are moderately or severely food insecure rising from 22% in 2015 to over just below 30% in 2020 and 2021. This means that in 2021, around 2.3 billion people faced moderate or severe food insecurity worldwide. Moderate food insecurity involves reduced food quality/quantity and uncertainty in obtaining food due to limited resources, potentially leading to malnutrition. Severe food insecurity occurs when people run out of food, and at the most extreme possibly going days without eating.

The regions most affected by food insecurity are Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia. In these regions, a total of over 1.5 billion people experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2021.

When comparing the share of the population facing moderate or severe food insecurity from 2015 to 2021, noticeable trends emerge. Sub-Saharan Africa saw an increase from 50% in 2015 to 63% in 2021, while Central and Southern Asia experienced a rise from 27% to 40% during the same period. Latin America and the Caribbean also witnessed an increase from 27% in 2015 to 41% in 2021.

Number of people

Share of population

The Nordics

There is no data that indicate any presence of undernourishment in the Nordic countries. However, over the past six years for which data is available (2015-2020), a minor share of the population is experiencing food insecurity. The underlying data from the UN/FAO shows that the majority of those reporting food insecurity are experiencing it at a moderate level.

Given that the target for 2030 is to end hunger and ensure access by all people to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food, the data indicates that the Nordic countries still have some way to go to fully eliminate food insecurity in the population.

No OECD assessment is included, as new data has been released since the OECD published its report in 2022.

Target 2.2

By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons


2.2.1Prevalence of stunting (low height for age) among children under 5 years of age
2.2.2Prevalence of wasting (low weight for height) and overweight among children under 5 years of age
2.2.3Prevalence of anaemia in women aged 15 to 49 years

Global trends

A. Stunting

Stunting is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation”.

As of 2020, over 22% of children under 5 years of age worldwide (150 million) were affected by stunting, a decline from 33% in 2000. Still, current progress will not be enough to reach the internationally set targets of a 40% reduction (compared to 2012) by 2025, and a 50% reduction by 2030.

The highest prevalence of stunting is found in Oceania, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and Southern Asia. Since 2015, the prevalence has decrease in all regions apart from Oceania.

On this indicator, the UN notes that since the collection of household survey data on child height and weight was limited in 2020 due to the pandemic, estimates are based “almost entirely” on pre-pandemic data and thus do not take into account the impact of the pandemic on this indicator.

B. Wasting and overweight

Wasting is defined as a condition where a child has low weight for his or her height, reflecting acute undernutrition. In 2020, the UN estimates that 6.7% of children under 5 years worldwide were affected by wasting. There is a lack of data to assess trends over time, though the current level is above the internationally set target of reducing the prevalence at a global level to 5% in 2025 and 3% in 2030. The prevalence of wasting is particularly high in Central and Southern Asia at over twice the global average (14%).

Data also shows that little progress has been made on the prevalence of overweight among children under the age of 5. In 2020, the UN estimates that 5.7% of children under the age of 5 are overweight worldwide. Based on the current trajectory, the internationally set target of reducing the prevalence of children overweight to 3% by 2030 seems out of reach.

Australia and New Zealand have the highest childhoood overweight rates, followed by Northern Africa and Western Asia and Europe and Northern America. Between 2015 and 2020, Australia and New Zealand and saw a significant increase in overweight rates, while other regions saw more minor changes. Europe and Northern America as well as Central and Southern Asia were the only regions where childhood overweight declined.

On this indicator, the UN also notes that since the collection of household survey data on child height and weight was limited in 2020 due to the pandemic, estimates are based “almost entirely” on pre-pandemic data and thus do not take into account the impact of the pandemic on this indicator.

C. Anaemia

Almost 1 in 3 women worldwide in reproductive age are affected by anaemia, a condition where the number of red blood cells or the haemoglobin concentration within them is lower than normal. This increases the risk of adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes. Globally, the prevalence of anaemia has been stable over the past decades.

The prevalence of anaemia varies considerably between regions, with the levels in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia almost three times as high as in Europe and Northern America. As of now, the target of reducing the prevalence of anaemia by 50% before 2030 looks unlikely to be reached with no regions seeing any significant changes in the past years.

