How the World Cup’s Final Four Countries Are Shooting for SDG Victories

And then there were four!

Only France, Croatia, Belgium and England remain in the 2018 World Cup.

And as we are in the middle of the final four matches this week, the United Nations is also kicking off the High-Level Political Forum at UN headquarters in New York to discuss how nations can meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a global level.

Let’s take a look at what these individual countries are doing to support the United Nations’ SDGs.



France, the largest country in the EU, is known as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. A global center of art, science and philosophy, this country holds the sixth largest economy by nominal GDP, and is strong in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, and human development. Besides being popular for their culture and economy, France holds a large role in the United Nations, having been one of the original founding members.


SDG 2: No Hunger
In 2017, France ruled it illegal for supermarkets to throw out perfectly good, unsold food. France’s war on hunger and to eliminate waste have put themselves in the top spot of countries ranked for food sustainability.


SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
France has vowed to eliminate the production of gas-emitting vehicles by 2040. France plans the commit to a carbon-neutral approach to their country, where they will also prohibit hydrocarbon exploration, so they will no longer produce any oil, gas or coal.




Croatia, a country located in the northwestern part of the Balkan Peninsula (think Game of Thrones). It is a small yet highly geographically diverse crescent-shaped country. Croatia’s history is more convoluted than most – trampled over by invading armies, passed back and forth between empires, split up then put back together again in various different shapes.  A part of Yugoslavia for much of the 20th century, Croatia suffered considerably from the disintegration of that federation in the early 1990s. Then, in January 1992, a UN-brokered ceasefire was held which encouraged the federal army to withdraw from its bases inside Croatia and tensions diminished. This was followed by U.S. recognition, and in May 1992 Croatia was admitted to the UN. In the spring of 2008, Croatia was officially invited to join NATO at the summit in Bucharest, and exactly a year later, Croatia joined the alliance. In 2012, Croats voted in a referendum to join the EU, and in 2013 the country officially became a member.


Goal 8: Sustainable Tourism
Croatia lies on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, just opposite Italy and close to Greece. Recent years have seen Croatia’s popularity skyrocket thanks to social media and increased connectivity within Europe. With new opportunities from tourism arising in Croatia, there are many unfortunate side effects such as over-construction on the coast, excessive pollution, destruction of natural resources and animal habitats, and loss of cultural integrity. Luckily, local businesses and communities are standing up to it, insisting on a proper plan of development that will benefit both sides of the equation. Croatia and its people are maneuvering towards a development system that is going to be sustainable and beneficial to both locals and tourists alike.


Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
As a new state in the late 1990s, Croatia focused on developing its strategic road network as the most fundamental element of its national integration. Since the beginning of project implementation, the road and motorway companies have improved their operating efficiencies with further progress expected to continue through 2021. These improvements will not only improve the operations of the companies, but also the experience of road users—with an efficient toll collection system, better traffic flows, and improved maintenance throughout the road network. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also plays an important part in Croatia’s work to reaching their better environment and energy goals. The UNDP targets a range of developmental needs in Croatia, including improving living conditions and economic opportunities in war-affected, rural and remote areas; promoting energy efficiency and environmental protection; advocating the full social inclusion of people with disabilities, minorities and other vulnerable groups; and enhancing justice and human security. Since Croatia’s accession to the EU in 2013, the emphasis of UNDP’s efforts is shifting from development projects inside the country to the sharing of Croatia’s experience and expertise with other countries.




The current nation state of Belgium appeared on the political map of Europe rather haphazardly in the 19th century. And when Belgium claimed their independence in 1830, nobody thought that the country would last. In 1958, Brussels became the provisional seat of the European Commission and in 1967 NATO moved its headquarters to Brussels from France. Smack-bang in the middle of Western Europe, this compact multilingual country effortlessly blends the historic with the new. The country achieves very high standards of living, life quality, healthcare, education, and is categorized as “very high” in the Human Development Index. It also ranks as one of the safest or most peaceful countries in the world. From countless castles and medieval belfries to innovative art museums and hip cafes, this country has something to offer to anyone and everyone. And with some of the best comfort food in Europe, you’ll never go hungry as you can choose from waffles, chocolate, frites or piles of steaming mussels.


Goal 12: Responsible consumption
The Flemish region of Belgium boasts the highest waste diversion rate in Europe. Almost three-fourths of the residential waste produced in the region is reused, recycled, or composted. By dividing responsibility appropriately between municipal, regional, and national governments, Flanders has successfully implemented a comprehensive strategy for waste prevention, recycling, and composting. Thanks to reducing waste generation and good recycling rates the Belgians managed to send for disposal in landfills and incinerators only 197kg per person.


Goal 11: Sustainable cities: Public transportation
Brussels is taking numerous initiatives to develop green communities both economically and socially. When faced with the challenges of urban development, Brussels has sparked projects and missions within various communes to create a stronger community feel within the city. This has been accomplished by controlling the densification of neighborhoods around public transportation hubs and centers of communal character. Some of the most visible initiatives in Brussels to relieve traffic congestion are the various forms of public transportation, including tram, bike share, metro, bus, and train.




It might be small, but England packs a lot of scenery into its pint-sized shores: green fields and rumpled hills, chalk cliffs and breezy plains, ancient woods and moody moorland. There are 10 national parks, 34 Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONBs) and miles of craggy, beach-fringed coastline – 2795 miles, in fact, making England’s coast one of Europe’s longest, and the only one to have a public coast path the whole way around. With a story that stretches back more than 5000 years (and likely long before), England is a place where the past is a constant presence – not to mention Harry Potter was born here.


Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure


England was at the forefront of negotiating the SDGs and will be at the forefront of delivering them. The UK lobbied hard to make sure the SDGs support the continuation of work undertaken through the MDGs. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) was created in July 2016 as part of the Government’s ambition to build a stronger economy and a country that works for everyone. England is placing great emphasis on driving forward the changes that will build an economy that works for everyone, with great places in every part of the United Kingdom for people to work and for businesses to invest, innovate and grow. This ambition is even more important as England leaves the European Union. Read their industrial strategy objectives here.