We are nearly a decade away from The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which was adopted by all of the United Nations Member States in 2015. 193 countries recognized that ending poverty, hunger, and other deprivations require a cooperative approach and while doing so, we should also fight back against climate change and preserve our nature.
The agenda is near, but we are still far away from 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals compose the core of the agenda and demand an immediate response. This is why we have to learn them and create our solutions around them.
Even though each one of us seems to be merely one person, little changes we carry out in our lives generate an impact. We can’t measure the vastness of our impact, but still, you can be sure that it has the potential to be something meaningful.
What is sustainable development?
As a term, sustainable development traces back to 1987. In the Brundtland Report, it was defined as a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
- How to live a greener life: 10 eco-friendly choices
- More Information about the history of sustainable development
17 Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 1 : No Poverty
“End poverty in all its forms everywhere”
On a global scale, the number of people who face extreme poverty declined from 36% in 1990 to 10% in 2015. Despite this rapid decrease, COVID-19 poses a threat to this progress. According to research, the global pandemic could increase global poverty by as much as half a billion people. This is approximately equivalent to 8% of the human population. This might be a first for all of us in terms of an increase in poverty since 1990.
The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1.90 a day. Biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report states that between 9.1% and 9.4% of our population are suffering from extreme poverty in 2020. Had not the pandemic affected us so deeply, the poverty rate was expected to drop to 7.9% in 2020. This means we have to work harder than ever to tighten the gap.
Goal 2 : Zero Hunger
“End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”
Nearly 690 million people are hungry and every year, 10 million people are added to this number. On the opposite side, we see that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are being wasted each year. One-third of all of the food we produce is for our own consumption.
According to the World Food Programme, 135 million suffer from acute hunger largely due to man-made conflicts, climate change, and economic downturns. The COVID-19 pandemic could now double that number, putting an additional 130 million people at risk of suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020.
Being frugal is not an option for us anymore, it is something we must do.
Goal 3 : Good Health and Well-being
“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”
Now more than ever we understand the importance of health. Not just physical, but also mental as well. The United Nations Development Programme highlighted huge disparities in countries’ abilities to cope with and recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic provides a watershed moment for health emergency preparedness and for investment in critical 21st-century public services. Acceleration in areas such as maternal, child, malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis is needed.
Goal 4 : Quality Education
“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”
Because of the pandemic, many children are staying in their homes and taking online classes. However, nearly 500 million of them don’t have the required equipment or infrastructure to pursue their education. Furthermore, even without considering pandemic, 670 million youth don’t have the basic skills required for math and literacy. We are darkening our own future and leaving out possible future scientists, engineers, writers, and doctors. Aside from this, we are simply preventing them from learning how to develop as a person. Education not only means books, but also means personality development.
Goal 5: Gender Equality
“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”
70% of the medical workers who fight against COVID-19 are women. Moreover, their unpaid work has also seen an increase as a result of school closures and the care that older people need. Women are also harder hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19, as they disproportionately work in insecure labour markets. Nearly 60 percent of women work in the informal economy, which puts them at greater risk of falling into poverty.
The lockdowns unfortunately became a nightmare for women and girls who are experiencing domestic violence, physically, sexually, and psychologically. Some countries went further in the process of improvement in equality, some did not. The top three targets for goal 5 explains the prioritized needs.
5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
Goal 6 :Clean Water and Sanitation
“Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”
Soap, hand sanitizers, wet towels…These are the most common things we use during the pandemic because we all know it helps us to prevent catching COVID-19. Basic sanitation services generally facilitate us in shutting off diseases. Nonetheless, two out of five health care facilities lack soap and water. In addition, 2.2 people don’t even have safely managed drinking water.
We need to protect our water resources from pollution and implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate.
Goal 7 : Affordable and Clean Energy
“Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”
We do see a lot of improvements in goal 7 in terms of distributing electricity to poorer countries and having more efficient energy resources in use. Now, we need to increase our efforts in renewable energies since only 17% of energy consumption is allocated to them. Likewise, in some developing countries, 1 out of 4 healthcare facilities lack electricity, which produces a serious obstacle for fighting with COVID-19. The top three targets for goal seven should be our main focus.
7.1 By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
7.2 By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
7.3 By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency
Goal 8 : Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9 : Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
“Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”and “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”
The world is facing the worst economic recession since The Great Depression and COVID-19 might cause 400 million job losses in this last quarter while we are preparing for the new year. Tourism is facing difficulties we have never seen and many people are working with huge risks to their health. We get it things are bad, statistics are bad. Can we find an exit? Well, our answer might rely on infrastructure. COVID-19 demonstrated that we need a resilient structure, meaning we need systems that should resist extreme conditions and recover rapidly.
