- Asia-Pacific region has made progress on SDG 3- Health and Well-being: UN
- COVID-19 is a signal from the planet to fix the unsustainable practices: UN
- SDGs can help Asia-Pacific recover from the pandemic in a greener way: UN
New Delhi: As the world is busy fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems to be slipping in its targets to achieve the Global Goals know as Sustainable Development Goals (SGD) by 2030. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), has released the Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2021. The report has highlighted that the Asia-Pacific region is lagging behind in achieving all the SDGs which include no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, biodiversity, innovation and infrastructure, and reduced inequalities, among others. It says that not even 10 per cent of these goals can be achieved by 2030 at the current pace of progress.
17 SDGs were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. In terms of the targets set under these 17 goals, out of the 104 measurable targets, the Asia-Pacific region is on track to reach only nine by 2030.
According to the UNESCAP, the COVID-19 pandemic is yet another serious signal from the planet that our unsustainable consumption and production practices put unbearable pressure on ecosystems. It says that SDGs provide a blueprint to recover in a better and greener way.
Major Findings Of The Report
Asia-Pacific region has made some progress in good health and well-being which is Goal 3, highlights the report. It said,
The progress made towards SDG 3 may partly explain the region’s success in reducing the health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its population.
However, the report also emphasises the fact that despite the improvement, the region still faces many challenges related to health such as providing an adequate healthcare workforce, reducing premature deaths and improving mental health.
Progress has also been observed on Goal 1 which is on ending poverty and Goal 2 on zero hunger especially in the South Asian countries that include Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. However, in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, there is some progress in Goal 1 but under Goal 2, the undernourishment and food security indicators have seen a regression while other indicators like malnutrition and sustainable agriculture need to be accelerated substantially to meet 2030 targets.
Commenting on the findings of the report, Basanta Kumar Kar, Development Professional in Nutrition and Recipient of the Global Nutrition Leadership Award said,
The report has highlighted a grim scenario on malnutrition. The triple burden- overweight and obesity, micronutrient deficiencies along with child undernutrition are still high in the Asia Pacific region. There is a crucial window of opportunity for investing in better nutrition as an equaliser to changing the lives and livelihoods and meet all the SDGs. I would call for accelerated, equitable, comprehensive and integrated investments in the health and nutrition among women and children.
He further said that with a high incidence of gender-based violence, newborn deaths, stunting and wasting the agenda of surviving and thriving and providing a safe place for children and women needs a relook.
The Asia-Pacific region has shown some progress towards Goal 9- Industries, Innovation and Infrastructure and Goal 10- reduced inequalities.
The region, according to the report, has performed worst on all the environment-related goals such as Goal 12- responsible consumption and production, Goal 13- climate action, Goal 14- life below water and Goal 15- Life on Land. The report said,
The Asia-Pacific region is responsible for more than half of the global greenhouse gas emissions and adverse impacts of natural disasters on people and economies increase year-by-year. Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent opportunity for us to rethink our options for development pathways that are inclusive, more resilient, and respect planetary boundaries.
The progress is slow or stagnant on most of the remaining goals.
According to Martand Shardul, Policy Director, Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)- India, an advocacy and research body representing the wind power industry,
Adopting clean energy and increasing the green cover are two things that the Asia-Pacific region must focus on. By adopting clean energy at all levels, we will be able to reduce carbon emissions caused by fossil fuel. While India is undergoing a massive clean energy transition which is supported by bold commitments, strong policy support, and smart interventions that capitalise on the country’s renewable energy potential, other nations in the region need to step up their game and make aggressive strides towards their climate action targets.
Mr. Shardul further asserted that people in the Asia-Pacific region must join hands in increasing the green cover by planting more trees and forcing their governments to protect forests. He added that countries must take learnings from best practices followed around the world and adopt those in their plan towards achieving net-zero carbon emission.
Potential Impact Of COVID-19 On Implementation Of SDGs In Asia-Pacific Region
According to the report, the COVD-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns and social distancing protocols have not only affected the performance of countries on the SDG indicators but has also impacted data collection activities for the report, particularly from vulnerable groups.
On health-related indicators, the report found that COVID-19 pandemic had an immense direct, health impact on the region. Many lives were lost and health systems were overloaded, it said. By the end of 2020, the Asia-Pacific region, which is home to nearly 60 per cent of the world’s population, accommodated 25 per cent of the globally confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 20 per cent of reported deaths caused by the virus.
The pandemic has led to the temporary shutting down of most schools which has impacted children not only in terms of learning but also in terms of immunisation, school feeding and mental health.
The report has found mixed signals on the impact of COVID-19 on the progress of the region on environment-related goals. It said that environmental monitoring, including satellite data, indicates that air quality has improved in the first half of 2020 in many countries of the region. Data shows air pollution over northern India at a 20-year low, with New Delhi and nearby areas registering a significant 50 per cent reduction of fine particulate matter, PM2.5 and PM10 in April.
However, the report said while the drop in carbon dioxide emissions has been significant, it was also temporary, and emissions rose as soon as lockdowns were lifted.
China relaxed its lockdown earlier than other countries, and the impact is particularly evident with its emissions during April-June comparable to or higher than emissions in the same months a year-ago, the report pointed out. The report stresses that recovery from COVID-19 and implementation efforts to deliver the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development must go hand-in-hand.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.