With the new year starting, it is good to remind us all that one third of the way into our Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) journey, the world is far from being on track to achieve the global Goals by 2030.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was launched in
2015 to end poverty and set the world on a path of peace, prosperity and opportunity for all on a healthy planet. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, progress had been uneven, and more focused attention was needed in most areas. The pandemic abruptly disrupted implementation towards many of the SDGs and, in some cases, turned back decades of progress, as clearly indicated in the progress report.

No area has been spared the effects of the pandemic

Forecasts indicate that the pandemic will push 71 million people back into extreme poverty in 2020, in what would be the first rise in global poverty since 1998. Many of these people are workers in the informal economy, whose incomes dropped by 60 per cent in the first month of the crisis. Half of the global workforce – 1.6 billion people – support themselves and their families through insecure and often unsafe jobs in the informal economy, and have been significantly affected. The impacts of COVID-19 are also increasing the vulnerability of the world’s one billion slum dwellers, who already suffer from inadequate housing with limited or no access to basic infrastructure and services.

Older persons, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees
are more likely to experience severe effects from COVID-19 due to their specific health and socioeconomic circumstances. Similarly,
the pandemic is taking a toll on the world’s women and children. Disrupted health care and limited access to food and nutrition services could result in hundreds of thousands of additional under-5 deaths and tens of thousands of additional maternal deaths in 2020.

About 70 countries reported moderate-to-severe disruptions or a total suspension of childhood vaccination services during March and April 2020. Many countries have seen a surge in reports of domestic violence against women and children. Millions of unintended pregnancies can be expected as tens of millions of women are unable to access family planning supplies and services.

School closures kept 90 per cent of students out of school and caused over 370 million children to miss out on school meals this spring. Prolonged absence from school results in lower retention and graduation rates and worsens learning outcomes. It also has an adverse effect on the social and behavioural development of children and youth.

As more families fall into extreme poverty, children in poor and disadvantaged communities are at much greater risk of child labour, child marriage and child trafficking. In fact, the global gains in reducing child labour are likely to be reversed for the first time in 20 years. In short, the crisis is having life-altering consequences for millions of children and youth worldwide.

Economic impact is grave

The economic impacts of the crisis are equally sobering: the world is now facing its worst recession in generations. Even the most advanced and developed countries are struggling to cope with the health, social and economic fallout of the pandemic, but the poorest and most disadvantaged countries will inevitably be hit the hardest.

Estimates suggest that world trade will plunge by 13 to 32 per cent, foreign direct investment will decline by up to 40 per cent, and remittances to low- and middle-income countries will fall by 20 per cent in 2020. Many poorer countries are already experiencing acute food insecurity. All of these external shocks, together with job losses, fragile health systems, insufficient basic services and low coverage of social protection systems have aggravated their vulnerabilities. Without support from the international community, the crisis could destabilize the economies of already impoverished nations.

The way forward in 2021

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to its very core. However, the continued pursuit of these universal Goals will keep Governments focused on growth, but also on inclusion, equity and sustainability.

We must strengthen and combine our efforts to leave no one behind and to forge the transformative pathways needed to create a more livable world.

Interested to learn how your business can contribute? Contact us!