Dilemmas, assumptions and opportunities in approaching sustainable development in times of crises

The agreement in 2015 by all countries of the Agenda 2030, with its 17 SDGs and 169 targets has raised hopes and expectations throughout the world for a better future.

Today, humanity witnesses an unprecedented series waves of totally unpredicted crises, affecting the entire globe, giving rise to major questions about the impact of these crises on Sustainable Development and its aims.

Should the crises slow down, the sustainability efforts or could they give it a push forward?

In this context the relevant 2021 UN and other reports, illustrated that progress in 13 out of the 17 SDGs was significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling a major part of gains obtained in the previous years.

It is noteworthy that already in 2015, a series of local/subregional crises were looming including those in our region and country, such as the economic crises, political instability, armed conflicts in the Middle East, civil war in Libya, humanitarian crises related to refugee flows and forced displacement. All of them were considered significant but not enough to jeopardize the common, even differentiated, efforts to approach, if not fully achieve the SDGs by 2030.

However, from the moment that a local health crisis in the Chinese city of Wuhan, resulted to a global economic, social and environmental crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the local crisis and armed conflict between two neighboring countries, resulted not only to a war with devastating consequences for both of them, but created gigantic energy and food supply crises, affecting the life, welfare, nutrition, environment and economy of the entire world, serious questions are raised on the feasibility to approach, in time, the SDGs. Such delays, threaten, in particular, the livelihood of billions of poor people among whom children, old, sick and women are the most vulnerable.

As a result, pursuing the 2030 Agenda with its 17 SDGs and the global climate and biodiversity goals has become less relevant for some countries and political leaders. Others refocusing on the aforementioned goals believe that the current pressing conditions may help not only to address some of the root causes of the crises we currently face but could also help to regain common ground among nations and promote more effective International Governance.

In my point of view, realism in addressing current urgencies is not incompatible with our commitment not to follow the easy ways out, e.g. in managing energy, water or food crises but in understanding the current situation as a hard nut valuable wake-up-call for revisiting our development models. It is not for luxury for us or for charity for others that we need to work but for the very survival of our children and grant children in a livable planet.