By Mayowa Jolayemi

In September 2000 under the secretary generalship of Kofi Annan, world leaders met and ratified a declaration where they all committed to pursuing a set of eight goals – called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which included halving extreme poverty and hunger in the world among others, by a  target date of 2015. Although on a general scale, MDG 1 target of halving extreme poverty rate by 2015 was achieved even if unevenly, and most of the other goals saw remarkable progress, the focus of the world post-2015 MDGs agenda has been building a sustainable world where environmental, social, and economic developments are pursued and equally valued, leading to the birth of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

According to the United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals, which were agreed to by the General Assembly of the body in 2015, are the blueprint to achieving a better and more sustainable future for all. With a 2030 target date, the SDGs provide a shared achievable blueprint, though challenging, for sustainable peace and prosperity for people everywhere, ensuring no one is left behind; and for a sustainable planet, not just for this generation, but for future benefits of generations unborn. 

A critical consideration of deliberate individual, national and global actions currently at work in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the ongoing global health crises pose major challenges to the delivery of the 17-point Global goals by 2030 as anticipated by the United Nations.

The Agenda, which may be described as the most ambitious shared global vision has the potential to deliver to humanity, a near-perfect world when all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are institutionalized, without leaving anyone behind. These Goals whose supreme objectives are quite noble, and ultimately the only way to go as human beings, have seen nations, governments, civil societies, and individuals actively braced-up and doubling efforts to implement and achieve them, although not at the speed or scale required if the 2030 year of attainment remains constant.

On the morning of January 22, 2020, The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, briefed the General Assembly on his priorities for the Year, where he also officially launched the “Decade of Action” for the Sustainable Development Goals. The 2020s that precedes the year 2030 that the Global goals must be significantly achieved, have been named the Decade of Action. This then calls for more actions that are resilient from individuals, countries and global communities to secure greater leadership commitment, more resource allocation, and engage smarter solutions to generate unstoppable movement to accelerate sustainable solutions.

Amongst the other several challenges that have confronted the SDG implementation and achievement, is the rampaging novel coronavirus, that is currently threatening the entire existence of humanity globally, and has continued to spread. Although its ripple effects are difficult to assess and model, it has shown varying levels of impacts on the socio-economics of different nations. The rich countries have been able to mobilize fiscal stimulus programs for their citizens, put to proper use their more efficient health systems, and combat the disease from their abundance of resources. However, this is not the same for the low/middle-income countries who are more vulnerable and least prepared for such a degree of crisis. 

Globally, this disease has greatly disrupted various economies and everyone everywhere has had their livelihood affected. The Coronavirus that has infected over 4 million persons, claiming over 250,000 lives, as at early May 2020,  has not only challenged the Sustainable Development Goal on ensuring healthy living and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages, but It poses a great threat to the global workforce as nearly half of the global workforce risk losing their livelihood, as warned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO); thanks but no thanks to this pandemic. Even the World Bank and IMF estimate that some 60 million more persons will be pushed into extreme poverty because of lockdowns and movement restrictions as measures employed to contain the spread of the disease. If these figures are to be considered, this means that progress made to reduce poverty since the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals some 5 years ago may have been lost!

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the course of Education dramatically. Currently, UNESCO reports that 1.26 billion learners are affected; this represents 72.4% of total enrolled learners in 177 countrywide school closures. With these figures, dropout rates across the globe are likely to rise because of the long-term massive implications on the most vulnerable. This will negatively affect the initial record of about 90% school enrollment rate previously reported.

Although this global crisis has made way for innovative approaches to solving our collective problems, on the one hand, but on the other hand, it may take some persons and countries a longer time to adjust to the new opportunities the crisis may have presented. More so, governments and businesses globally are particularly focused on containing the spread and impact of the COVID-19 on their economies; and this may have led many to temporarily suspend the initial drive to implement responsible actions to achieve a better world by 2030.

Considering the current state of the world, one would therefore think that it is only practical for the United Nations to critically consider the limitations that have slowed down the implementation of large parts of the goals and to make the SDGs more achievable, possibly with an extension of about 5-10 years. This extension will allow nations to recover from the devastating effect of the COVID-19, make necessary adjustments to their respective national development plans, as well as recommit to ensuring countries, businesses, civil societies, and individuals re-strategize to achieve the global goals. It is important to consider that for global actions to be effective and inclusive, it is most critical to build resilience for more vulnerable societies to economically stable positions, than a push to stick by a deadline that didn’t take into consideration a pandemic of the scale we are all witnessing today. The United Nations and all its agencies, have indeed devotedly committed tremendous resources to achieving the 17 global goals, with some impacts felt even in the most remote parts of the earth. Nevertheless, much, so much more, needs to be done to make the world a better place that is anticipated.