As the globe reels under the onslaught of COVID19, the major contentions floating around are about the global economic slump and uncertainties in the global political and economic orders. The pandemic, by itself, and also through various economic, social and political avenues, will affect global developmental objectives at a much broader scale. The impacts will be observed more prominently in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Goals halted

As the tenure of the millennium development goals ended in 2015, all UN member nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that entailed a shared vision of peace and prosperity for the planet. At the core of this global call are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that emphasise the development of human society need not entail the destruction of the natural ecosystem and biodiversity. On the contrary, there is a huge dependence of human society on the ecosystem services provided by biodiversity. Therefore, SDGs stress on ending poverty and deprivations, reduce inequality, improve health and education, and spur economic growth — while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests. The SDG 17 talks of global partnership to realise the remaining 16 goals.

In a sense, SDGs have become the cornerstone of global governance, and governance at all levels, even at the most micro-level of an institutional governance set-up. This brings me back to the idiom I often use: the challenge of governance needs to be construed as the challenge of reconciling between the “irreconcilable trinity” of equity, efficiency, and sustainability — a triad that development economist Mohan Munasinghe delineates as the “discourse of sustainomics.” The 17 SDGs essentially acknowledge this irreconcilable trinity.

The pandemic has aggravated the situation. This will definitely come in the way of realising SDG 17 that talks of global partnerships for achieving other SDGs.

The pandemic COVID19 doesn’t just come in the way of the SDGs, but calls for a rethinking of the timeline. At the very outset, it creates more insulated economies with the closure of borders and international migration. It has created suspicion among nations. Of course, there was a global trend among major economies getting into a shell with multilateralism failing largely across the globe. The pandemic has aggravated the situation. This will definitely come in the way of realising SDG 17 that talks of global partnerships for achieving other SDGs. This will happen despite the WHO’s initiatives. Suspicions have also been cast over WHO’s roles and abilities by certain member nations in this context.

Digital options

From the perspectives of SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), the impacts in the short-run will be worrisome. More so because one very critical factor to promote SDG8 is human capital and that has taken a massive beating now. The same goes for SDG 9. However, it may be expected that newer forms of institutions will emerge over time to combat this crisis, and the growth drivers will change.

Read the rest of Nilanjan Ghosh’s article here at Observer Research Foundation