The Global Community, already having significant impact in a number of areas and undermining decades of development efforts because of Covid 19 pandemic, is at a critical moment in its pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to the United Nations.
In the latest “The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021“, the UN says that the present crisis delayed the urgent transition to greener, more inclusive economies, and throwing progress on the SDGs even further off track. The report prepared by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in collaboration with more than 50 international agencies showcase the devastating impacts of the crisis on the SDGs and point out areas that require urgent and coordinated action.
The report notes that almost four million deaths have been reported because of the Covid pandemic. Apart from this, 119 to 124 million people were pushed back into poverty and chronic hunger. The world also saw the loss of about 255 million full-time jobs.
Under Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin emphasised that the Covid 19 pandemic has halted, or reversed, years, or even decades of development progress. “Global extreme poverty rose for the first time since 1998,” he said.
The report also mentions that disruptions to essential health services threatened years of progress in improving maternal and child health, increasing immunisation coverage and reducing communicable and non-communicable diseases. It said that chant 90 per cent of the countries still report one or more significant disruptions to essential health services.
The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021 shows that Covid 19 exposed and intensified inequalities within and between countries. In vaccine jabs, the report says that the countries across the world experienced wide inequality. It said that around 68 vaccine shots were administered for every 100 people in Europe and Northern America as of 17 June. However, it was fewer than two in sub-Saharan Africa.
With respect to children, the report states that millions of children are at risk of never returning to school. It also conveys that several children have been forced into child marriage and child labour because of the pandemic situation. In the tourism sector, the report said that trillions of tourist dollars lost.
CLIMATE AND BIODIVERSITY CHALLENGES
The UN report states that concentrations of major greenhouse gases continue to increase despite temporary reduction in emissions in 2020 because of lockdowns and other COVID-19 response measures. It said that the global average temperature was about 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels, dangerously close to the 1.5°C threshold. It reveals that the world fell short on 2020 targets to halt biodiversity loss and a reversal of the 10 million hectares of forest, which was lost each year between 2010 2020.
Noting that biodiversity is declining and terrestrial ecosystems are degraded at alarming rates, the UN report points out that about one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, and 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are thrown away each year.
The CO VID-19 pandemic also adversely affected progress towards gender equality. Violence against women and girls intensified during the period. Apart from this, child marriage also increased and women suffered a disproportionate share of job losses and increased care responsibilities at home.
BRIGHTER FUTURE STILL POSSIBLE
Liu stated that the report paints a worrying picture regarding the state of the SDGs. However, the UN official also notes that the report highlights stories of resilience, adaptability and innovation during the crisis, which indicates that a brighter future is possible.
The report mentions about signs that countries are taking steps under their recovery plans, which could improve SDG action. It also said that the next 18 months are critical. To address the vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic, Governments and the international community should make structural transformations and develop common solutions guided by the SDGs. These include significantly strengthening social protection systems and public services (including health systems, education, water, sanitation and other basic services); increasing investments in science, technology and innovation; creating fiscal space in developing countries; taking a green-economy approach and investing in clean energy and industry, and transitioning to sustainable food systems.