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Friday, September 18, 2020
Every year, the Sustainable Development Report (SDR) tracks the performance of all UN member states on the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – adopted in 2015 by world leaders. This article discusses progress made on the SDGs in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and South Asia, as well as the likely short-term impacts of COVID-19 in these regions where reported daily cases and virus transmission are growing rapidly. It identifies five key measures that international cooperation efforts should urgently include to address the immediate consequences of the health and economic crises in vulnerable countries and population groups.
PARIS/NEW YORK, Jul 16 2020 (IPS) - COVID-19 has claimed more than 550,000 lives and disrupted the entire world, sparing no region. As of July 2020, the number of daily new confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID-19 are growing rapidly in Latin America and the Caribbean, especially in Brazil and Mexico but also in many African countries as well as India. As highlighted in a recent article, these numbers are likely underestimated given the reduced testing capacity in many low and middle-income countries.
The Effective Reproduction Rate (ERR), defined as the average number of infections that an infected individual transmits to susceptible individuals, is above 1 in many African and Latin American countries and in India. An ERR of less than 1 signifies effective suppression, while an ERR above 1 signifies ongoing epidemic conditions. Countries in the Asia-Pacific, such as Taiwan or Vietnam, have largely suppressed the virus, although they must remain vigilant.
COVID-19 has especially affected the achievement of the SDGs, and has produced many negative short-term impacts on most SDGs. For instance, an estimated 71 million people are expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020. These negative impacts are amplified in low-income countries and vulnerable population groups, especially in the Global South. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly everyone globally, poor and vulnerable populations, including low-skilled workers and refugees, are suffering far more in terms of lost lives, vulnerability to infection, declining incomes, and unemployment.
One of the major findings of this year’s Sustainable Development Report (SDR2020) is that before the COVID-19 outbreak, the world was making progress towards the SDGs. Although no country was on track to achieve the SDGs, the evolution of the SDG Index scores (included in the Sustainable Development Report) between 2010 and 2019 suggests some convergence, with regions and income groups that had lower SDG Index scores in 2010 progressing faster. Due to time lags in data generation and reporting, these results represent the situation before COVID-19. In particular, areas of the Global South, including sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean made significant progress during the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) period (2000–2015) and also showed progress on the SDGs. However, of all United Nations regions, East and South Asia demonstrated the most progress on the SDGs.
The report also highlighted significant disparities in progress across the goals and countries. For example, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Cambodia improved the most on the SDGs, while Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and the Republic of the Congo regressed the most.
Globalisation facilitates the rapid spread of viruses around the world. At the same time, concerted international action by policymakers, the private sector, civil society, and the scientific community can accelerate the identification of solutions.
The current crisis, including hostilities among major powers, raises the spectre of global conflict instead of global cooperation. It was Charles Kindleberger’s thesis in 1929–1939 that the Great Depression was so severe because there was no global leader (or “hegemon”) and no adequate cooperation among the major powers. The result, he argued, was a breakdown of the global monetary and trading system that paved the way to Nazi Germany and World War II.
The SDR2020 proposes five key global cooperation measures to address the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis:
Timely data is also a critical component of overcoming COVID-19. The SDR2020 underscores the need for more timely and disaggregated data in many parts of the world, especially the Global South, to track and address the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on different population groups. SDSN in partnership with Esri and National Geographic, recently launched a new platform, SDGs Today, with real-time and timely data for the SDGs. All datasets are updated regularly (at least annually), and they have each been curated and validated by SDSN’s Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS).
As we move forward, the priority of every government must be to continue to contain and suppress the virus. As COVID-19 continues to infect a growing number of people in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and South Asia, strengthening public health systems and providing access to personal protective equipment and large-scale testing is essential in the absence of a treatment or vaccine. Furthermore, international solidarity and partnerships are critical to address and prevent health, economic, and humanitarian crises and to avoid major setbacks on the SDGs in the short and long-term.
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