Innovation and technological progress are key to finding lasting solutions to both economic and environmental challenges, such as increased resource and energy-efficiency. Once the acute phase of the COVID-19 crisis is over, governments will need investments in infrastructure more than ever to accelerate economic recovery, create jobs, reduce poverty, and stimulate productive investment.
Goal 10 : Reduced Inequality
“Reduce inequality within and among countries”
The key point of Sustainable Development Goals is leaving no one behind. COVID-19 increased the gap between the poorest countries and the richest ones. Poorer countries have to deal with multiple issues I mentioned above such as not having basic sanitation, electricity, education, and food.
Inequalities are also deepening for vulnerable populations in countries with weaker health systems and those facing existing humanitarian crises. Refugees and migrants, as well as indigenous peoples, older persons, people with disabilities, and children are particularly at risk of being left behind. And hate speech targeting vulnerable groups is rising.
We need to adopt wage and social protection policies and continuously strive for better equality. Likewise, improving the regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions and strengthening the implementation of such regulations.
Goal 11 : Sustainable Cities and Communities
“Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”
In 2018, people living in slums increased to 24% unfortunately. Despite the world becoming more urbanized, the quality of our cities is not getting better. Rapid urbanization results in insufficient infrastructure and its services. It contributes to air pollution and the increase in slums. COVID-19 worsens the situation too. In crowded areas such as slums, it is much harder to maintain a social distance or self-isolation. Over 90% of COVID-19 cases are in urban areas.
By 2030, we need to make sure that everyone gets access to safe and affordable housing with basic services or we need to upgrade slums.
Goal 12 : Responsible Consumption and Production, and Goal 13 : Climate Action
“Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”, “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”
Sometimes bad things can turn out to be useful. For instance, restrictions on travel and staying in our homes for most of the year gave rise to a decline in air pollution and water pollution in many countries.
Consequently, we can see COVID-19 as a restart for all humanity in terms of developing new recovery plans that lead to a more sustainable future. We have to change our consumption and production habits. This is about doing more and better with having fewer things.
- Green transition: Investments must accelerate the decarbonization of all aspects of our economy.
- Green jobs and sustainable and inclusive growth
- Green economy: making societies and people more resilient through a transition that is fair to all and leaves no one behind.
- Invest in sustainable solutions: fossil fuel subsidies must end and polluters must pay for their pollution.
- Confront all climate risks
- Cooperation – no country can succeed alone.
This is a time for us to think more about our fragile relationship with nature. We don’t own nature, it is a trade-off. Let’s focus on things we can enhance such as; providing clean water for everyone, managing natural resources more carefully, and reducing waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse.
Goal 14 : Life Below Water, Goal 15 : Life on Land
“Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”, “Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss”
Having long-term solutions is a must when we deal with nature. We altered a large amount of earth’s surface up to 75% and in waters, we are responsible for 80% of the pollution. As a species, we are dependent on our environment with regard to our jobs, homes, food, and water. Nonetheless, only a third of the 113 countries were successfully on track in their national target to implement biodiversity into national planning.
Regulations are an important step for many cases such as stopping the traffic of wildlife animals, avoiding water and soil pollution, and ensuring the conservation of our ecosystems.
Goal 16 : Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
“Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”
If we can’t provide justice and safety of life, then we can’t expect anyone to care about all the other goals. Survival and hanging on by a thread diminish every other thought in a person. Therefore, we must ensure security and adopt freedom-of-information laws globally. Corruption, bribery, illicit financial, and arms flow…These things can be eradicated by developing effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels.
Goal 17 : Partnerships to Achieve the Goal
“Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development”
A crucial step in achieving our goals is to be cooperative globally and maintain strong partnerships. These partnerships should be on many levels, from local to global. Moreover, they should rely on principles and values that come from a shared vision and goals. Because of COVID-19, now more than ever we need to cherish and promote the cooperation.
There are many things we can do even sitting on our couch. Finding sustainable brands to shop, reducing our paper usage, and saving information by our phones are examples. Recycling our waste, reducing the waste of food, using renewable energy resources in our homes are things to do as a next step. The best way to increase our impact for a better future is built upon a basic chart.
Let’s start from our couch in our home. Later, outside of our home to our workplace, one step at a time.