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Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, SDGs are more important than ever 

With Covid-19 challenging the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), there is the urgent need to put these at the centre of the rebuilding of our society.

The Covid-19 pandemic is generating unprecedented obstacles for sustainable development. This is posing risks for the achievement of the 17 SDGs included in the United Nations’ Agenda 2030. Since the goals are fundamental for alleviation of poverty and social exclusion, UN member states as well as international bodies like the European Union need to put SDGs at the centre of policy-making efforts in the rebuilding of communities struck by the virus.

Covid-19’s impact on SDGs

Covid-19 is affecting the achievement of several SDGs. For example, the impact of Covid-19 on society and the global economy will lead to an increased number of poor people and people at risk of poverty, putting the achievement of SDG1 (No poverty) in danger. The economic crisis will lead to a rise in unemployment and in the number of people in precarious work situations, hindering the achievement of SDG8 (Decent work and economic growth). We have furthermore seen Covid-19 aggravating situations of violence against vulnerable groups, such as women and children, putting at risk the achievement of SDG5 (Gender equality) and SDG16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions).

The role of public local social services

Through its working group on the implementation of the SDGs, the European Social Network (ESN), has highlighted the fundamental role of local public social services in the achievement of Agenda 2030. Indeed, it is these authorities which ultimately implement the services advancing social inclusion and, consequently, the SDGs. They plan, finance, manage and deliver services, especially for the most vulnerable people the SDGs are trying to reach through their goals and targets. ESN’s latest publication on the role of cities’ social services in the implementation of SDG11 particularly raises awareness about the fundamental role of the local level in the achievement of SDGs. In the formulation of policies and strategies countering the challenges accentuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, local public social services need to be recognised as essential services, included in policy-making and equipped with the necessary tools to keep supporting local communities. 

The way forward

If there was any doubt that our world faces common challenges, this pandemic should put that to rest. We cannot deny the fact that the crisis is teaching us, as global citizens, to protect the most vulnerable and leave no one behind. Political will and commitment are needed to empower local authorities and local public social services to keep up their work in the development and implementation of local inclusion and sustainability strategies contributing to achieve SDGs.



European Social Network (2018). Policy Briefing- Implementing the Sustainable Development Agenda: the Role of Social Services- SDG1

European Social Network (2019). The Sustainable Development Agenda- The Role of Social Services- SDG3 Improving health and well-being

European Social Network (2020). The future is local- and social! SDG 11: Cities’ social services’ role in local inclusion and sustainability strategies

United Nations (n.d.). Sustainable Development Goals

United Nations University (2020). Estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty

United Nations (2020). COVID-19 and ending violence against women and girls

United Nations (2020). Violence against children: A hidden crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic