On the road to achieving the SDGs

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The world of Covid-19






According to the United Nations Report on the Sustainable Development Goals, COVID-19, which is now a global pandemic, can potentially affect most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and have specific impacts on SDG-1 (not poverty), SDG-2 (zero hunger), SDG-3 (healthy lives and well-being of people of all ages) and SDG-8 (decent work and economic growth). As we are responsible for development, government initiatives must be taken in the spirit of certain SDG principles such as inclusiveness and the fundamental ‘no one left behind’ pledge.
COVID-19 first hit Asia, leaving catastrophic impacts on the economies and social structures of the continent. Asia’s efforts to deal with the pandemic further revealed the size of its population hanging by a thread amid hunger and poverty with little or no access to basic services. In the Asia-Pacific region, 90 to 400 million people are likely to return to poverty with a daily income of less than US $ 3.20. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the region alone has suffered losses in economic costs and human lives estimated at US $ 1.7 to 2.5 trillion. Many countries are taking bold steps to minimize these losses. With attention shifting from the effects of COVID-19 on human health and life to the focus on its socio-economic impacts, societies and country governments are faced with fiscal, regulatory and policy choices without example. As part of the SDGs, the global commitment to zero poverty and sustainable development by 2030 can serve as a guide to hope in these times of distress.
The report “Fast-Tracking the SDGs: Driving Asia-Pacific Transformations,” a UN report, highlights six transformative actions that can help achieve the SDGs in relation to our response to this global pandemic. Points include vitalizing human capacities and well-being, transitioning to equitable and sustainable economies, training for healthy and sustainable nutrition and food management, working to ensure universal access to zero energy carbon, the promotion of sustainability in urbanization and peri-urbanization, and environmental resources around the world. As a result of the pandemic, all entry points have suffered disruptions which may however pave the way for further action to achieve the SDG targets which reflect the ambitious 2030 Agenda.
Even though COVID-19 has highlighted the systemic gaps and fragility of many of our key systems, there are still viable strategies adopted by many countries before and after the onset of the pandemic to build resilience and achieve outcomes. development goals at an accelerated pace. Measures have been taken by countries to strengthen support for health and social protection systems and extend them through the distribution of food and the transfer of money to vulnerable households. Accurate data on a regular basis is the key to these efforts, and innovations to enable the most disadvantaged to access credit from micro, small and medium-sized enterprises are also vital. Comprehensive approaches have been adopted by several countries to address gender-based discrimination and violence in various forms. Partnership-based associations, including finance companies and the private sector, can be crucial in facilitating creative solutions. Such experiences are a sign of optimism. Responses to COVID-19 must focus on the well-being of people on the basis of empowerment and equality. Changes in the link between people and the environment are needed to ensure the protection of natural resources and the human population as the key to a sustainable future where the current crisis will not happen again.
Achieving the SDGs requires revolutionary changes in policy making and practice. Part of the transformations required include governance systems based on accountability and inclusion, health insurance and social protection accessible across the world, a robust digital infrastructure and adaptive institutions resilient to future shocks. The energy and infrastructure transition based on environmental sustainability and low carbon emissions is driving all of these factors. In the Asia-Pacific region, several countries have started to design ambitious strategies to ensure inclusive development approaches and a green recovery.
Recently, a New Deal was announced by the Republic of Korea on the basis of decarbonization and digitization. Many Pacific countries that are already proponents of clean energy projects and climate initiatives are turning their attention to “blue recovery”, adopting approaches to sustainable fisheries management. Recently, India announced the operation of its solar power plant, the largest in the region. Since then, China has created more job opportunities in the renewable energy industries than in the fossil fuel sector. Many countries in Asia continue to expand the reach of social protection as a COVID-19 stimulus to transcend a temporary arrangement and bring marginalized population, such as those in the informal sector, under the systems. The AfDB, the United Nations and similar institutions have mobilized to provide a coordinated response to the global crisis. It is therefore vital for us to enable the countries of the world to muster the support necessary to achieve and transcend the SDGs.
The implausible pandemic people are facing today has not only affected the entire species, but has also slowed the economy, but not stagnated, leading to a situation where something invisible interrupts everything. It also jeopardized the global SDG agenda which, even before the arrival of the pandemic, were questioned as to their achievement by 2030 at the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 where they were targeted. .
COVID-19 has made our approaches to these goals more difficult, as noted in the recent United Nations report on the SDGs. The crisis is impacting our economy, education, health and our efforts to reduce poverty, ensure gender equality, tackle climate change and protect the environment, along with other factors to consider in the SDG agenda. A rapid assessment of 26 developed and 138 developing countries reveals that the pandemic, even in its moderate form, has pushed 85 million people into poverty.
Bangladesh has achieved some of the SDGs such as Zero Hunger, No Poverty, Reduction of Inequalities, Healthy Lives and Well-Being, Decent Work and Economic Growth, including others. The pandemic has already seriously affected them all. Among the SDGs, the top three have been the most affected. In this context, the eradication of poverty and the creation of new employment opportunities within the framework of the SDGs seem unlikely. Government assistance is needed to provide food to the poor. The 2020 Sustainable Development Report (SDR) released on June 30 provides the SDG index and scorecards and is an important complement to the official list of SDG indicators as well as to the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).
The latest SDG progress report released in Bangladesh indicates that most of the 17 SDGs are on track to be achieved by 2030. Current challenges facing the government in achieving the SDGs include nutrition and health issues. obesity in children under five, the number of deaths caused by cancer, diabetic, pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases; dependence on technology and energy from renewable and zero-emission sources; Value-added ratio (VAR) to high-tech industries; inequality; and cases of gender-based violence against women. Areas where Bangladesh has managed to stay on track, according to the SDG progress report, include poverty reduction, hunger alleviation, water supply and sanitation, poverty reduction, gender parity, the maintenance of economic growth and decent work, the maintenance of consumption with production in harmony, and the guarantee of educational development.

Md. Touhidul Alam Khan is Additional Managing Director of Standard Bank Limited, Bangladesh. He is the first Certified Sustainability Reporting Assur (CSRA) in Bangladesh and was recently selected as a member of the scientific committee of the 8th International Conference on Sustainable Development (SDC-2021)


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