When delegations from around the world land in New York this week to evaluate the medium-term status of the 2030 Agenda, the issue on the table will be much more than a leaden exercise in statistical review. In the words of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who has just released a report on the matter, “the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are disappearing in the rearview mirror, and with them the hope and rights of this generation and of future ones.” A work that includes the words “rescue plan” in the title already prepares us for mournful content.
The reality is that the 2030 Agenda reaches its midpoint dragging its feet, if not taking steps backwards. An accumulation of endogenous and exogenous factors has acted as spokes in the wheels of this process: from the very ambition of the SDGs, which has turned some goals into aspirations, to the profound inequalities of income, population or location, which limit the scope of the actions. Or the overlap between one objective and another, which prevents progress in isolation.
On top of them all, an accumulation of catastrophic events—Great Recession, pandemic, conflict, debt crisis—has extraordinarily complicated the roadmap for international progress.
Gillaume Lafortune, a member of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and lead author of a landmark report on the issue, has described the situation as risking “a lost decade of sustainable development”. He does not exaggerate, as the global health sector demonstrates. Driven by a combination of dollars, leadership and innovation, the indicators that measure the health and well-being of the international community—malnutrition, access to clean water or infant mortality, for example—experienced a true revolution in the fourth century that followed the the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Nothing suggests that the next seven years of the 2030 Agenda will be easier than the first
Since 2015, however, the trend lines have flattened worryingly. As a new analysis published by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) points out, not a single one of the 13 goals proposed in SDG3 (health) has any signs of being met. The gap is particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa and other low-income areas, where the pandemic displaced critical interventions such as routine immunization of children.
It is important to remember what is at stake. In places like the Sahel, Central America or the eastern Mediterranean, every tenth ahead or behind the indicators translates into human lives, future opportunities or natural resources on which daily life depends. Faced with the infantile diatribes of Vox and the flat-earther gang, the SDGs are one of the very few tools of the international community to confront the risks and challenges that these communities suffer and that are also ours. Recurrent and increasingly prolonged droughts in North Africa, for example, are a fundamental cause of forced displacement to other regions, including Europe.
Nothing suggests that the next seven years of the 2030 Agenda will be easier than the first. The world is not likely to face a pandemic-sized crisis again, but all other contextual factors can and will worsen. The SDGs are unfolding in the midst of a perfect storm in the form of geopolitical instability and fiscal tensions that make any concerted solution difficult. That is why this agenda is worth much more than its contents: on issues such as global warming or the governance of health risks, the crossroads are historical and existential. The SDGs define a way of understanding the world that must last after 2030, because the alternative is isolationism, autocracy and short-termism that are gaining strength in half the planet.
There is no fortune or border that defends us from the consequences of systemic risks that must be managed throughout the planet.
In this context, the elusive complicity of voters in rich countries is more important than ever. One of the most dangerous omissions of these years has been the inability to establish effective narratives that allow citizens to understand what is at stake. Part of the European rural environment, for example, has become convinced that the 2030 Agenda has been designed against their interests. The penetration of national-populist parties into the territories is a defeat for those of us who know that the scarcity of water resources, extreme temperatures, the loss of biodiversity or veterinary autarky are not in the interest of anyone with half a brain. If this has happened, it is, in part, because the rest of us have not done our job well and because the SDG pin is perceived as a party symbol.
Defibrillation of the ODS is an expensive and complex process, but not at all impossible. Secretary Guterres’ own report presents a proposal that includes, among other things: the strengthening of responsible institutions (national and international); a strategic prioritization of objectives; and a financial shock plan that guarantees an additional 500,000 million dollars annually (about 470,000 million euros), through an increase in donations, the reinforcement of multilateral banks and the restructuring of the debt. If this seems like a very high amount, think about the aggregate bill of a crisis like Covid-19: 14 trillion dollars until 2024 (more than 13 trillion euros), according to the estimate of the International Monetary Fund. cited by The Lancet. From this perspective, investment in primary health systems, epidemiological surveillance, access to pharmaceutical products or the reinforcement of coordination mechanisms – all basic components of a good preparation and response system such as the one proposed by the 2030 Agenda – constitute one of the most profitable expenses that a public administration can think of.
The fight against the SARS-Cov2 virus is being left behind, but its logic remains unchanged: collective security depends on collective rights. There is no fortune or border that defends us from the consequences of systemic risks that must be managed throughout the planet. We already know that the SDGs are an imperfect tool; The question is whether any of its alternatives are better.
Gonzalo Fanjul is director of policy analysis at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health.
You can follow Planeta Futuro at TwitterFacebook, Instagram and TikTok and subscribe to our newsletter here.
#Agenda #imperfect #tool #question #alternative