Alcohol is a major obstacle to sustainable development.

Alcohol adversely impacts 13 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 52 of the 169 targets in the 2030 Agenda. It is, however, often overlooked in efforts to eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development.

Major issues of development and sustainability are negatively impacted by alcohol harm, across all three dimension of sustainable development: the social, environmental and the economic one.

Alcohol and the Agenda 2030: 13 out of 17 SDGs adversely impacted

13 out of the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals, and 52 out of the 169 targets are adversely impacted by alcohol harm – and evidence shows that alcohol policy measures do hold substantial potential in contributing to achieving the SDGs.

  • Alcohol harm is an obstacle to gender-equality and women empowerment. It’s a massive risk factor for gender-based violence.
  • Alcohol use is a causal factor in the Tuberculosis and HIV/ AIDS epidemics.
  • And it is one of four risk factors for the epidemic of Non-communicable diseases.
  • Alcohol also fuels the vicious cycle of poverty, alcohol problems, ill-health and deprivation.
  • It also fuels violence against and neglect of children, adolescents and youth.
  • Alcohol production also depletes natural resources, jeopardising food and water security; and the production, distribution and retail of alcohol fuel global warming.
  • And the massive costs and harms contribute to productivity losses, accidents and injuries in the workplace, as well as substantial losses in GDP in many countries.
  • Alcohol harm causes and exacerbates inequalities.

Shattering Big Alcohol myths

In contrast to these facts, the alcohol industry perpetuates myths about its economic contribution to countries as well as myths about the effects of alcohol policies. The costs for alcohol harm are greater than the economic contribution of the alcohol industry.

To free people around the world from poverty, and to achieve the new SDGs, it is fundamental to address the role alcohol plays in creating and exacerbating poverty and hindering sustainable development. The equation is simple and tells decision-makers what to do: Less alcohol consumption means less alcohol harm, which means less poverty and more sustainable development.

Alcohol & SDGs

Alcohol and the Sustainable Development Goals – Major obstacle to development

Alcohol is an obstacle to achieving 13 out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 52 of 169 targets. It is a major obstacle to sustainable human development.

  • Alcohol kills 3.3 million people worldwide every year, representing 5.9 % of all deaths.
  • That means: Every 10 seconds a human being dies because of alcohol.

Through its multiple negative public health, social and economic impacts, alcohol is a major obstacle to development and all three dimensions of development: social, environmental and economic.

This booklet outlines for each of the 13 SDGs and 52 targets, what the evidence is and how alcohol adversely effects them.



Financing Development

Alcohol Taxation – A win-win measure for financing development

01 Cover_Images_sA landmark report by IOGT and EAAPA details the science behind the effects of alcohol taxes, thereby outlining the mechanisms of taxation and its consequences for fiscal space, health promotion and sustainable development.

In a novel approach, the report highlights how alcohol taxation, if employed in an evidence-based manner, reaps benefits for a number of Sustainable Development Goals.

The report finds that 10 out of the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals – such as eradication of poverty and hunger, gender equality, good health and well being, quality education, or economic growth – are positively impacted by alcohol taxation measures.

The report concludes: Alcohol taxation is a win-win measure for increasing fiscal space, boosting health promotion and financing sustainable development.



Eroding Human Capital

Alcohol is an obstacle to development by jeopardizing human capital and hindering sustainable development.

Evidence shows that alcohol is a cross-cutting, harmful factor in many areas of society from child health, gender-based violence, to economic and societal development and sustainability of communities and societies. 11 out of 17 proposed Sustainable Development Goals are negatively affected by alcohol harm.

Alcohol is a major obstacle both to health and well-being as well as to sustainable development and economic prosperity.

  • Alcohol is a major risk factor for NCDs.
  • Alcohol is a causal factor for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
  • Alcohol is a major cause of road traffic injuries and fatalities.

Alcohol has considerable negative socio-economic impact on communities and societies worldwide.

  • Alcohol is a major risk factor for gender-based violence.
  • Expenditure on alcohol consumption and related harms drain meager family and other resources.
  • Alcohol harm can lock entire generations of vulnerable people, families and communities in the vicious cycle of poverty.
  • Early onset of alcohol use in children and adolescents threatens human capital development.

The negative impact of alcohol use proportionally increased about 30% between 1990 and 2010.

Evidence shows: In low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), the addictive nature of alcohol use tends to crowd out other more productive household spending.

Alcohol is the leading risk factor for death and disability in large parts of the world including Southern sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and most of Latin America.

Latin America

Alcohol has become the leading cause of male death and disability threatening further progress and sustainable development.


