In autumn 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were presented as a transformative vision of unprecedented scope and significance. However, so far, the interim balance has been rather sobering. If the envisaged goals are to be reached by 2030, the way out of the Coronavirus crisis has to be totally focused on the sustainable development of wealth and wellbeing.
The United Nations (UN) defined the total of 17 Goals within the scope of its Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development – for example, an end to poverty and hunger, promoting gender equality, climate protection and good working conditions as well as a sustainable economic development.
A positive social development is still too often reduced to the growth of the Gross Domestic Product, while social, environmental and other economic aspects are being ignored. To promote the sustainable development of wealth and wellbeing, it is, from the point of view of the Austrian Chamber of Labour, important that the EU increases its political focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Mixed interim balance
However, five years after the publication of the Sustainable Goals, the Global Policy Forum draws up an extremely mixed interim balance with regard to accomplishing them. Hence, the number of people suffering from hunger worldwide has been rising again for some years and it is highly controversial to which extent the number of people living in extreme poverty has actually fallen over the past years. The destruction of the environment and global warming are accelerating and nationalism and xenophobia are still very much present. The ongoing Coronavirus crisis has exacerbated many of these problems. “Without a more coherent and effective policy and a major commitment of civil society and communal players, the Goals will not be reached in the coming years”, outlines the summary.
The Coronavirus crisis as a challenge…
The UN’s first broader interim report had not exactly been positive even before the outbreak of the Coronavirus crisis. Currently, there appears to be no motivation to change course or to adopt a respective steering mechanism at global level. Even if at first glance progress made in achieving the Sustainable Goals at national level looks more promising, a closer look reveals that these measures are mainly of a purely cosmetic nature. There have been no substantial improvements so far. Apart from that, the UN Development Program expects that even the little progress made so far, could be ruined by the Coronavirus crisis.
… but also as an opportunity
Whilst the ongoing Coronavirus crisis has led to bitter setbacks in some areas, it could also be regarded as an opportunity in a certain way. A chance to follow a more sustainable path after the crisis – towards a society, which focuses on the sustainable development of wealth and wellbeing.
This applies in particular to the EU. The last months have clearly shown that a radical change of direction is possible if there is the political will to do so. In this respect, the Green Deal and the Recovery Plan “Next Generation EU” are definitely welcomed. However, if the change of direction is supposed to be successful, the EU must first and foremost launch the reform process of economic governance. This requires, among other a Golden Investment Rule, apart from the assurance that any debt reduction will not be at expense of other important goals – such as full employment or tackling climate change.