Covid-19 and the Sustainable Development Goals
The Covid-19 crisis has taken grip of the world most drastically over the past few months. Those of us who previously thought that modern technology was the cure to all ills have now been disillusioned. This era has been marked by an overhaul in human social life, heralding unprecedented freedom in most facets. Now, however, we are forced to rethink what this freedom is. Perhaps, it is merely a luxury. Indeed, we are also forced to rethink our priorities. For instance, even if economies are at a standstill, our priority at this time should be – and rightly so – saving lives.
Over the three past decades, humanity has transcended barriers. From the invention of the computer to the deployment of worldwide internet, our goals for our world have been the most visionary ones. To this effect, the 2000s had brought about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were to be achieved by 2015. In many ways, these goals were similar to today’s Sustainable development Goals (SDGs), which form the UN’s Agenda 2030 action plan.
The SDGs have, according to Brookings.edu, a blog focused on finding solutions to modern problems through in-depth research, saved at least 21 million extra lives – the majority of which in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, in 2009, one year after the international economic crisis of 2008, things looked gloom for these goals. In 2009, the Global Monitoring Report prepared by the World Bank called for urgent action since hard-won gains against poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and disease were expected to be reversed. For instance, 2009 estimates of chronically hungry people across the globe owing to the 2008 food crisis showed numbers exceeding 1 billion. Zia Qureshi, the lead author of the report, said that the prospects of achieving the MDGs by 2015 looked particularly bleak.
We need to ask ourselves to what extent the current crisis will impact the outlook of the SDGs due in 2030. Honestly, the estimates do not look great. For the International Monetary Fund (IMF), our world is now in recession, with preliminary numbers show that the full economic impact of the crisis could reach as high as USD 2 trillion. Beyond economic dimensions, however, other SDGs are at risk. With 1.25 billion students affected according to the UNESCO, progress made with regards to ‘Quality Education’ (SDG 4) could be hindered.
Similarly, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) expects that some 25 million people could find themselves out of their job, and the World Bank estimates that ‘No Poverty’ (SDG 1) will be challenged as some 11 million people are going to be forced into poverty. Admittedly, the same estimate, when made by the IMF at the time of the 2008 crisis, stood much higher at 53 million. However, we should not be overlooking any of these new scourges.
As the World Economic Forum puts it, the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted some of the weakest links in our global system. We have been too full of ourselves for far too long, thinking that we could overcome any problem the very moment the problem presented itself. We have realized to what extent countries interdepend on one another and that any feud or lack of global cooperation could prove to be disastrous. No country does not face common problems. Whether these take the form of poverty, lack of education, poor healthcare, and whether these occur in places far from where we reside, we are all affected in precarious times.
We should, however, remain hopeful that this crisis will serve as an example. While this particular crisis has underlined the importance of massive investments in healthcare to bolster global health systems, let us hope no other crisis will be needed for similar investments in other worldly scourges. We need to work harder than ever now to put the Agenda 2030 back on track. It shall be too easy to blame the non-accomplishment of the SGDs on the 2020 Covid-19 crisis. It shall be complicated; we shall need to lower our expectations; however, we shall not become slack.