The Nordics

There is no data indicating any prevalence of stunting or wasting in the Nordic countries. With regards to the prevalence of childhood overweight, the OECD has added the obesity rate among the general population to gauge progress on the target of malnutrition. Thus, the following two indicators are applicable to the Nordics:

  • prevalence of anaemia among women in reproductive age
  • the obesity rate


The prevalence of anaemia has been on the rise over the last decade in all the Nordic countries. Still, the latest data from 2019 show that the Nordic countries have a slightly lower prevalence than the average for the Europe and Northern America region as a whole (15% in 2019).


The obesity rate has increased in almost all OECD countries over the past two decades. The Nordics are no exception to this trend, and although data is not available for all years, all countries have higher rates in the latest year (2017-2021) compared to the level at the start of the millennium (2000-2002). The OECD has set a reference target of reducing the obesity rate to 3% or lower by 2030, a target which none of the Nordics are presently close to achieving.

Looking at the two indicators overall, no Nordic country is on track to reach the 2030 target for SDG 2.2.

Target 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


2.3.1Volume of production per labour unit by classes of farming/pastoral/forestry enterprise size
2.3.2Average income of small-scale food producers

Global trends

Limited data is available to measure progress on these two indicators. The UN’s annual report on the SDGs for 2022 indicates that, in countries with available data, small-scale food producers have an annual income less than half of that of large-scale producers. Labor productivity is also lower for small-scale producers. Additionally, women-led small-scale production units have only 50-70% of the income of those led by men.

The Nordics

No data is available to measure progress on this indicator.

Target 2.4

By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality


2.4.1Proportion of agricultural area under productive and sustainable agriculture

Global trends

The indicator is currently under development, and thus no data exists to measure progress on a global level.

The Nordics

To assess the environmental impact of the agricultural sector in OECD countries, the OECD uses an indicator on nitrogen balance for evaluating SDG progress on target 2.4. Nitrogen surpluses contribute to water and air pollution, while agricultural areas with sustained nutrient deficits may experience reduced soil fertility. A zero nitrogen surplus can be considered an aspirational target for 2030.

Data for Nordic countries on this indicator show that all countries, except for Iceland, have a significant distance to the target of zero nitrogen surplus. Over the last decades, nitrogen surplus levels have declined in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, while remaining relatively stable in Norway and Iceland. The OECD predicts that no OECD country will achieve a nitrogen balance by 2030.

Target 2.5

By 2020, maintain the genetic diversity of seeds, cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and their related wild species, including through soundly managed and diversified seed and plant banks at the national, regional and international levels, and promote access to and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, as internationally agreed.


2.5.1Number of (a) plant and (b) animal genetic resources for food and agriculture secured in either medium- or long-term conservation facilities
2.5.2Proportion of local breeds classified as being at risk of extinction

Note that the target was set to be reached by 2020.

Global trends

A. Plant and animal genetic resources

As of 2021, about 5.8 million plant genetic resources for food and agriculture were conserved under medium or long-term conditions. Although this number has nearly doubled since 1995, the growth rate has declined over the past decade. Crop wild relatives, wild food plants, and neglected and underutilized crop species continue to be underrepresented in ex situ collections, according the UN. ((Ex situ collections: plant genetic resources stored and maintained outside their natural habitat.)

Presently, only 277 out of 7,704 local livestock breeds (3.6%) are reported as having enough material stored in gene banks to allow them to be reconstituted in case of extinction.

B. Local breeds at risk of extinction

There is limited data on the share of local breeds classified as being at risk of extinction, and the UN does not provide a current global progress assessment. Nevertheless, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 72% of surveyed local livestock breeds were at risk of extinction.

The Nordics

Data on the Nordic countries for this target is limited. Data exists for the number of stored resources, but this does not allow for cross-country comparison or measurement of progress against set targets.

The share of local breeds at risk is the only indicator for this target that can be compared across countries. Except for Iceland, the Nordic countries have a high share of local breeds classified as being at risk. This is in line with the level for most OECD countries, with an average of 80% of local breeds classified as being at risk.

