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Convergence of conflicts, COVID and climate crises, jeopardize global goals   

Residents of Kirbet at Tabban in the West Bank.

Intersecting global crises are threatening the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and impacting food supplies, health, education, and security across countries worldwide, according to a new UN report released on Thursday.

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 reveals that the convergence of increased fighting, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, and the long-term climate crisis, could push an additional 75 to 95 million people into extreme poverty this year – compared with pre-pandemic projections – and jeopardize the SDG blueprint for more resilient, peaceful and equal societies.   

“The road map laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals is clear,” stated Liu Zhenmin, UN Economic and Social Affairs chief (DESA), adding that “just as the impact of crises is compounded when they are linked, so are solutions”.

COVID-19

The pandemic has undermined countries’ effort to reach the ambitious global goals – and its impact far from over.

Deaths directly and indirectly attributable to the coronavirus, reached 15 million by the end of last year, said the report, wiping out over four years of progress in alleviating poverty as well as severely disrupting essential health services and derailing hard-won progress on SDG 3.

Moreover, since 2020, some 147 million students have missed over half of their in-person instruction.

Climate emergency

Meanwhile, the world is on the verge of a climate catastrophe where billions are already suffering the consequences of global warming and increasingly extreme weather.

Energy-related CO2 emissions rose by six per cent last year, reaching their highest level ever, completely wiping out pandemic-related declines.

To avoid the worst effects of climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 and then decline by 43 per cent by 2030, falling to net zero by 2050.

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Instead, under current voluntary national commitments (NDCs) to climate action, greenhouse gas emissions are set to rise nearly 14 per cent over the next decade.

And this year, an estimated 17 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean – a number that is expected to double or triple by 2040.

Ukraine repercussions

Meanwhile, the Ukraine war is creating one of the largest refugee crises of modern time, according to the report.

As of May, over 100 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes; some 11.5 million in Ukraine alone.

And the crisis has caused food, fuel and fertilizer prices to skyrocket, further disrupted supply chains and global trade, roiled financial markets, and threatened global food security and aid flows.

Convergence of conflicts, COVID and climate crises, jeopardize global goals   

Millions of people in Bangladesh have been impacted by climate shocks like flooding.

The most vulnerable

At the same time, the most vulnerable countries and populations are disproportionately impacted – including women who have lost their jobs, and been burdened with more work at home.

And the pandemic has triggered increased violence against women and girls.

Least developed countries are struggling with weak economic growth, rising inflation, major supply-chain disruptions, and unsustainable debt, leaving in its wake, fewer job opportunities for young people, and increases in both child labour and child marriages.

In low income countries, the report reveals that the total public – and publicly guaranteed – debt service to export ratio, rose from an average of 3.1 per cent in 2011 to 8.8 per cent in 2020.

Follow the roadmap

The world must now decide to deliver on its commitments to assist the most vulnerable and rescue the SDGs for meaningful progress by 2030, the report says.

It calls on countries to emerge stronger from the crisis, and better prepared for unknown challenges ahead, which must include funding data and information infrastructure as a priority for both national governments and the international community.

“When we take action to strengthen social protection systems, improve public services and invest in clean energy, for example, we address the root causes of increasing inequality, environmental degradation and climate change,” reminded Mr. Liu.

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