How has COVID-19 impacted the Sustainable Development Goals?


The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a global agreement that aims to eradicate extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice and leave no one behind. It’s an agenda that was agreed by world leaders in 2015, and forms 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But how has COVID-19 and the pandemic impacted these goals? Well, as we know the pandemic has had a negative impact on economies and livelihoods, as well as health. It’s expected that the pandemic will prove quite a significant setback in efforts to achieve the SDGs.

We will outline what these 17 SDGs are, and if and how the pandemic has affected each one of them.

1. No Poverty – Negative impact

2. Zero Hunger – Negative impact

3. Good Health & Wellbeing – Negative impact

This goal includes areas such as: maternal and child mortality, substance abuse, and access to healthcare.

  • Between 2015 and 2019, there was some progress towards meeting the health-related targets. However, according to the UN, “the rate of progress was not sufficient to meet most goal targets”.
  • On maternal and child mortality – the UN predicts that disruption to healthcare because of COVID-19 will result in hundreds of thousands of additional deaths of children under 5 in 2020, and tens of thousands of additional maternal deaths.
  • Routine vaccination programmes in many countries have been disrupted because of the pandemic.
  • Increases are also expected in deaths from tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS-related illnesses because of disruption to prevention campaigns, detection, and treatment.

4. Quality Education – Negative impact

5. Gender Equality – Negative impact

  • There has been some improvements in achieving gender equality, for example – we have more women in leadership and decision making positions. 
  • However, lockdowns increased the risk of violence against women and girls. Domestic violence cases rose by a massive 30% in some countries.
  • Women also account for around 70% of health and social workers globally, and so, are at a higher risk of being exposed and suffering from COVID-19.
  • Lockdowns have also showed the additional burden that women bear in the household, clocking up to 3 times as many hours in unpaid domestic and care work as men.

6. Clean Water & Sanitation

  • Despite some progress being made, billions around the world still lack water and sanitation services.
  • The pandemic has further highlighted this issue with 3 billion people worldwide lacking basic handwashing facilities at home. And this will heighten the risk and liklihood of the transmission of COVID-19.

7. Affordable & Clean Energy

  • Efforts in sustainable energy need scaling up to meet this goal.
  • 789 million people globally still lack electricity.
  • But, financial flows to developing countries for renewable and sustainable energy are increasing.

8. Decent Work & Economic Growth – Negative impact

  • Economic growth was already slowing down, but the pandemic has meant the world is now facing the biggest recession since the Great Depression.
  • The International Labour Organisation expects the pandemic to increase the rate of unemployment, and predicts that global working hours could drop by 14% in 2020.
  • The pandemic has put the livelihoods of 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy at risk.

9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure – Negative impact

  • This goal refers to ‘building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation’.
  • One of the industries that has been affected the most by the pandemic is the aviation industry. It’s suffered its steepest decline in history – air passenger numbers fell by 51% from January to May 2020.
  • But, smaller scale industries have also suffered and need financing to ensure their survival too.

10. Reduced Inequalities – Negative impact

  • Before the pandemic, income inequality was falling in some countries, but the pandemic has hit the most vulnerable groups (older persons, disabled persons, children, women, migrants and refugees) the hardest.
  • A global recession could squeeze the development aid sent to developing countries, funds that are vital to the economies of these countries.

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities – Negative impact

  • This goal refers to ‘making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’.
  • The share of the urban population living in slums rose to 24% in 2018.
  • Over 90% of COVID-19 cases are in urban areas.
  • Only half the world’s urban population has convenient (500-1000m) access to public transport.

12. Responsible Consumption & Production – Positive impact

  • The world continues to use its natural resources unsustainably.
  • The pandemic offers us a unique opportunity to develop recovery plans that could contribute to building a more sustainable future.

13. Climate Action – Positive impact

14. Life Below Water – Positive impact

  • The acidification of the world’s oceans continues to threaten marine environments.
  • But, marine key biodiversity areas that are now covered by protected areas has increased.
  • The huge reduction in human activity brought about by the pandemic may be a chance for seas and oceans to recuperate.

15. Life on Land

  • The world is falling short on its 2020 targets to halt the loss of vital biodiversity.
  • Wildlife trafficking disrupts ecosystems and contributes to the spread of infectious diseases, which is exactly how COVID-19 jumped from animals to humans. And these kind of infections and subsequent pandemics will only increase in occurence, if these disruptions continue.

16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions – Negative impact

17. Partnerships for the Goals – Negative impact

  • This goal refers to the ‘strengthening of the means of implementation and revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development’.
  • Remittances to low and middle-income countries, which is an economic lifeline for many poor households, are projected to fall.
  • Global foreign direct investment is expected to decline by up to 40% in 2020.

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