SDGs: great feats are rarely a product of lowered ambition

In a multipronged global crisis, now is not the time to reconsider the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs; Nature 583, 331–332; 2020). The COVID-19 crisis stems from exactly the type of interconnected failure that the SDGs aim to address. This moment requires absolute clarity while we continue to fight for the world that we need.

Although many SDGs might now seem harder to achieve, the pandemic is not a reason to scale them back. On the contrary, it reinforces why the goals were established in the first place: to chart a better course towards common economic, social and environmental ambitions that will guarantee humanity’s long-term future. COVID-19 does not alter the need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions or ocean acidification. Nor does it mitigate the need to end pointless deaths and persistent inequities.

In 2015, the SDGs emerged from a painstaking 3-year diplomatic negotiation among 193 countries. Amid current geopolitical tensions, it is unlikely that all these countries could reach a better consensus today — on this or any topic. Whatever their imperfections, the SDGs are a ‘North Star’ to help us to rebuild after today’s crisis.

Nature 584, 344 (2020)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-02375-5

Competing Interests

J.W.M. is a member of the UNICEF Advisory Group.


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