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Can pandemic recovery put world on path to SDGs? Next 18 months key, says UN report

According to 2021 United Nations SDG report, besides causing the death of over 3 million people, Covid pushed around 119-124 million people back into poverty last year.

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New Delhi: More countries and communities are recognising the need to ramp up their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Nations (UN) has said in its Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021, which was released Tuesday.

Considering the major disruption the pandemic has caused to people’s lives and livelihoods, the next 18 months are critical to achieving SDGs, the report added. 

“The decisions and actions taken during the next 18 months will determine whether pandemic recovery plans will put the world on a course to reach the globally agreed-upon goals that aim to boost economic growth and social well-being while protecting the environment,” said the report, which tracks global efforts to achieve the SDGs. 

SDGs are 17 goals agreed upon by UN member states in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a “call of action to end poverty, protect the planet, and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere”. The agenda sets out a 15-year plan to achieve the goals, which include eliminating hunger, ensuring quality education, gender equality, and clean water.

According to the 2021 report, besides causing the death of over 3 million people, Covid pushed around 119-124 million people back into poverty last year. An estimated 255 million people, it added, lost their full-time jobs due to the Covid crisis across the world. 

The report also noted that, in 2020, the global extreme poverty rate rose for the first time since 1998, to 9.5 per cent from 8.4 per cent in 2019. 

“The world was not on track to meet the goals before the pandemic — now the challenge is many times magnified,” the report said.

However, it noted that, between 1 February and 31 December 2020, governments around the world announced more than 1,600 social protection measures in response to the Covid-19 crisis. 

Efforts to fight the pandemic have also shown “immense community resilience, decisive action from governments, and a rapid expansion of social protection and a unique collaboration to develop life-saving vaccines in record time”, which the report said act as solid foundations to build on to accelerate progress on the SDGs. 

Also Read: Tens of millions have plunged into poverty as Covid ravages India

‘Seize the moment’

The UN SDG report said the pandemic has exposed and intensified inequalities within and among countries, pointing to vaccines as an example. 

As of 17 June 2021, the report noted, around 68 vaccines were administered for every 100 people in Europe and North America, compared to fewer than 2 in sub-Saharan Africa. 

The report also sought to point out a disconnect between the economic slowdown in 2020 and the climate crisis, saying concentrations of major greenhouse gases continued to increase while the global average temperature was about 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels, extremely close to the 1.5°C limit set in the Paris Agreement.

Further, it added, global flows of foreign direct investment fell by 40 per cent in 2020 as compared to 2019. 

To get the SDGs back on track, the report said governments, cities, businesses, and industries should use the recovery period “to adopt low-carbon, resilient and inclusive development pathways” that will help reduce carbon emissions and conserve natural resources. 

“Lessons learned from the pandemic will help us rise to current and future challenges. Let us seize the moment together to make this a decade of action, transformation and restoration to achieve the SDGs and make good on the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in the report.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: Unequal allocation of Covid vaccines could cost the world economy $9.2 trillion


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