COVID Slows Global Sustainability Goals - Politico The Long Game

Decades of progress in fighting poverty and disease have come to a stop in the fallout from Covid-19. And in some cases, that progress has been wiped out, according to a new report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that tracks world performance on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Take vaccine coverage, which the report notes is a good proxy for how health systems are functioning around the world. This year, coverage is dropping to levels last seen in the 1990s, or a setback of about 25 years in 25 weeks, POLITICO's Carmen Paun reports.

Nearly 37 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty — or less than $1.90 a day — in just a few months, after two decades of annual declines in the number of people living that reality. That represents a 7 percent increase in extreme poverty, after drops of more than 1 percent during each of the previous two years.

These newly impoverished people are more likely to be women than men, in part because women in low- and middle-income countries work “overwhelmingly in the informal sector” that is now inaccessible, like people’s homes and public markets. Women also do most of the unpaid home and child care activities. The report recommended that social protection payments and emergency business loans be targeted to women, because they direct more of their income to their families, “which leads to durable prosperity.”

62 years. How far behind schedule the world is in achieving the UN sustainability goals for 2030, based on the latest Social Progress Index.

The index ranks 163 countries based on dozens of criteria, including basic needs like food and water, environmental quality, access to information and inclusiveness. While the world was already off track last year, SPI estimates the pandemic has delayed progress by at least a decade, to 2092.

“Covid is perfect proof that there are things that seem non economic, like the global health infrastructure, that have huge economic impacts and are essential for building sustainable growth in the long term,” Michael Green, CEO of SPI, recently told Ryan.

SPI found that the world is still making social progress, overall, despite the pandemic, but that it is slow and uneven. There’s virtually zero headway on environmental quality, and a retreat in personal rights in much of the world, Green said. Costa Rica “is the very big consistent over performer,” said Green, while Saudi Arabia is the biggest under performer, relative to income.

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