The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs are an important part of the United Nations. Don’t worry if it’s unfamiliar! That’s what this article is for. It’s meant to explain the importance of these goals, focusing on the way they’ve been impacted since the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ways to keep working towards attaining them even during this crisis.
The SDGs are 17 goals created by the United Nations in 2015 as a solution for many of the world’s major problems. These are summarized by the 5 Ps: People, Planet, Partnerships, Prosperity and Peace. 193 countries committed to work towards achieving these goals by 2030 to improve the planet and society.
Ban Ki-moon, the General Secretary of the UN, described the SDGs as a ‘youth agenda’ while emphasizing that this generation of youth is the “first generation that can end poverty and the last that has a chance at saving our planet.” By 2030, Millennials and Gen Z will be world leaders and change makers.
This is why AIESEC is such an integral part of achieving the SDGs. As the biggest youth run organisation, its vision is to give the youth the confidence to build a better world. This ultimately achieves the main goal of the organisation, which is the “Peace and Fulfillment of Humankind’s Potential”. This makes it necessary to get today’s youth involved, and give them the tolls to recognise the problems the world is facing and how they can eliminate these through the SDGs. This awareness ensures the attainability of these goals. To fulfill this, AIESEC launched Youth 4 Global
which provides global volunteering opportunities to the youth to tackle the SDGs while developing their leadership skills.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, many of the projects involved in achieving the SDGs have been affected, including AIESEC’s own. All of the SDGs were negatively impacted, with some being hit more than others. One of the most affected ones is the 3rd SDG (Good Health and Wellbeing). The virus can and will infect anyone, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions. Some of them struggle to get medical attention because they can’t afford it. On the other hand, there are others who have other illnesses but are choosing to avoid going to the hospital due to the fear of contacting COVID-19.
Because many countries put various versions of a lockdown in place, many industries have stopped operating, affecting the 8th goal of having “Decent work and Economic growth” around the world. The travel, clothing, and food industries have been heavily hit by this. In connection to the grinding halt experience by various industries, many workers have found themselves unemployed and unable to provide for themselves or their families. These vulnerable families are at risk falling into poverty, making reducing the headway gained to combat the first SDG (No Poverty). They are also the ones most affected by the 10th goal (Reduce Inequalities), as it is usually the under privileged and minorities who are negatively impacted. They ten to also live in cramped and generally terrible living conditions, the opposite of what the 11th goal of “Sustainable Cities and Communities” wants to achieve. Various communities are also finding it difficult to access clean water, an important aspect of battling the virus and the 6th SDG “Clean Water and Sanitation”
Unexpectedly, these is one SDG that was positively affected by the lockdown orders. The SDG regarding Climate Action has improved because of reduction of pollution happening in most countries.
Based on this, it’s clear that the SDGs are all correlated, and if one is affected, many others will be indirectly affected as well. This can be turned into an advantage when working on improving the problems targeted by the SDGs. And although most of the world’s population is currently at home, let us not forget the advantages modern technology has given. Even without leaving the house we can still impact the world in a positive way and still work on these SDGs.
Every small action can help and spark a hug action, to take back some of the momentum lost in achieving the SDGs. Raising awareness on social media about the importance of climate action, while making sure to take small actions like cutting out on plastic use and not wasting water or electricity. Speaking up about inequalities is also necessary to shed light on different ways of discrimination especially in needs like health, housing, food and even salary payments during this crisis. If possible, volunteer to help those in need during the crisis in various ways such as donating money, food or medical supplies.
Finally, in times like these, it’s important to remember the Butterfly Effect where a small change can lead to a significantly different outcome. Incremental actions, no matter how insignificant it may feel, has the capacity to change someones’s outlook or someone’s life. All it takes is a little determination and willingness to do good.