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Covid-19 helps put SDGs more than 60 years behind schedule

Pandemic adds a decade to existing delays, say latest figures

Covid-19 has further delayed progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the 2020 Social Progress Index finding they will not be achieved until 2092 – 62 years behind schedule. 

The Social Progress Index is an initiative of the Washington-based Social Progress Imperative, which ranks countries’ social performance on criteria such as nutrition, personal freedom, choice, water and sanitation and access to basic knowledge. 

It also aligns social performance data with the SDGs to help policymakers track and report on country progress. 

The US is the only G7 country to go backwards on social progress and one of only three countries that have declined over the past decade, along with Brazil and Hungary

The 2020 Social Progress Index finds the world will not achieve the SDGs until 2082, with Covid-19 delaying progress by a further decade to 2092 – 62 years behind the 2030 schedule. 

The Index, which captures social performance over the last 10 years, finds that the world is progressing despite the Covid effect, but it is still not enough to achieve the SDGs.

The 163 countries measured in the index, using more than 80,000 pieces of data, are home to 99.85% of the world’s people. 

The world has improved dramatically on access to information and communications, and scores well on nutrition and basic medical care, shelter, water and sanitation and access to basic knowledge. But there have only been modest improvements in health and wellness, personal freedom and choice. 

Progress has stagnated on personal safety and almost zero progress has been made on environmental quality, while progress around rights and inclusiveness is in decline.

CEO of Social Progress Imperative, Michael Green said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities and flaws throughout our society. Covid-19 has bred on poverty, racial injustice and gender inequity. These problems will worsen as a result of the pandemic, through its impact on education, on healthcare, on work and basic safety nets. In sum, the world faces a potential lost decade of progress towards the SDGs. This is a unique moment to use these challenges as an opportunity for systemic change and to make real social progress.”

Data for the index also shows that the US is the only G7 country to go backwards on social progress and one of only three countries that have declined over the past decade, along with Brazil and Hungary.