How the pandemic affected the 2030 Agenda

Carles Llorens

General Secretary of ORU Fogar

Speed up actions in favor of the SDGS 

The year 2020 was said to be a key year in terms of the implementation of the SDGs. In fact, it’ll be 5 years on September 25, since the approval of the 2030 Agenda, with its 17 goals to be achieved within 10 years, in 2030. 2020 is also the key year for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and to show a firm involvement in the implementation of the Paris Agreement for the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Before COVID19, the results of these agendas already showed little results. For instance, Goal 2 "Zero Hunger", to which ORU Fogar is so strongly committed, had a rather dismal evaluation. It was compromised by wars, social crises and climate change ... The latest FAO annual report clearly indicates that, in the last three years, hunger has increased and today there are more than 821 million people affected around the world.

The overall assessment related to the application of the Paris Agreement, on the other hand, is not doing well either. In 2018, the consumption of oil, gas and coal was higher than ever. The public awareness campaign sounded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did not provoke any reaction.

The arrival of the coronavirus with its serious health, economic, social and political consequences, endanger the realization of the SDGs, there is a decline in the objectives already achieved. Let’s have a look at some tangible solutions.

Let's start with SDG 1, the end of poverty. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 crisis will cause between 40 and 60 million people to fall into extreme poverty. This will affect women, single-parent families, immigrants, elderly people in rural areas ... This destroys all the progress made in the last 5 years. The same goes for everything related to SDG 2 dedicated to the eradication of hunger. The ORU Fogar regions, all over the world, have seen with their own eyes how food supply chains were broken and how the export and import processes were interrupted. This has directly affected the availability of food. Forecasts say that the crisis could affect 250 million people, especially in Africa.

Obviously the pandemic, has equally affected the SDG 3 dedicated to health and welfare. As serious as this situation is, it has shown the great weakness of the health systems of many countries. Another obvious point is that SDG 4, related to quality education, has been affected. According to UNESCO data, "290 million students have lost their classes" and it is evident that technological alternatives to classes have increased social gaps. The SDG 8, that of decent work... It is not even worth arguing that the coronavirus will have disastrous effects on this objective...

Needless to state the other SDGS as the observations would be the same, they would all be affected by the pandemic…

In this context, how should we position ourselves? We believe that more than ever it is necessary to ratify in favor of the 2030 Agenda and that the initiative of the Secretary General of the United Nations to Accelerate Actions in favor of the SDGs should be welcomed. In such a complex and conflicting world, Agenda 2030 had achieved unprecedented consensus and commitment. Never has global governance had such a transparent mandate. Thus, the 2030 Agenda must continue to be the frame of reference. The pandemic must not weaken the commitment to the SDGs. The commitment on the part of the regions and member regions of ORU Fogar remains intact, if not even stronger than before.

If before the pandemic we pointed out that, beyond wars, social conflicts and the climate crisis, bad governance was a handicap for the achievement of the SDGs, now, we must ratify this conviction. In a world as complex as the one we are in, old-fashioned centralism is no longer operational. When all decision-making power is in the hands of a bureaucracy in the capital, nothing progresses, hindering progress in the fight against poverty, against hunger, against ignorance or against informal work.

I would like to end with an example that - I understand - is illustrative of this situation:

From the beginning, the World Health Organization told us that "washing your hands with soap was one of the keys to stopping the coronavirus." However, it happens that 3 billion people do not have clean water in their homes to wash their hands with soap and water. It is about 40% of the world's population. How did we achieve SDG 6, which deals with providing clean water and sanitation? How do we get people to have water to wash their hands?

A few months before the pandemic we were in Cajamarca, Peru, participating in the Second Summit on Decentralization with the Peruvian governors. On repeated occasions, Peruvian governors complained that every permit related to water management was managed in the capital, Lima. Between resignation and bitterness, they explained how they were processed forever in bureaucratic procedures that seemed incomprehensible to them. Today Peru is one of the Latin American countries that is experiencing the worst crisis, with a growing number of infected and dead. The severity of the situation, surely, must have multiple factors. In the XXI century, it is disheartening, however, to think that inefficient management of water policies can influence this, which, in the end, makes people unable to properly wash their hands.

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