2030 Agenda, sustainability and pandemic: how does the balance change?

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As is well known, the 2030 agenda presents  several  sustainability goals that concern both the Nations and the global world, in a series of objectives that are aimed at a  more sustainable global system from  every point of view. What will be the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic?

In the very first days of 2020, few would have imagined that important and global problems like those relating to the Sustainability Development would have been  overshadowed by an equally dramatic emergency. The Covid-19 epidemic has, without a doubt,  shifted the attention onto a more contingent issue, but the risk is now to lose sight of  a series of problems  whose impact is only more distributed over time,  and whose effects can be devastating on a worldwide scale.  In order to address  these problems, in 2015 the United Nations identified 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and inserted them in the 2030 Agenda, a guide that should have shaped the actions of all Countries around the world.
And so it was  until 2020, when the Coronavirus turned up, upsetting a balance that will probably never be the same as in the pre-pandemic era again.
Let’s see what are the 17 SDGs, and how the current situation could hinder their actualiztion.


Goal 1: End poverty

The first goal of the 2030 Agenda is to put an end to every form of poverty in the world. Actually, it’s easy to imagine how, in  a way, the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic  is making poverty worse,  even inricher states, and how these, in an effort to  preserve the welfare of their own populations, could devote less attention  to development and support projects for Countries in  need. The resources  employed to fight the pandemic, more abundant in certain parts of the world, , can widen the gap (some countries can afford virus containment policies, while others can’t).

Goal 2: End hunger

The second objective is to put an end to hunger,  achieve food  security,  improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. This goal is very closely linked to the first one, particularly  in the poorest countries. The more certain population groups have difficulties in finding the food they need for their subsistence, the less attention  they pay to the quality of the food. In Italy, agricultural production is  an essential activity, so the indicator for this sector in our country can  be challenged by the pandemic.

Goal 3: health and wel-lbeing

Ensuring health and well-being to everyone  at every age is another goal of the 2030 Agenda.
The present global sanitary crisis has  been straining the medical system in the entire world: its effects- apart from the increase in mortality directly linked to Covid-19 – could continue for a long time, for example in terms of neglected examinations and prevention. How much would the expected increase  in poverty, as well as the reduced chance of  exercising, affect the adoption of good and bad  dietary and lifestyle habits?


Goal 4: Quality education

The 2030 agenda has as its fourth goal  ensuring everyone  quality equal and inclusive education, , and promoting the opportunity to learn  for everybody. Education has been one of the most affected  areas in the present situation, where students  have been unable to physically  attend school. The new  forms of education will have a strong impact on the quality of learning in these months. This  refers to more economically advanced countries that, in spite of everything, could have some continuity in their school programs.

Goal 5: gender equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women: goal 5 shouldn’t suffer the pandemic  as for institutional and decisional roles, but without a doubt the impact on the labor market will be  tangible. The female condition - especially for  women with kids - between the domestic walls is  getting worse, and the gap between female and male occupation could become bigger. Women are often in the front row as they represent the 70% of the workers in the social and healthcare sectors. Again, an increase  in poverty and  less schooling in poor countries could surely be another obstacle to the female emancipation in these parts of the world.

Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation

The sixth goal is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all . In this case, the pandemic shouldn’t cause any backlash in the richest countries, while the increased poverty or the decreased investments in the poorest ones could  mean harder access to potable water  for the population. The current situation also shows us how important water and sanitation  are in the field of prevention.

Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy

Ensure access to  affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy  for all. From a renewable energy point of view, goal 7 shouldn’t  suffer any slowdown. What  may be affected is the road to energetic efficiency, that could  reflect the decrease of economic resources, population and companies.

Goal 8: decent work and economic growth

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. Objective 8 is the one on which the Covid-19 pandemic will probably have the strongest and most painful impact. Both in terms of occupation (number of people that work), and productivity (how much this work brings in), the indicators  are not encouraging: so it is particularly important to promote a fast and lasting economic recovery.

Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Objective 9 ask the States to create a resilient infrastructure, and to promote innovation and equal,  sustainable and responsible industrialization. The economic crisis will have an impact on this goal, too. The categories (for example tourism, commerce, company services, catering,  entertainment..) that have most been affected by closure measures, as well as by the dramatic reduction in people movement, could see a strong recession. . Less significant will be the impact on strictly  productive activities, which have gone on without great interruptions.


Goal 10: Reduced inequalities

Reduce inequality  within and among countries : objective 10 is at risk, as the weakest groups of the population,  such as the  immigrants, will probably pay a high price for this pandemic. The economic inequality could become worse, increasing the gap between the richest and the poorest classes of the population.

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

The eleventh objective of the 2030 Agenda aims at making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable . The 2020 indexes show a temporary decrease in emissions, with an improvement of the Environmental indexes: it’s  a transitional effect. To make cities and communities  permanently more inclusive and sustainable, it’s necessary for institutions, at every level,  to not forget anyone both in the emergency and in the organization of new spaces than could be  long-lasting.

Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns : despite a possible decrease in the number both at a people and at companies level, it’s difficult to guess whether the trend towards sustainable production and consumption will stand up to the challenge of the pandemic. Were the implemented processes strong enough to  resist economic or provision difficulties? Will companies continue  to invest in this sense?

Goal 13: fight climate change

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts : objective 13 is maybe the most popular among those of the 2030 Agenda. The decrease  in productive and human activities  for over a year, will surely show a clear improvement of all the indicators  for pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. How much these data  reflect a real  improving trend, is still to  prove.

Goal 14: life below water

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development: objective 14 puts the accent on the importance of water and marine biodiversity. An area that should not suffer a particular impact from the crisis, and that hopefully can keep improving slowly yet constantly.

Goal 15: Life on land

Again on the environment: objective 15 is to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss . If  the latter point could be favored by the stop to the production activity of 2020, the other goals of this ambitious objective should not be directly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic: however, it must be said that this was perhaps one of the most complex goals to achieve before the interruption caused by the Coronavirus.

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Ambitious projects like this could not be achieved in a conflictual context: this is why in objective 16 we find the necessity to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. A series of fundamental goals, with which the pandemic should not interfere, with the hope for a possible extension of the justice system timeframes caused by the slowdown of  the court work.
 Looking beyond our national borders, the risk is for the current situation to slow down or push back the progress of countries  where justice is really fragile.


Goal 17: Partnership for the goals

Last but not least, objective17 asks to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development . Here, the pandemic should not have a significant  impact.