At the start of this year, the United Nations (UN) launched a ‘decade of action’ for delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted that, despite “tremendous enthusiasm” and “concrete progress” around the SDGs, “what we see is not enough” and the world remains “off track” for delivering the SDGs.
Since those remarks, the world has been hit by the full extent of the Covid-19 outbreak. The consequences of the pandemic will impact progress towards the SDGs in numerous ways, which we detail in this report. The impact of the virus only heightens the need for increased action by the global community towards achieving the SDGs, and delivering on the commitment to ‘leave no one behind’, by 2030.
The UK has a crucial role to play in the decade of action, in both delivering the SDGs domestically and supporting other countries to do so. As the government minister with primary responsibility for the SDGs, it was encouraging to hear Baroness Sugg state during a parliamentary debate earlier this year that the SDGs “have a key role in framing and shaping recovery” from the Covid-19 pandemic, and that the “decade of action will be more crucial than ever”.
The Secretary of State for International Development, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, echoed these sentiments at the UN High-Level Political Forum on 15 July 2020, stating: “The Decade of Action is upon us, with only 10 years left to achieve the SDGs. The world needs the SDGs more than ever, but Covid-19 has posed yet further challenges to reaching them by 2030. Urgent action to accelerate progress is required.”
The UK Government now needs to back up these positive statements with action by using its domestic policies and influence abroad to ensure the SDGs are placed at the heart of the recovery from Covid-19.
Although the impacts of Covid-19 undoubtedly present challenges to delivering the SDGs, it is also true that the recovery from the pandemic presents an opportunity to build back better by using implementation of the SDGs as a ‘ready-made’ roadmap.