By Bula Kalra
2020 has been a year of unprecedented adversity and has caused untold misery to almost every individual in some form or the other. From deadly bushfires to communal riots, we’ve seen it all this year. Incontestably, the most dangerous monster that attacked us is the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re still struggling for breath (pun intended) under its strong grasp. Besides the unfathomable deaths and destruction, both of our fellow beings and economies, the pandemic has also derailed the already wobbly train of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The novel Coronavirus, true to its name, has presented a ‘novel’ situation in terms of the SDGs. Not only has it put the implementation of SDGs on the back burner due to the cropping up of a host of other issues that require immediate attention, but it has also undone a lot of SDG-related achievements.
Worse still, this setback is unlikely to be short-lived.
COVID-19 has completely altered the dynamics of the SDGs by changing the circumstances of the stakeholders in significant ways. This will stimulate the process of undoing the effects of the pandemic and ensuring a smooth sail towards achieving the goals, an arduous task.
If we direct our attention towards SDG 1 which aims to reduce poverty to zero by 2030, we’ll notice that we weren’t going to be able to accomplish it by that year anyway. However, the pandemic has worsened the situation by pushing millions into the realm of poverty due to loss of livelihood and increased cost of healthcare.
Similarly, SDG 2 which aims for zero hunger doesn’t present a better situation either. Education has been compelled to go virtual, which has created a severe digital divide amongst students. Not only has it affected the quality of education, but has also snatched access to education from millions of children, thus impacting SDG 4.
Despite assuming increased importance due to the communicable nature of the virus, the provision of clean water and sanitation under SDG 6 has also been severely hit. However, the worst affected SDGs have been SDG 3 and SDG 8- the ones that deal with good health and economic growth, respectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health crisis that has created enormous pressure on healthcare systems around the globe. It has threatened several gains such as a reduction in mortality rates and effective immunization made towards the achievement of SDG 3. The pandemic has also pushed several economically developing and developed nations into recession and rendered millions of labourers and workers unemployed.
The burden now lies on organizations such as the United Nations and its various agencies which are primarily responsible for the SDGs. It compels the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, among others to dynamically restructure their efforts and policies towards the SDGs to align them with the demands of the pressing times we’re living in. COVID-19 has forced mankind to rethink the way we have been treating ourselves and the earth all this while and usher the required changes that can help strike a balance between what we desire to do and what we should.
Thus, in this ‘new normal’, it is crucial that the goals meant to achieve sustainable human and planetary well-being in every aspect do not disintegrate. All necessary efforts must be made to uphold and achieve them within the targeted time frame. Week three of the School Changemakers’ Program by YAH-India, themed Behind the SDGs threw light on these goals and took the young changemakers on a journey to understand their origins, stakeholders, relevance, and the organizations implementing them.