Alcohol use both complicates recovery from the HIV epidemic (because alcohol is implicated both in disease transmission of, disease progression and adherence to treatment for HIV.

  • A review and meta-analysis of 20 studies from Africa found that alcohol users have a 70% greater chance of being HIV positive when compared to non-alcohol users.


The direct costs of alcohol harm to the household are often considerable and frequently underestimated – and pose great burden on development.

  • A study in Sri Lanka found that over 10% of male respondents reported spending as much as or more than their regular income on alcohol.

Alcohol has diverse negative influences on people’s economic status while economic status in turn affects alcohol use in many ways. Alcohol can push people into poverty and lock them, their families and entire communities there over generations.

Eradicating Poverty

Screenshot 2015-08-31 00.43.57Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG1 and SDG2, by helping to reduce inequalities and eradicate poverty and hunger.

People with lower socio-economic status are more exposed and more vulnerable to tangible problems and negative consequences of alcohol consumption.

Notably, this vulnerability is often passed on through the generations. This way, alcohol harm often contributes to the vicious cycle of poverty.

  • Socio-economically exposed people are less able to avoid adverse consequences of their behavior due to a lack of resources.
  • People in poor and vulnerable communities have a less extensive support networks, i.e., fewer factors or persons to motivate them to address alcohol problems.

Screenshot 2015-08-31 00.44.14The process of marginalization and stigmatization related to alcohol use disorders, and the drift in social status that may result, may also cause significant social burden.

Using alcohol policy measures, such as raising taxes on alcoholic beverages may reduce overall inequalities through more substantial health impacts on socio-economically disadvantaged populations.

People with lower levels of income are more responsive to alcohol price increases.

Poverty is in many ways connected to alcohol: For example, disastrous alcohol expenditure for its perceived symbolic value, when poor people get into lifelong debt, as the result of intolerable expenditure on a wedding or other special occasions. Celebrations allow a distancing from the poverty of everyday life, and the allure of a once in a lifetime expression of it can lead to a lifetime of ruinous consequences.

Additionally, people living in deprived and crowded settings are less able to prevent others transgressing personal boundaries. People in those kinds of settings, find that others are allowed to impose their will on them when intoxicated. The combined effect of these two influences is quite vicious. People in poor communities, especially the less powerful members, are doubly vulnerable to allegedly ‘alcohol induced’ misbehavior.



Protecting Children, Adolescents, Youth

Screenshot 2015-08-31 00.44.39Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG4 by helping to protect the rights and promote the well being of children, adolescents, young people.

Overwhelming evidence shows that changes in alcohol price effect changes in alcohol use of children and youth.

Alcohol policy measures like taxation or marketing regulation reduce alcohol consumption among children and youth, particularly among the more frequent users. Price increases also cause decreases in heavy episodic alcohol intake among youth.

Increasing beer taxation may be effective in reducing violence aimed at children.

In the US estimates are that a 10% raise of excise duty on beer will reduce the likelihood of severe violence against children by 2.3% and overall violence against children by 1.5% .

In many communities where poverty confines people, children bear a disproportinate burden. Alcohol does play a tremendous role. For instance the impact of alcohol abuse and dependence on the user and the family: parental roles are neglected and too often abandoned, wages are drowned in alcohol, household economy is ruined, jobs are lost and health issues even exacerbate the dire situation.

All that has the effect that the scarce resources cannot be invested in children’s primary education and school material, often depriving children of their right to primary education.



Saving Lives

Screenshot 2015-08-31 00.44.27Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG3 by helping to protect public health and to promote the well being of people, their communities and society at large.

Studies of cirrhosis mortality show that alcohol policy measures, like price increases and advertising bans, do reduce mortality.

An examination of suicide rates over a 20-year period in the USA found that increases in beer taxes reduced suicide rates, particularly in young adults.

A 33% decrease of alcohol taxation in Finland reduced alcohol retail prices by 22%, which led to increased consumption and thus caused mortality to increase by 17% following the alcohol tax reduction. Mortality was particularly concentrated in lower socio-economic groups.



Preventing Crime

Screenshot 2015-08-31 01.19.49Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG10 and SDG11, by helping to prevent criminality, violence and hospitalizations.

Following the alcohol tax decrease in Finland, criminality and hospitalizations increased substantially.

Alcohol-related emergency room admissions are highly price sensitive, calculating that a 1% increase in the real price of beer would reduce economy wide A&E assault casesScreenshot 2015-08-31 01.20.07 by 5,000 per year.

An example from the United States

Raising the price of alcohol by 1% would decrease consumption by approximately 0.46% for beer, 0.69% for wine and 0.80% for liquor.

Increasing the price of beer by 10% would reduce the number of college students involved in violence by 4%, every year.

