The note discusses impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on sustainable development and on the implementation of the SDGs under HLPF review in 2022.
Among the SDG 17 areas negatively affected by COVID-19, the note lists trade, debt relief, international cooperation, access to digital technology, and the collection of data and statistics.
It emphasizes that the socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19 underscore the importance of multilateralism and international cooperation to respond effectively to global challenges.
In preparation for the 2022 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the UN Secretariat has published a synthesis of 68 voluntary submissions from UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) functional commissions and other intergovernmental bodies and forums. Highlighting COVID-19 impacts on the implementation of the SDGs under review in 2022, the note warns that the pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities of human and natural systems and exacerbated the global crises of climate change, land degradation, biodiversity loss, and chemical and plastic pollution.
The July 2022 HLPF will focus on the theme, ‘Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.’ It will review SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 14 (life below water), SDG 15 (life on land), and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals). In line with the HLPF’s theme, the note (E/HLPF/2022/4), dated 18 April 2022, discusses impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on sustainable development and on the implementation of the SDGs under review.
The note indicates that the effects of the pandemic have increased inequalities between and within countries, with major negative implications for vulnerable populations at risk of being left behind. It estimates that an additional 97 million people were pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020, and 142 million more children were living in income-poor households in 2020. Disruptions in food and health systems contributed to an increase of malnutrition and to a reversal in progress on maternal and child health. The number of chronically undernourished people increased from 650 million in 2019 to 811 million in 2020.
The note emphasizes that the socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19 underscore the importance of multilateralism and international cooperation to respond effectively to global challenges. It also recognizes that the pandemic has catalyzed efforts to strengthen environmental governance and “improve the lives of the most vulnerable, the well-being of all people, and the health of the planet,” building on science, technology, and innovation.
The pandemic has catalyzed efforts to strengthen environmental governance and improve the lives of the most vulnerable.
On SDG 4, the note cites estimates that COVID-19-related school closures, which have contributed to the growing numbers of “hungry, isolated, abused, anxious children living in poverty,” will result in at least ten to 16 million children never returning to school. It warns that lost education can lead to “long-term disempowerment and marginalization,” with girls particularly at risk of being forced into child labor, early marriage, unwanted pregnancy, and other forms of exploitation. Yet, only 2.9% of COVID-19 stimulus funding worldwide – and less than 1% of stimulus funding in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) – went to education. The note stresses that while the pandemic accelerated the transition to digital learning, it has also exposed gaps in effectiveness and inclusiveness of educational systems, and emphasizes the need to address barriers to “increase the resilience of educational systems to support all students.”
On SDG 5, the notes warns that the pandemic has compromised women and girls’ access to: education and employment; healthcare, including services deemed to be “non-essential” such as access to contraceptives; public services; and economic resources, including land and natural resources. It describes a “shadow pandemic” of violence against women, including intimate partner violence, child marriage, and female genital mutilation – practices that surged during lockdowns. Gender statistics is also among the areas negatively affected by COVID-19, the note indicates.
On SDG 14, the note mentions challenges associated with increased hazardous medical waste, data availability and timely policy responses in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, and management and enforcement in marine and coastal areas. It warns about continued habitat loss due unsustainable logging and forest conversion for plantation and agriculture, land-based activities that contribute to marine pollution, and clearance of mangrove areas and coastal development, among other unsustainable practices, compounded by the impacts of natural disasters and extreme events.
Recognizing the linkages between SDGs 14 and 15 in relation to biodiversity and ecosystem conservation and restoration, the note identifies key opportunities for strengthening actions for nature, including: implementation of existing commitments under international environmental law; securing access to information, to public participation in decision-making processes, and to justice in environmental matters; and enhanced mobilization of means of implementation.
On SDG 15, the note underscores that the same global environmental changes that contribute to pandemics by affecting infectious disease reservoirs and transmission also drive biodiversity loss and climate change. These include deforestation, land-use change, agricultural expansion and intensification, water resources management, unsustainable wildlife trade and consumption, and the accidental or intentional human introduction of pathogens. The note highlights a net loss of almost 100 million hectares of forest globally between 2000 and 2020, mostly due to large-scale agricultural expansion, but also shows that terrestrial protected areas increased from 13.6% in 2010 to 16.8% in 2021, which represents progress on SDG target 15.15 as well as other SDGs.
Among the SDG 17 areas negatively affected by COVID-19, the note lists trade, debt relief, international cooperation, access to digital technology, and the collection of data and statistics. It also highlights the lack of equitable access to vaccines.
The authors recommend, inter alia:
- Strengthening health systems to achieve universal health coverage;
- Safely reopening schools and educational institutions and keeping them open, and increasing domestic resources for education;
- Improving women’s equal, full, effective, and meaningful participation in the economy and decision-making processes;
- Accelerating actions to improve conservation and restoration of ecosystems to overcome the climate and biodiversity crises;
- Supporting industrial policies that integrate targets on quality education, gender equality, the environment, climate change, and inequality; and
- Increasing cooperation on data and information sharing, digitalization, vaccines, and access to medication, education, and training.
The HLPF will convene in New York, US, from 5-15 July 2022, under the auspices of ECOSOC. It will include a three-day ministerial segment from 13-15 July, as a part of the high-level segment of the Council. [Publication: Advance Unedited Version: Synthesis of Voluntary Submissions by Functional Commissions of the Economic and Social Council and Other Intergovernmental Bodies and Forums: Note by the Secretariat] [HLPF 2022 Webpage] [ECOSOC Subsidiary Bodies]