There are 17 SDGs also known as the Global Goals. They were adopted by the UN as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity in the world. These goals are segmented into the 5Ps with 169 separate and specific targets for implementation, which will make it easy to achieve the expected deliverables. This is because specific communities with special needs can be focused on by addressing such concerns.
Attaining the SDGs imposes certain obligations on UN member-states, as they serve as a catalyst for achieving success. This includes discussions on the format of actualising the goals. They will come in the form of massive infrastructure change, environmental awareness, availability of human resources, adaptation of technology, strengthening of institutions, social partnership among others. These expectations will put a lot of burden on member-states, most especially developing countries.
Unfortunately, the 2030 deadline for their attainment does not offer much clarity on how to implement the SDGs. Designing an operational strategy,however, will serve as a guide to overall attainment of the goals. Interested stakeholders like governments, civil society organisations, corporate entities, donor agencies etc. can easily adopt this guideline.
Obviously, the world needs a paradigm-shift if it desires to attain the goals by the 2030 deadline. Countries must move away from the old ways of doing things and transition into an evidence-based approach. This should be driven by science and data through the use of technology.
The sustainability agenda must be accelerated by developing a coherent set of policies, financial investments and the availability of human resources. It is established that ending poverty can be sustained by building resilient economies and various interventions which will address social needs and also protect the environment.
Countries must formulate working scenarios on how to promote and achieve the goals, particularly considering the country’s developmental needs. To make it easier and also not waste money and other resources, this set of scenarios can be piloted. The results will give a clear indication of the success rate and direct the way forward.
For developing countries with limited budgets, it would not be ideal to attempt implementing all the 17 goals at one time. The most pressing needs of the nation must be addressed, and this will not put pressure on the limited budget. In this COVID-19 era, funding agencies may not give donor support to cushion against the revenue shortfalls.
COVID-19 has directly impacted SDG3 (Good Health and Well-being) and SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). The economic recession as a result of the pandemic has deepened unemployment and underemployment rates – most importantly, for those who operate in the informal sector. Many people have lost their jobs and businesses, and the number keeps rising by the day.
Governments are announcing stimulus packages in an attempt to cushion their citizens and support livelihoods. Businesses are being supported with various tax incentives, import waivers and other subsidies, with the aim of salvaging collapsing economies.
The lockdowns and other restrictions as imposed by world leaders have affected food production and the entire agricultural value chain. This is affecting capacity to produce and supply food; and more seriously, people’s ability to buy and store food has also been limited.
Health facilities have been heavily stressed by the huge number of infections which run into millions. Much attention is therefore needed to increase infrastructure, medical equipment at the various health facilities while we build capacity of health workers.
Again, poverty, hunger, lack of quality education, lack of access to clean water and sanitation are major challenges which must also be addressed. Population growth on the part of developing countries has exposed the lack of access to these social interventions.
For a country like Ghana, with affable land and a youthful population, it can turn its fortune around with a deeper focus on agriculture. A deliberate effort must be made to mechanise agriculture and, again, adopt the use of modern technology in enhancing production and agricultural yields.
It is projected that the world will be faced with famine as a result of COVID-19. This presents a great opportunity to concentrate and maximise the gains in agriculture produce. It will reduce the import subsides and importation of food into the country. There is affordable land, a conducive environment and the right climate for farming. Food storage, adding value by means of processing and packaging, must be the concentration to enable Ghana export food while it stores enough to feed its people.
Civil Society Organisations, NGOs, religious organisations and corporate entities have demonstrated their desire and support for the promotion and attainment of the SDGs. This has been through CSR initiatives and the establishment of various foundations, stakeholder engagements with communities and cities. Clearly, the building of schools, provision of water for communities, reforestation, sensitisation programmes among others have been the vehicle driving the sustainability path of these aforementioned institutions.
Considering the burden on government finances, tax exemptions and other incentives can be outlined by government to serve as motivation for the private sector. This will urge the private sector to help the developmental agenda through their CSR budget allocations.
Focusing on more rapid economic growth alone delivers little improvement on the SDGs; other areas also require similar, if not more, attention. The private sector can therefore fill the gap with social intervention programmes which seek to improve life for the people and also protect the environment.
The SDG sustainability, transition and transformation agenda can be achieved through concerted efforts and a close partnership for all the goals. Stakeholders needed for this change must be seriously engaged as we approach the 2030 deadline. Achieving the goals will position the country for improved livelihood and accelerate the developmental agenda.
The writer is an SDG Advocate and Lead Partner SDG Alliance-Ghana
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ghanasdg Facebook: SDG Alliance-Ghana Tel. # 0244204664