Are the SDGs the framework we need to build back better after Covid-19?
14 September 2020
With ten years left until the 2030 target, this year was meant to kickstart a period of renewed global ambition and action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the “Decade of Action”.
The socio-economic devastation of Covid-19 has put many existing government plans and strategies into question. In response, the international community has had to adopt a much more defensive posture, to minimise the extent to which existing progress is wiped away by the impact of the pandemic.
However, despite the changed context and the ongoing crisis, 2020 remains a critical moment to raise attention to the goals in order to galvanise an inclusive and sustainable recovery. On 18 September, the UN will be launching the “Decade of Action", with the ambition of building back better after Covid-19.
This will be essential if our planet is to have any hope of rebuilding in a way that supports the most marginalised, keeps us within planetary boundaries and helps to shape new economic and social models that will make us more resilient to future crises.
Building Back Better: SDGs as a roadmap for recovery
Today, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the UN Goals for Sustainable Development has released its first report, Building Back Better: The SDGs as a roadmap for recovery. Bond, as the APPG Secretariat, and the Bond SDG Working Group contributed directly throughout the process, helping shape the inquiry, coordinating member input and organising the launch.
Based on input from over 50 organisations and individuals from the UK, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the report collects and analyses critical evidence on the direct and indirect impact of the virus, across a wide range of SDGs.
For example, the report cites World Health Organisation evidence that at least 80 million children under the age of one are at risk of missing out on routine vaccinations for diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio, threatening progress on SDG 3 Health and Wellbeing.
SDG 5 Gender Equality is also in the balance, with estimates by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) showing that domestic violence has increased globally by 20%.
A wide range of ongoing commitments and other crises are at risk of being deprioritised due to the pandemic response, including those related to climate change, biodiversity loss or conflict. At the same time, lower-income and fragile countries and communities continue to face a host of challenges that require meaningful support and partnership from the international community.
“Many poor farmers and workers...have already been forced to abandon their fields and migrate. Climate-related risks to livelihoods are predicted to rise rapidly and, coupled with the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, the scale of the challenge facing producers on the front line is stark” - Fairtrade Foundation, Written Evidence
The report also provides a list of essential, evidence-based recommendations for the UK government, for specific SDGs and the agenda as a whole, chief among them the requirement to adopt the SDGs as an explicit roadmap for recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Other recommendations address the way forward for economies and livelihoods, climate action, peace and justice, international cooperation and aid, and collaboration with civil society.
“If the UK Government really wants systemic change they need to engage with civil society. We are more accountable to our people, we are being held accountable by everybody…We need to prepare our people to hold our governments accountable.” - Zia ur Rehman, AwazCDS-Pakistan
The upcoming UN Summit provides a critical space for governments to re-commit to the SDGs as the framework for recovery, and to strengthen international collaboration at a time when it is so vitally needed.
This APPG report has provided the next steps required for the UK government to shift from rhetoric to action, in 2020 and beyond.
Read the full APPG report now.