With weight given to the high share of local breeds at risk, the OECD gives a negative assessment of progress in the Nordic countries:

Target 2.a

Increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks in order to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular least developed countries


2.a.1The agricultural orientation index (AOI) for government expenditures
2.a.2Total official flows (official development assistance plus other official flows) to the agricultural sector

Global trends

A. The agricultural orientation index

The agricultural orientation index (AOI) is calculated by taking a country’s agricultural share of government expenditure and dividing it by the agricultural share of GDP. As such, it aims to capture the orientation toward the agricultural sector in a country with scores given according to the following methodology:

  • An Agriculture Orientation Index (AOI) greater than 1 reflects a higher orientation towards the agriculture sector, with the sector receiving a higher share of government spending relative to its contribution to economic value-added.
  • An AOI equal to 1 reflects neutrality in a government’s orientation to the agriculture sector.
  • An AOI less than 1 reflects a lower orientation to agriculture.

At the worldwide level, the AOI has remained relatively stable over the past decades. There is currently no set target for this index.

At a regional level, it is currently highest in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, followed by Europe and Northern America.

B. Aid to the agricultural sector

Although the total official development flows to the agricultural sector have increased in absolute volume since 2000, its share of total aid flows has decreased from around 25% in the mid-1980s to approximately 5% in 2019. The UN SDG status report suggests that this shift is primarily due to the increasing aid flows directed towards social sectors.

The Nordics

The AOI index presents a varied pattern across the Nordic countries. Norway and Finland have experienced a decline in their index scores over the past two decades, indicating a lower orientation towards the agricultural sector. In contrast, the other Nordic countries initially had lower index scores with less change observed over time.

Data on official development flow to the agricultural sector is available for the Nordic countries, but only in terms of absolute values, making it unsuitable for a comparative analysis in this context. The OECD does not provide an assessment of progress towards this target.

Target 2.b

Correct and prevent trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets, including through the parallel elimination of all forms of agricultural export subsidies and all export measures with equivalent effect, in accordance with the mandate of the Doha Development Round


2.b.1Agricultural export subsidies

Global trends

In late 2015, World Trade Organization (WTO) members agreed to eliminate all forms of agricultural export subsidies. Developed countries were required to remove these subsidies immediately, while developing countries had until the end of 2018. Data from the WTO shows that the level of subsidies has been drastically reduced over the past years.

While no evaluation is given on a country-level basis, the OECD highlights in its analysis of this SDG target that when examining a broad range of agricultural support measures, two-thirds of support to farmers is provided through measures that strongly distort farm business decisions. These measures consequently distort global agricultural production and trade.

Target 2.c

Adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of food commodity markets and their derivatives and facilitate timely access to market information, including on food reserves, in order to help limit extreme food price volatility


2.c.1Indicator of food price anomalies

Global trends

The FAO indicator of food price anomalies (IFPA) aims to capture instances of high or moderately high food prices. According to the IFPA, over 47% of all countries worldwide experienced high or moderately high food prices in 2020, as food prices rose rapidly during the second half of the year.

At a regional level, all regions saw an increase in countries experiencing food price anomalies.

Note that international data for this indicator is not available yet for 2021 when prices reached record levels.

The Nordics

Data from the IFPA, based on national consumer price indices, show a more stable trend for all the Nordic countries. However, the Nordic countries have not been immune to the food price hikes, which one would expect to be captured in more recent data.

In summary, with the available data, the OECD gives a positive assessment of the Nordic countries on this indicator.

About the data

The data presented on global, regional, and national trends are from the UN SDG Global Database and the OECD unless otherwise stated.

The assessment of the Nordic countries is based on the findings from a recent OECD report, published in April 2022. The OECD uses a three-tier classification for each target:

  • Target is achieved or on track to being achieved
  • Progress has been made, but is insufficient to meet the target
  • No progress or moving away from the SDG target

In its assessment, the OECD looks at a country’s current performance towards a target, and calculates a trend towards 2030 based on recent progress. As such, a country that is close to a target, but trending away from it, will be classified as having “No progress or moving away from the SDG target”. Conversely, a country that is currently further away from the target, but trending towards it (and has a high likelihood of reaching it before 2030), will be classified as “Target is achieved or on track to being achieved”.


  • Pilot release May 2022
  • Data and text update March 2023

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