As we know, the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were established in 2015 as a global call for action to eradicate poverty, safeguard the planet, and promote peace and prosperity for all by 2030. Progress towards the SDGs is evaluated on a global scale in the Sustainable Development Report, which has acknowledged that both the pandemic and Ukraine-Russia war has impacted the global performance with Bangladesh being no exception.
Bangladesh has achieved progress, but struggle continues
Bangladesh made progress in important indicators and was close to completing a few mileposts in the UN’s 17 SDGs until the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic, which reversed many of the advances; while the Russia-Ukraine war made further progresses even tougher. More importantly, the financial deficit following the Covid-19 outbreak and the Russia-Ukraine war, which is creating economic depression, casts a shadow of doubt over the achievement of the SDGs.
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According to the Bangladesh Progress Report 2022 on SDGs, Bangladesh ranks 104th out of 163 countries in terms of SDG index. The report elaborates how Covid-19 and Ukraine- Russia war have damaged the country’s long-standing financial stability and affected people’s livelihoods, consequently having a negative influence on the country’s progress toward attaining the SDGs by 2030. For instance, it says, “the pandemic has created many ‘new poor’ due to socioeconomic dislocations, frustrating the previous success in the SDG1, ‘no poverty’, by bringing down upper poverty to 20.5% and extreme poverty to 10.5% in 2019, the year before the pandemic struck the world.”
Bangladesh’s overall SDG score has steadily increased from 59.37 (out of 100) in 2016 to 64.22 in 2022. However, in East and South Asia, it ranks 14th out of 19 countries, higher than only Pakistan, India, Laos, Mongolia, and Cambodia.
How pandemic and war have hit Bangladesh?
The pandemic has overloaded the nation’s health system (SDG 3), education system (SDG 4), human development, and Basic public services delivery (SDG 11). Bangladesh had a short-term recovery from Covid-19, but its medium- and long-term effects are still unknown. Moreover, many people have faced unemployment which impacted the wellbeing and economy (SDG 8) as well.
Disrupting SDG 2 of “Zero Hunger”, SDG 3 of “Good health and wellbeing”
Both Russia and Ukraine are major players in the global grain trade. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that 95 nations buy 50% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine. In 2021, Russia accounted for 17% of global grain exports. The Russia-Ukraine war has an impact on both local and global food security.
The nations that rely heavily on food imports, like Bangladesh, are especially susceptible to trade shocks as a result of this conflict. From the very beginning of military activities, it was evident that the situation in Ukraine had a direct impact on domestic and global food security.
Moreover, as a result of a decreasing food supply, prices are rising and people are forced to curb on daily nutrition. If costs keep going up like this, many people will have no choice but to go to bed hungry.
Affecting the SDG 8 of “Decent work and economic growth”
The report notes that war-induced supply chain disruptions raised global commodity prices and slowed economic activity worldwide, including in Bangladesh. Overcoming the crisis would depend on several global factors and Bangladesh’s ability to adapt to new challenges.
The macroeconomic effects include a loss of Tk800 billion in GDP, $8 billion in exports, Tk500 billion in investments, and Tk200 billion in tax revenues, as well as a short-term rise in unemployment and inequality. Even though the government moved quickly to get the economy back on track, the report says that getting back to a faster growth path will depend on how soon the global economy gets back to normal after the war made matters worse.
Bangladesh depends on imports and the economy has been damaged the most by the pandemic’s ruination. Due to a domino effect of several variables, starting with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, commodity prices have risen steadily over time. Bangladesh has been struggling with supply shortages, foreign-exchange instability, declining remittances, energy market demand-supply imbalances, and inflationary tendencies, like other economies.
The country has already felt the repercussions of the conflict, with inflation reaching 9.52 percent in August 2022, the highest level in decades, a decline in exports to Russia and Ukraine, as well as an increase in the cost of food and oil imports.
Affecting SDG 5 of “Gender equality”
The Covid-19 outbreak has revealed the underlying fault lines in gender equality, which have exacerbated the pandemic’s effects on women and girls. According to the 2022 SDG Gender Index, almost three billion girls and women continue to live in nations with “low” or “very poor” scores.
According to UN’s rapid assessment survey of the socio-economic consequences of Covid-19 on women’s and men’s economic empowerment, 50% of women in Bangladesh lost their jobs or had decreased income in the informal sector, while the number in men was 40%. However, among respondents working in the official sector, 83% of women reported a decrease in income, compared to 14% of males.
Areas to focus for Bangladesh
“Bangladesh will have to become more innovative and productive to complete the remaining stages for achieving the SDGs — a journey in which development partners will have to play a more supportive role,” reads the report. The assessment report suggests that Bangladesh should focus on a knowledge-based economy, use geographic dividends, mobilize local resources, create a business-friendly environment, shift toward manufacturing high-value items, encourage export-oriented businesses, and boost regional and global linkages after graduating from LDC status in 2026.
SDG-4 focuses on improving the quality of education, and while access to primary education is secure, it is a cause for concern. The report highlights the importance of ensuring everyone having access to high-quality education. The government study claims Bangladesh has reached another milestone in SDG-7 by putting 100% of the population under electricity coverage by March 2022, while renewable energy remains minor.
“More efforts are needed in areas like decent work and economic growth; life below water; peace, justice, strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals,” the analysis notes and finding that reaching the targets in the eight years left until 2030 will require increased global support.
The Covid-19 pandemic has once again shown the significance of universal health care and multi-sectorial collaboration for health emergency preparedness, even if many health-related indicators were on the right track prior to the pandemic. The country is successful in lowering maternal and under-5 death rates and ranking above India and Pakistan on the Global Gender Gap index. However, Bangladesh needs to work on serious issues of gender violence and child marriage.
The high level of arsenic pollution, extreme reliance on limited groundwater supplies, and high vulnerability to climate change are still issues, according to the SDG progress report, despite the fact that SDG-6 dealing to clean water and sanitation has seen some development.