Evidence from across 16 countries illustrates a link between alcohol price and a range of violent crimes. Increasing alcohol taxation by 1% resulted in

  • 0.19% decrease in the probability of robbery
  • 0.25% decrease in the probability of assault,
  • 0.16% decrease in the probability of sexual assault.



Ending GBV

Screenshot 2015-08-31 00.44.52Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG5, by helping to end gender-based violence.

There is a strong relationship between alcohol and domestic abuse, intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Reducing the affordability and accessibility of alcohol is associated with lower levels of reported incidents across a range of violent crimes.

Increasing the price of an ounce of pure alcohol would reduce the probability of intimate partner violence against women by 5.3%.

Evidence from the US shows that an increase in the price of alcohol, reduced the probability of severe violence against wives. A 1% increase in the price of alcohol is associated with a 5% reduced risk of being a victim of domestic violence as a wife.

Alcohol is seldom the sole explanation for the use of violence, but it’s often the triggering factor. Alcohol use creates a context for violent acts. We see that it is often used as excuse for otherwise socially unacceptable behavior. In addition to that, alcohol culture amplifies the common belief of masculine superiority of over females and it justifies male demonstration of power over the other gender.



Boosting Economic Development

Screenshot 2015-08-31 01.25.17

Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG8, by helping to boost economy and workplace productivity.

To monitor alcohol’s social costs is crucial as it provides essential insights into the full social consequences of alcohol harm at a national financial level.

Costs of alcohol harm have been measured in different regions and are of massive scale:

  • European Union: €156 billion yearly.
  • United States: $233.5 billion yearly.
  • South Africa: Combined tangible and intangible costs of alcohol harm to the economy reached nearly ZAR300 billion or 10–12% of GDP.

Globally, alcohol is the world’s number one risk factor for ill-health and premature death amongst the 25-59 year old age group, the core of the working age population. Therefore costs due to lost productivity feature dominantly in social costs studies arising from the harm caused by alcohol.

Alcohol is a significant risk factor for absenteeism and presenteeism at work, largely in a dose response manner, with a relationship between societal and individual level of alcohol consumption and sickness absence.

A 10-year analysis of workplace accidents in the USA found that an increase of 10% in beer taxes would have resulted in 1.7% fewer workdays lost through injuries.



Making Roads Safer

Screenshot 2015-08-31 00.44.27Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG3 and SDG11, by helping to make roads safer and thus promoting health, and by ensuring more sustainable cities and communities.

Evidence shows that the relationship between alcohol taxation, prices and injuries and deaths due to road traffic accidents is generally substantial.
Analysis of cross-sectional time-series data shows significant relationships between alcohol taxes and traffic fatality rates for both youth and the general population.

Screenshot 2015-08-31 01.20.07An analysis of data from a 26-year period in the USA showed that alcohol prices were significantly related to youth traffic fatalities.



Curbing NCDs

Screenshot 2015-08-31 01.38.08Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG3 and SDG12, by helping to reduce alcohol consumption and thus preventing alcohol-related NCDs, such as cancer, diabetes, or obesity.

The High-level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) initiated the development of an NCDs Global
Action Plan. It includes the voluntary target of a 10% relative reduction in harmful use of
alcohol by 2025 measured against a 2010 baseline

Within the context of NCDs, the emphasis in calls for increased Screenshot 2015-08-31 00.44.27government funding has been on increasing excise taxes on products with harmful health effects, especially taxes on tobacco and alcohol products.



Promoting SRHR

Screenshot 2015-08-31 00.44.27Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG3, by helping to reduce alcohol consumption and thus preventing sexual violence, sexually transmitted diseases and to promote health.

There is growing scientific literature linking alcohol taxation and other evidence-based, cost-effective measures with sexually transmitted diseases.

Numerous studies in the USA report significant relationships between alcohol taxation rates and rates of gonorrhea.



Preventing Infectious Diseases

Screenshot 2015-08-31 00.44.27Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG3, by helping to prevent and reduce HIV/AIDS and TB.

Research shows causal relationships between alcohol use and infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Causal relationships exist between:

  1. Alcohol consumption and HIV incidences
  2. Alcohol consumption on HIV/AIDS patients’ adherence to antiretroviral treatment
  3. Alcohol use and HIV/ Aids disease progression among patients who are not yet on antiretroviral therapy.

Alcohol is widely established as a structural driver of both the TB and HIV/AIDS epidemics.

For instance, Sub-Saharan Africa carries a massive dual burden of TB, HIV/AIDS and alcohol disease, and these pandemics are inextricably linked.

Alcohol use is an important risk factor for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Alcohol consumption weakens the immune system. There are causal links between alcohol use and HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis.

