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Sustainable Development During Coronavirus:

The Time to Champion or Disclaim the SDGS

As of 2020, we had moved to a new decade in which the international community had high hopes for the world's sustainable future. And 2020 was marked as the beginning of a Decade of Action towards the Sustainable (1) Development Goals (SDGs). However, with the unraveling of the COVID-19 pandemic, these global aspirations were put on hold. Additionally, the context for development has also critically changed after the multidimensional economic, social, and political shocks that the pandemic has presented. Through the initial "isolationist" responses, the international community also isolated itself from other essential problems that the world is continually facing, such as refugee crisis, terrorism, and other thematic issues that require global solidarity.

As all societies are trying to settle the “new normal,” it would be unwise to think that, in this new period, we would be only dealing with health or corona-related issues strictly at the "national level" as if all the other problems wither away. Transnational terrorism and conflict, food and water insecurity, and the refugee crisis are still in place and even getting to more dangerous levels. This unprecedented pandemic, and its multidimensional shock has a "magnifying" effect in terms of inequality as it (2) affects the disadvantaged the hardest. Those disadvantaged people are everywhere, they are suffering from various insecurities of food, water, or shelter, and their problems are greatly aggravated. In this regard, neglecting related SDGs in favor of solely implementing national agendas is not in accordance with humanitarian principles. Therefore, we can quote the President of UN Economic and Social Council Mona Juul as she emphasizes the rising importance of SDGs in the pandemic period:

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“Our commitment to achieving the SDGs has not changed, but the urgency to act has.”(3)

There are also economic threats against the SDGs, as many economics state that the current pandemic period might lead to a long- term global recession. Many economics already experience severe periods of high unemployment and low interest rates, which yielded to lower production and lower growth. In this period, we have also experienced lower carbon emissions, which resulted in positive contributions to the climate emergency.

However, there is no guarantee that countries will take the necessary steps to "sustain" these lower carbon emissions in the long-term to ensure "sustainable growth." (4)

Another grave effect of the pandemic is on the SDG-16, which is mostly about "sustainable peace". During this period, transnational or civil conflicts are more dangerous than ever as economic and health challenges are present. Additionally, international stakeholders in such conflicts might also neglect peace building processes as they merely mind their own business. However, in this period, we must remember that conflicts are getting only more threatening, and human suffering is getting higher. Many malicious groups might try to engage in violent action using this possible window of opportunity based on neglect.

We need SDGs more than ever as the pandemic period is proved to be an excellent “indication or the fundamental weaknesses in our global system.”(5) Thereupon, we can conclude by stating our hope that this period of “normalization” would incorporate essential long-term aspirations for sustainability and would uphold Sustainable Development Goals to have an internationally-integrated response to this pandemic.

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