2020 was christened “super year” for activism that would accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, SDGs, or Globalgoals). At the beginning of 2020, these global goals had penetrated more and more in the different structures of society, and all of our institutions, to a greater or lesser extent, had attempted to analyze their role in the global development agenda. Five years after it was signed, it seemed like we were finally making progress. The conversation was taking place and the first engagements were beginning to come.
And then, a virus, which had never been heard of, literally stopped the world. Covid-19 has forced countries and entities to re-establish their priorities and reallocate resources to face the pandemic. The SDGs have come to the fore again, after five years trying to get them to the front.
The United Nations World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) estimates that poverty could increase for the first time since 1990. In some regions, adverse impacts could generate levels of poverty similar to those recorded 10 or even 30 years. In its most negative scenario, a 20% contraction in income or consumption, the number of people living in poverty could increase between 420 and 580 million, in relation to the latest official figures for 2018. For those of us who carry more From a decade working on sustainable development, this is more than just a jug of cold water. It is not just starting again, it is starting from a worse point than we had started. Decades of progress in the fight against poverty totally lost. We had all our hopes for achieving SDG 1: end of poverty by 2030.
And the problem is not only that it will lead to the biggest economic crisis in a long time (preliminary estimates by the International Monetary Fund put it at two trillion dollars), nor that it will lose much of what has been earned, exacerbating the already high levels of inequality within and between countries, but we will again be just as bad or worse prepared for the next pandemic. If we had really invested in the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the SDGs, we would have had a much stronger foundation to withstand these shocks.
Fulfilling SDG3 (health and well-being) would have implied making investments aimed at a world with access to universal coverage, quality health care and more inclusive and sustainable economies. On the other hand, according to the United Nations, most countries have invested little; facilities are insufficient for unexpected demand levels and are highly dependent on imports. Most countries are characterized by weak and fragmented systems, which do not guarantee universal access and the necessary capacity to face the crisis.
Given the extensive economic, social and commercial interrelationships in the world, we are as strong as the weakest healthcare system. As Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, has said, “the countries that are fighting the pandemic at home are right in prioritizing people living in their own communities. But the hard truth is that they will not protect their own, if they don’t act now to help the poorest countries protect themselves. No one is safe until everyone is safe. “
Unesco estimates that some 1,250 million students are affected, which represents a serious challenge for achieving SDG 4 (Quality Education); and the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that some 25 million people could lose their jobs, with those in informal employment suffering most of the lack of social protection. Unfortunately, these data are just the tip of the iceberg. In many parts of the world, the pandemic and its effects are exacerbated by the lack of progress in the provision of clean water and sanitation, weak economic growth and the absence of decent work, widespread inequalities, and above all, entrenched poverty and food insecurity.
It seems that, in the midst of a crisis, it is not legal to think about the long term. I agree that saving lives is unavoidable, but what happens in those places where instead of dying from the covid-19 they are going to starve?
The pandemic has exposed fundamental weaknesses in our global system. It has shown how the prevalence of poverty, weak health systems, lack of education and global cooperation exacerbate the crisis. Volatility, combined in some countries with market and storage manipulation, has affected food prices, with detrimental effects on the nutrition of the most vulnerable. Unless the measures are implemented quickly, the disruptions imposed by the pandemic and the measures taken to suppress the virus will dramatically worsen the situation.
But there is also a positive story. Civil society has taken the baton and encouraged by a spirit of solidarity, companies, civil society, multilateral organizations and governments have been able to raise billions and in some cases trillions of dollars, in record time to support the efforts. to combat this pandemic. Something unprecedented in our recent history. If we attribute the same level of importance and urgency to the fight against poverty, hunger and climate change, we would achieve the SDGs in the remaining 10 years.
If the 2030 agenda was critical, it is now crucial. However, it seems that it has disappeared from public language. It seems that, in the midst of a crisis, it is not legal to think about the long term. I agree that saving lives is unavoidable, but what happens in those places where instead of dying from the covid-19 they are going to starve? Or rather, they already do it because of the measures imposed to tackle the pandemic, without being able to count or analyze it.
As I said earlier, complying with the SDGs protects us and implies being better prepared for new crises, and ultimately living in a better world. We have to invest in that this does not happen again, or not with this magnitude. For this, maintaining the commitments made in the 2030 agenda is key. The pandemic could become an opportunity to unite in solidarity and turn the crisis into a catalyst. If we think about it, many of the decisions we make will be infinitely better, if we make them based on the set agenda. We have 10 years left and we just lost a few.
Hopefully the saying “there is no evil that for good does not come” is fulfilled, and we have the vision, the courage, and the determination so that this pandemic will also serve to accelerate the way to end poverty in 2030, as we still dream Some.
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