Manju Garg
Expert View

Impact of COVID-19 on the Agenda 2030

By Manju Garg, Teacher, Ahlcon International School, New Delhi
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015 by the UN Member States, with the purpose of ending poverty, protecting the planet earth, and guaranteeing peace and prosperity for all people by the year 2030. The Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals are a collection of 17 interlinked goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The world leaders have a shared vision to set the world on a sustainable path to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is however, disrupting the key goal “leave no one behind” by its constantly growing dangers through inequalities around income, wealth, access to quality education, water and sanitation, health and other social services. The global community finds itself in an unprecedented situation where parallel threats of health, economic and social crisis have left countries struggling to contain the epidemic and provide immediate medical and financial relief to the people affected by the macroeconomic downturns. Thus, the pandemic has threatened to reverse years of progress on the Sustainable Goals of poverty, good health and well-being and education the most.

COVID-19, with its triple hit to health, education and income has caused global per capita income to fall by 4-5% and has impacted the largest reversal in human development.  Mobility and migration have been heavily affected through lockdown with significant human and economic costs. It has triggered an economic crisis in large proportion with augmented impact on human resource. The economic consequences are due to loss of human resource and its impact is significant and widespread, affecting all areas of the economy, including capital flows, business operations, employment, and jobs.

The loss of jobs has affected people significantly and they are under lot of mental and financial exhaustion. People are unable or afraid to go to health-care facilities to seek services such as checkups, vaccinations, and even urgent medical care due to diversion of essential health services towards covid health emergency and lifesaving interventions. Women and children are also enduring the impact of the crisis as many women are facing increased economic insecurity.  Compulsive digitalization of education has impacted over 1.2 billion learners all over the world taking away their joys of learning and growing, considerably. Prolonged absence from school campus is resulting in lower attention-retention skills and worsening their learning outcomes. It is also creating an adverse effect on their social and behavioural development. In short, the crisis is having life-altering consequences on millions of children and youth worldwide.

While the crisis is threatening progress towards the SDGs, it is making their achievement even more urgent. To achieve the SDGs, it is imperative to be prepared to deal with any kind of crisis or other natural calamities in future.  Timely collection and analysis of data and statistics related to health literacy and income are proving vital in understanding, managing, and altering the human, social and economic impacts of the outbreak. Financial and technical data and statistical systems are being used for designing the short-term plans and enhanced actions to put countries back on track to achieve the SDGs.

To accomplish the Sustainable Goals the world will require leadership, foresight, innovation, besides finance and collaboration among all governments and all stakeholders. They will lead to finding transformative pathways to build back better economies.

Not only has the unusual situation slowed down the process toward achieving the 17 SDGs and changing the trajectory of development, but it is also drawing our attention to new realities and ways of life which we had not imagined before and forcing us to rethink and reshape the future we want. The continued pursuit of the Sustainable Goals will require us to keep focus not only on growth but rebuild fairer model for the future, one that is more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable world.

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