world today is dealing with a crisis of monumental proportions. The vicious,
novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the globe, destroying lives and
ruining livelihoods. The primary cost of
the pandemic as seen in the loss of human lives is distressing, but the
secondary effects on the global economy, on livelihoods and on sustainable development
prospects are even more alarming. The International Monetary Fund estimates
that our world has entered into a recession, and while the full economic impact
of the crisis is difficult to predict, the costs of the pandemic will no doubt
be astronomical, with preliminary estimates placing it at a whopping US$2
pandemic has utterly exposed fundamental weaknesses in our global system. It
has shown beyond doubt how the prevalence of poverty, weak health systems, lack
of education, and above all sub-optimal global cooperation, is exacerbating the
there was ever any doubt that our world faces common challenges, this pandemic
should categorically put to rest that doubt. The on-going crisis has
re-enforced the interdependence of our world. It has brought to the fore the urgent
need for global action to meet people’s basic needs, to save our planet and to
build a fairer and more secure world. We
are faced with common, global challenges that can only be solved through
common, global solutions. After all, in a crisis like this we are only as
strong as the weakest link. This is what the SDGs, the global blueprint to end
poverty, protect our planet and ensure prosperity, are all about.
this ferocious, sudden on-set pandemic has come at a time when the Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) were getting good traction and a significant number of
countries were making good progress in their implementation. As the world is seized with containing the
spread of the virus and addressing its negative and debilitating impacts, the
reality is that countries are resetting their priorities, and reallocating
resources to deal with the pandemic. This certainly is the right thing to do
because the priority now is to save lives, and we must do so at all costs.
is why we must all support the call by the United Nations for scaling up the
immediate health response to suppress the transmission of the virus, to end the
pandemic and to focus on people particularly, women, youth, low-wage workers,
small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and vulnerable groups who are
already at risk. Working together we can save lives, restore livelihood and
bring the global economy back on track.
what we cannot afford to do even at these crucial times is to shift resources
away from priority SDGs actions. The response to the pandemic cannot be
de-linked from actions on the SDGs. Indeed, achieving the SDGs will put us on a
solid foundation and a firm path to dealing with global health risks and
emerging infectious diseases. Achieving SDGs Goal 3 will mean strengthening the
capacity of countries for early warning, risk reduction and management of
national and global health risks.
pandemic has manifestly exposed the crisis in global health systems. And while
it is severely undermining prospects for achieving global health by 2030,
critically it is having direct far-reaching effects on all the other SDGs.
emerging evidence of the broader impact of the crisis on our quest to achieve
the SDGs must be troubling for all.
UNESCO estimates that some 1.25 billion students are affected by this
pandemic, posing a serious challenge to the attainment of SDGs Goal 4; and
according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) some 25 million people
could lose their jobs with those in informal employment suffering most from
lack of social protection during this pandemic. Unfortunately, these might just
be the tip of the iceberg.
in many parts of the world, the pandemic and its effects are being exacerbated
by the crisis in delivering on clean water and sanitation targets (SDG Goal 6),
weak economic growth and the absence of decent work (SDGs Goal 8), pervasive
inequalities (SDGs Goal 10), and above all, a crisis in poverty (SDGs Goal 1)
and food security (Goal 2). The World Bank estimates that the crisis will push
some 11 million people into poverty.
at this stage in this deadly pandemic, we cannot deny the fact that the crisis
is fast teaching us, as global citizens, the utmost value in being each other’s
keeper, in working to leave no one behind, and in prioritising the needs of the
most vulnerable in society.
our world strives to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, we
ultimately must seek to turn the crisis into an opportunity and ramp up actions
necessary to achieve the SDGs. The spirit of solidarity, quick and robust
action to defeat the virus that we are witnessing must be brought to bear on
the implementation of the Goals. The quantum of stimulus and pecuniary
compensation packages that is being made available to deal with the pandemic
make it clear that, when it truly matters, the world has the resources to deal
with pressing and existential challenges. The SDGs are one such challenge.
is acutely needed is enhanced political will and commitment. Our world has the
knowledge, capacity and innovation, and if we are ambitious enough, we can
muster the full complement of resources needed to implement successfully the
Goals. Buoyed by the spirit of solidarity, Governments, businesses,
multi-lateral organisations and civil society have in the shortest possible
time been able to raise billions, and in some cases, trillions to support
efforts to combat this pandemic. If we attach the same level of importance and
urgency to the fight against poverty, hunger, climate change and towards all
the other goals, we will be well poised for success in this Decade of Action on
As the world responds to the effects of this brutal pandemic, and seeks to restore global prosperity, we must focus on addressing underlying factors in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. We must not, and cannot relent in our efforts, even amid this painful pandemic. While some of the gains on the SDGs have been eroded, this should not deflate our efforts. They should rather spur us to accelerate and deepen our efforts during this Decade of Action to ‘recover better’, and build a healthier, safer, fairer and a more prosperous world, so necessary in avoiding future pandemics.
By: Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
President of the Republic of Ghana and Co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Eminent Group of Advocates for the SDGs and Erna Solberg Prime Minister of Norway and Co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Eminent Group of Advocates for the SDGs