Covid 19 has threatened everything achieved in sustainable development over the past five years, and much of the development progress made under the earlier Millennium Development Goals. But making the right choices today without any delay, it is not too late to shape the major trends that are sustainable and delivers benefits to all, feels the United Nations.
In a recent report – “Shaping the Trends of Our Time”- by the UN Economist Network for the UN 75th Anniversary said “by making the right choices today, without further delay, it is not too late to shape the major trends of our time in a direction that is sustainable and delivers benefits to all.”
The new report examines five megatrends: climate change, demographic shifts, particularly population ageing, urbanization, emergence of digital technologies and inequalities that are affecting economic, social and environmental outcomes.
The report points out that the efforts to reverse or redirect these trends must be reinforced to set the stage for an inclusive, sustainable and equitable future during the next 75 years. Noting that all the five megatrends are universal phenomena, the report said that the first three can be shaped by national policy. “Climate change can only be solved by all countries acting in concert. Inequalities are something of a hybrid, since within a country, they can largely be addressed by national policy. But mitigating inequalities among countries, including the technological divide, requires a cooperative global effort,” the report said.
In the report, the UN says that COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest immediate challenge of the time. The report says that the pandemic does not affect equally. “It has highlighted and deepened existing inequalities among and within countries. It has had the most adverse impacts on countries and groups already at greatest risk of being left behind,” the report says.
The report also points out that the pandemic is impacting the megatrends in different ways. It noted that the increase in online work has accelerated the digitalization of the economy and is driving further technological innovation. On the positive side, as economic activity has ground to a halt, so has the generation of greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution. The status of biodiversity has improved, the report say.
Climate change and environmental degradation
Reversing the trend of climate change require transformative changes on both the demand and supply sides, including conscious lifestyle changes affecting consumption preferences and behaviour, cleaner production processes, greater resource efficiency and corporate responsibility, the report notes. Integrating natural capital into development policies would help intensify focus on sustainability, it says.
It also pointed out that huge opportunities could open from building natural capital through restoring mangroves for flood mitigation and reclaiming wetlands. It stressed that a critical part of the climate action agenda in all countries must be to accelerate the transition from fossil fuel to clean and renewable energy sources.
Demographic trends and population ageing
The report says that policy interventions should be based on careful long term planning. It should include managing ageing and changes in population age composition rooted in declining fertility and extended life expectancy. It said that specific training for older people in the use of new technologies will help them to stay active. Preventive health care helps to maintain the functional capacity and well-being of individuals in all stages of life, and is increasingly important as populations’ age, the UN said. “Eliminating age-related discrimination, including age barriers in employment, would make an important contribution to reducing inequality, increasing productivity and promoting inclusive economic growth,” the report says.
The UN maintained that Governments should incorporate urbanisation into national development and economic planning. “Urban planning should develop compact, mixed-use designs that generate urban land value, create job opportunities for the urban poor, reduce congestion and improve social inclusion.” The UN said in the report.
The UN said that it was important to establish policies to lay the foundations of an inclusive digital economy and society. The policy should be carved for extending digital infrastructure. It also requires coordination among the stakeholders.
The report finds it that any comprehensive strategy to address inequality should promote equal opportunity, increase redistribution and tackle discrimination. The report points out that the first of these building blocks includes policies aimed at expanding capabilities and therefore promoting equal access to opportunity. The second encompasses policies that affect the redistribution of incomes, wages and profits. The third building block consists of policies meant to address prejudice and discrimination, and promote the participation of disadvantaged groups in economic, social and political life.