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Tue 24 Mar 2020 01:04 PM

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The UN Sustainable Development Goals mustn't be forgotten in the midst of Covid-19

Solidarity is the key to defeating Covid-19 and we must continue to stay committed to our people and our planet throughout our trials and tribulations, writes Zahara Malik

The UN Sustainable Development Goals mustn't be forgotten in the midst of Covid-19

The 17 goals curated by the UN in 2015, which includes 169 associated targets, addresses the complex needs of our global society from climate change, extreme poverty, global education and of course, health.


2020 marked the 10-year lead up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as an unexpected turn in our global society.

On March 11 this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) deemed the Covid-19 as a global pandemic which meant more than ever it is essential to evaluate both our societal and our planet’s needs.

The global community have had to unite, learn lessons from each other and use this time to reset and to look at existing frameworks for some clarity including the SDGs.

The 17 goals curated by the UN in 2015, which includes 169 associated targets, addresses the complex needs of our global society from climate change, extreme poverty, global education and of course, health.

The rationale of the SDGs is to place ownership not only on governments, but also on the private sector.

The UAE government, for example, has ensured that the UN SDGs are incorporated throughout their domestic policy as well as framing the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, placing education, environment and healthcare at the forefront.

Furthermore, the UAE's private sector has played an impact on attaining SDGs; Emaar Group was able to promote responsible usage of water resources via its water management programme launched in 2016. Emaar aims to obtain a 20% reduction in water consumption by 2021.

Lasting impact

It is undeniable the lasting impact that Covid-19 will have across the world, it is therefore imperative for all global players to remain focused on achieving the 17 SDGs, as the need to overcome our environmental challenges, to invest in our education and to address our overall global needs will not vanish nor diminish. Expo 2020 will be a driver and platform to reinforce the global initiative to achieve the SDGs. 

One of its key pillars is focused on sustainability and the need to use resources without compromising the ability of the planet to sustain future generations, and perhaps to draw on our lessons from today to ensure we are somewhat prepared going forward.

Our priority must be to inspire and enable the new dialogue for reform − how do we actually build the global and unified system that can deliver on the aspiration of the UN SDGs.

Goal 3 clearly refers to health: “to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” and more relevantly “fighting communicable diseases and epidemics; and preventing and treating non-communicable diseases.”

Ambitious

For many SDGs were seen to be extremely ambitious to achieve by 2030, but what it has accomplished to date is rapid investments and efforts towards the control and ultimately the elimination of the impact that epidemics and pandemics have to lives and livelihoods.

For example the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $100 million to fighting Covid-19, as a part of its broader efforts in global health.  

“Multilateral Organizations, national governments, the private sector and philanthropies must work together to slow the pace of the outbreak, help countries protect their most vulnerable citizens and accelerate the development of the tools to bring this epidemic under control,” Gates Foundation CEO, Mark Suzman said. 

“Our hope is that these resources will help catalyse a rapid and effective international response. This response should be guided by science, not fear and it should build on the next steps that the World Health Organization has taken to date,” he added.

Critical

Now more than ever the SDGs has reinforced how critical it is to have engagement of all sectors and industries, an approach that has been noticeably lacking in many areas including global public health.

As a global community our long-term vision has to be aligned and not forgotten, in the midst of the shock of Q1 2020 coupled with it being a significant decade we must remain fully dedicated to achieving our 2030 goals.

Governments, business leaders, SMEs are understandably focused on our here and now, but we must reinforce the need to make significant and concrete progress towards the SDGs. As stated by Professor David Harper, “We have to deal with health in the broadest sense, and many of the drivers are outside the health sector, including those for example in the financial, education, energy and environment sectors.”

He goes on to say, “when the world experiences a health emergency, the diplomatic energy in the global system increases, and an opportunity for major reform is created”.

As we close Q1 of 2020 our global call to action should be to persevere through the turbulence of the new decade and as Aaron Cramer, President and CEO of Business for Social Responsibility aptly sum-ups, “it is essential that we remember the central importance of staying committed to our long-term goals, while adjusting to an altered reality that has much to teach us when we inevitably emerge from this crisis.”

Solidarity is the key to defeating Covid-19 and we must continue to stay committed to our people and our planet throughout our trials and tribulations.


Zahara Malik is Grosvenor Capital CEO & co-founder.

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