UN DESA’s latest Sustainable Development Outlook 2021 report paints a way forward to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a world ravaged by the global pandemic.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic evolved from a health emergency into an all‑encompassing worldwide crisis, global efforts to achieve the SDGs were already facing daunting challenges. Laying bare the global risks, which have been neglected or inadequately addressed for decades, the COVID-19 experience has exposed the rather shaky foundations, on which the weight of our socio-economic system was resting.

That realization, argues UN DESA’s new report, may allow us to address these global risks more earnestly and vigorously, injecting new impetus to our collective effort to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

By highlighting the interdependence among countries and among people within a country, the COVID-19 crisis has also raised our interpersonal and international solidarity to a new level that could just prove enough to grapple with the grave challenges faced by humanity, some of which may ultimately dwarf the devastation of the pandemic.

Focusing on SDG 1 to end poverty, SDG 2 to end hunger and malnutrition, SDG 3 on health and well-being, SDG 8 on growth and employment, SDG 10 on inequalities, and their interlinkages, the Sustainable Development Outlook (SDO) 2021 examines the recent progress towards each of these Goals and the setback suffered during the pandemic.

The report does not stop there, as it uses forward-looking scenario analysis to draw conclusions from where we are now to where we are headed in the future. By comparing the “business‑as‑usual” scenario with the more desirable outcomes under alternative sets of cross‑cutting policies, the report charts a way forward in the form of a seven-point programme of action for accelerating the progress towards the SDGs. The Sustainable Development Outlook’s programme, if followed by the world’s nations, could help them formulate strategies to end the COVID-19 crisis and move forward.

The programme grants top priority to making COVID-19 vaccines a public good and to accelerating global vaccination – a pre-requisite for a sustained and balanced recovery across countries and communities. The report also calls for countries to create or strengthen systems of universal health coverage and social protection. It urges them to pursue structural transformation that ensures their growth is sustained, socially inclusive, and environmentally sustainable. Lastly, it calls on countries to stop further encroachment and destruction of animal habitats to reduce the risks of zoonotic epidemics and pandemics.

The Sustainable Development Outlook urges all stakeholders to heed the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis and overcome the political barriers that keep us from moving towards a more sustainable and equitable society. The menu of policy options presented in the report – supported by a wide array of country case studies – can help UN Member States make concrete steps needed for change.

Read the full report of Sustainable Development Outlook 2021 here.