Our world is at a crossroads. The co- rona virus pandemic is changing the way we live, interact, socialise and indeed the way we work. The pandemic is destroying lives and decimating livelihoods, and it has exposed the fundamental weak- nesses in our global system, exacerbating existing problems and creating new ones. And unfortunately, this is happening when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September 2015 as a blueprint for global development were gaining good traction and a number of countries were making good progress in their implementation.
Here in Ghana, the Voluntary National Review process, undertaken in 2019 gave us a very good picture of progress being made towards achievement of the Goals, and the challenges ahead. With the launch of the Decade of Action in January 2020, which marked the beginning of the count down to the final decade in the implementation of the SDGs, as a country, we were poised to accelerate implementation to bolster our prospects for achieving all the Goals. Inauspiciously, the consequences of the pandemic are forcing us to re-define our growth and investment ambitions, amid significant downside risks in the global economy.
At the crossroads where our world is presently, countries are having to make tough choices, balancing economic imperatives against life-saving interventions, and expanding social protection measures to its citizens to cushion the impact of the pandemic and mitigate human suffering
While the pandemic risks eroding some of the gains made towards achieving the SDGs, we must turn the current challenges into an opportunity by fast-tracking actions towards the Goals. Crucially, our response to the pandemic should not be delinked from actions on the SDGs. Indeed, amid the pandemic the SDGs are even more relevant today than ever before. Achieving the SDGs will put our world on a more solid foundation to better deal with global health risks, future pandemics and to help build more resilient economies.
Notably, the pandemic has shown clearly how interlinked the seventeen SDGs are. The negative effect of the pandemic on poverty eradication efforts, food security, quality education, inequalities, decent work and economic growth, and climate change, to name a few, is manifestly clear. The World Bank estimates that the number of global poor is set to go up for the first time since 1998; and according to the International Labour Organisation, some 25 million people are estimated to lose their jobs, with workers across the globe projected to lose up to US$3.4 trillion in income.
The Decade of Action must be a wake-up call for all people across the world to double their efforts towards accelerating progress on the Goals. The Eminent Group of SDGs Advocates will continue to play a crucial role in this Decade of Action. Enormous though the task may be, we are encouraged by the evident desire of many global citizens to work towards leaving a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable world for generations yet unborn. We owe this as a sacred duty, and we must do everything within our power to ensure that the SDGs are fully achieved. Failure cannot be option.
Dr. Eugene Owusu
Sherpa/Special Advisor to the President on the SDGs Head of the SDGs Advisory Unit Office of the President, Ghana