COVID-19 | Notes to redesign the global order: 2030 Agenda

April 29, 2020

Javier Surasky

April 29, 2020 

After addressing the uncertainty regarding the post-pandemic world order, and the need to redesign the current world-system, better than to rebuild it, in our previous blog post we identified tools that can be useful for this purpose. Our first bet was for transparency. We will now turn our attention to the importance of the 2030 Agenda in that future world order. 

When the 2030 Agenda was adopted several critical voices pointed out that the quantity and lack of precision of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) made of this document an unrealizable declaration of good will. In September 2019, the Political Declaration, written in the SDG Summit High-Level Political Forum meeting, after verifying that the progress achieved in the first five years of the 2030 Agenda implementation was neither profound enough nor was it advancing accordingly, called to initiate a “Decade of action to Deliver the SDGs”, following an initiative of the UN Secretary General, who stated that putting that decision into motion would be one of his priorities during 2020.

But COVID-19 came into our lives. The economic and social effects of the pandemic will be of enormous proportions, as proved by Cepal for the case of Latin America and the Caribbean. And being realistic, we ask: are the SDGs still relevant in the current global context? Is the 2030 Agenda “dead”?

Since our first work after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in 2015, Cepei has advice of the dangerous mistake of reducing the Agenda to the SDGs, which are only one central part of the document. Thus understood, the two questions refer to two linked but different questions.

Let’s start with the first question: As with its predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals, the achievement of the SDGs by 2030 was difficult to imagine from the start. It was not impossible, but it required fundamental changes in political culture and in the priorities of multiple actors around the world, led by national governments. In this sense, the SDGs are an expression of “possible utopia”, and an always distant but achievable horizon that, paraphrasing Eduardo Galeano, serves to know where to walk to. Achieving the SDGs seems like a sleepless dream today, but both the pandemic and the limited capacity for international cooperative reaction to it demonstrate the need to implement them.

The issue becomes even more relevant when faced with the second question, because we are now talking about the 2030 Agenda as a whole, and not just about the chapter on SDGs. If the SDGs have shown us the way to achieving the 2030 Agenda, the means of implementation (including the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and, where relevant, the Paris Agreement) have provided us with the equipment for that journey. The current difficulties, caused by the pandemic, have made evident that more equipment will be necessary: What has been a steep path has been transformed into a vertical climb. New elements are needed, and all the references in the 2030 Agenda to the means of implementation are more important today than ever. 

The 2030 Agenda monitoring and review mechanism is our GPS on the road to the SDGs: Are we on the right track? Are we advancing in the agreed times? Furthermore, this GPS includes a function that allows us to dialogue with others who are on the same path, facing the same obstacles; To jointly think about ways to overcome them, and to connect with those who have already tried strategies to learn about their successes and failures. It even allows us to ask for help or “extra equipment”. Any hiker knows that the more complicated and unknown the path becomes, the more important it is to have a GPS and the support of other hikers. Thus, the 2030 Agenda chapter on monitoring and review becomes more relevant than in 2015.

The principles of the 2030 Agenda and its “5Ps” (people, planet, prosperity, peace, partnerships) remind us that we must be careful to leave no one behind. We must bare in mind that progress not only depends on our own efforts but on those of others in a path of interlinked steps; That the 2030 Agenda horizon can only be reached by all; That there are some who have contributed to moving that horizon away and, therefore, must be willing to assume greater responsibilities in the shared effort to ensure that everyone reaches the final destination, something that requires open and inclusive partnerships among all stakeholders interested in reaching the horizon that we set for 2030.

The five principles also remind us that we must think of people first, but in such a way that our decisions respect the balance between the environmental, social and economic dimensions. Our path must never stray from human rights, and can only be traveled in peace.

The 2030 Agenda remains essential to walk the post pandemic path. The more difficult we find to advance towards the horizon of the 2030 Agenda, the more necessary it will be to apply its holistic approach. Far from being obsolete by the current changes in the world order, COVID-19 has made the 2030 Agenda more relevant than ever.

External inputs

“An additional 33,101 cases and 3,043 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, representing a 3% and 4% relative increase in total cases and deaths respectively compared to the previous day. Majority of the new cases (20,517) and deaths (2,010) continue to be reported from the United States of America, which has now crossed the threshold of over 1 million COVID-19 cases including 57,730 deaths as of today.”

PAHO, April 29, 2020.

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Other blogs of the series

COVID19 – Notes to redesign the global order: transparency | April 21, 2020

Covid-19: Optimistic or pessimistic, don’t try to rebuild the world after the pandemic | April 13, 2020

Covid-19: Financing, now! | March 27, 2020

Covid-19: Financing versus Financing | March 26, 2020

Covid-19: The Price of Unfulfilled Promises | March 26, 2020

COVID-19: It’s foolishness, stupid! | March 20, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and the virtual limitations of development governance | March 18, 2020

What does COVID-19 tell us about Sustainable Development and the 2030 Agenda? | March 11, 2020

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