What is too often overlooked in attempts to supply people in poor areas with medication is this: Alcohol also hinders the effectiveness of treatment and medication for HIV/ Aids, because people use the medication to get money for alcohol; they use the medication for illicit brews; they forget to take their medication because of alcohol use; and they are subject to a weakened immune system due to alcohol use.



Ensuring Water, Food Security

Screenshot 2015-08-31 01.53.47Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG6, by helping to protect water security and to ensure environmental sustainability.

It takes more than 25 litres of water to produce one liter of beer. So, the global alcohol industry, production, distribution, retail leave a huge negative impact on water and food security. The effects on poor communities are most severe, when scarce resources are being drained for the production of alcohol instead of the sustaining of community life and development.



Curbing Big Alcohol

Screenshot 2015-08-31 01.55.13Alcohol policy measures contribute to achieving SDG16, by helping to curb the Human Rights abuses of the alcohol industry and to bring justice and health to the people of the world.

The alcohol industry is manufacturing disease, for example Non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes; or infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis. Moreover, the practices and products of Big Alcohol contribute to injuries and violence, to mental ill-health and suicides, and to quality of life lost, as well as premature death.

BigAlcoholTax evasion schemes by alcohol industry corporations are exploiting countries, especially in the global south.

Regulating the alcohol industry and reigning in its harmful practices help to build inclusive societies for sustainable development and makes democratic institutions more accountable and inclusive at all levels.



IOGT For Development

Within IOGT International there are Member Organisations that are working with the issues on the intersection of alcohol and other drugs and poverty and under-development. They conduct community development projects which focus on prevention, poverty reduction and democracy. They also facilitate evidence-based alcohol policy advocacy, empowering local NGOs to form networks and alliance with the purpose to empower decision-makers together for the creation of national alcohol policies or for the improvement, implementation or stricter enforcement of already existing regulations.

One example is the East African Alcohol Policy Alliance. Another example is the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA).

The alcohol industry works aggressively to establish themselves in emerging markets in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, especially in China and India, and alcohol sales are growing fast in low- and middle-income countries’ growing economies – posing great threat to the continuous development and progress of these countries and their citizens’ health and well being.

IOGT International and our Member Organisations are therefore working to address alcohol as obstacle to development.

Working for sustainable development

There are four development campaigns within IOGT International working together with partners in Asia and Africa. Those are:

Many Member Organisations in Africa and Asia are conducting community projects, advocacy and rehabilitation and social work to bring about transformative change in their respective countries and regions.

One brilliant example is the the longstanding relationship beween IOGT Switzerland and IOGT Guinea-Bissau, also including FORUT Germany. Their collaboration has resulted in schools being built and education being provided to children and youth, capacity-building workshops, camps and regular weekly activities for children.

ADIC in Sri Lanka, SDN in Thailand, CEM in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Senegalese Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development (RESOPOPDEV), SCAD in Kenya or Hope And Beyond in Uganda are all remarkable examples of IOGT International Member Organisation that impact their countries through the development work they are doing.

Sustainable Development Work in IOGT International

Tackling alcohol as obstacle to development -mapping the IOGT movement’s development effort

Note: the map shows only a selection of countries and organisations working for development. It provides an insight but a comprehensive overview.

Our Member Organisations in Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Cambodia and Guinea-Bissau are making a difference in their countries and respective wider regions in the promotion of democracy and sustainable development.

Our Member Organisations from Europe work to support and build capacity in low- and middle-income countries, from an international solidarity perspective.

FORUT Norway works in West Africa, Southern Africa and South-East Asia and the Indian subcontinent. They have for example helped start the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance, a partner of IOGT International.

FORUT Germany and IOGT Switzerland are collaborating to support IOGT work in Guinea-Bissau and the Gambia. In one of the world’s most failed states, Guinea-Bissua, IOGT is committed to building schools, providing safe and enabling environments for children and tackle the burden of alcohol and other drugs.

The Swedish IOGT-NTO movement is conducting development aid work in East Africa, South-East Asia and the Balkans. They have helped start EAAPA and five national alcohol policy alliances in East Africa – all partners of IOGT International today.

And CEM on the Balkans is a hub for alcohol policy advocacy and civil society empowerment in its own right. Supported by IOGT-NTO from Sweden CEM is conducting both prevention and advocacy work.

Development resources

Alcohol, Drugs and Development (ADD) is the name of the development program within FORUT Norway. The ADD program is a multi-component program addressing both alcohol and other drugs as an obstacle to development.

ADD also maintains an excellent resource website with the latest updates and information on alcohol policy, development and newest research findings. Please visit the ADD website for more facts and the latest news.