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COVID-19 and SDG 17 — Partnerships for the Goals

Written by Brady Press

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting all countries and income levels, the need for multilaterialism and international cooperation to mitigate the effects of this disease is evident. Global Goal 17 was designed to strengthen global partnerships and bring together national governments, the international community, civil society, the private sector and other actors to achieve the SDGs — all of which are threatened by the current public health emergency.


In this article, we focus on how countries are working together to address COVID-19, serving as a model for how the Global Goals can be better addressed moving forward. For more of our COVID-19 and the SDGs coverage, see here.

A Spotlight on SDG 17

Last Thursday, President of the General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande declared that “COVID-19 presents the greatest test of this generation’s commitment to multilateralism, global citizenship and solidarity.” While we have seen growing nationalism from some countries, companies and governments around the world join him in speaking up about the necessity of global cooperation, calling a “revival of multilateralism the best route for tackling the pandemic.”

The UN75 Initiative, launched in January, aspires to encourage “reflection on the multilateral cooperation the world needs at this time, both in addressing the immediate pandemic and in achieving the longer-term goals for which the United Nations was founded,” according to the UN Secretary General.

The initiative gathered data from 186 countries which shows that 95% of respondents — across all age groups and education levels — agree that countries need to work together to manage global issues. Cecilia Cannon — a UN academic advisor — noted that:

“Even before COVID-19 began wreaking socio-economic havoc across the globe, the global challenges and trends requiring cooperation across borders were mounting: forced displacement; new challenges presented by technology; environmental degradation, change and disaster; health risks, to name just a few… COVID-19 is a stark reminder of the need for the world to work together.”

Financing for Sustainable Development

A key element of SDG 17 is that “developed countries are expected to increase their support for developing countries, including a target of deploying up to 0.9 percent of their GDP in international aid and leveraging additional finance from other sources.”

The UN’s Financing for Development Forum began last week. At its start, Secretary General António Guterres urged governments to unite around COVID-19 response and acknowledged that developing countries are the most vulnerable to economic impact brought on by the outbreak. He listed the initiative to “suspend debt service payments for the poorest countries” as a “critical first step” that should be taken for lower and middle income countries.

A recent interview with the European Commission shows the many ways Europe is helping to accelerate global COVID-19 response across country borders, including reallocation of €15.6 billion to respond to COVID-19 in countries outside of the EU. The European Commission budget does not include what individual EU countries contribute to COVID-19 response.

Among its efforts, the European Commission is investing in laboratories through the €80 million European Health Guarantee Platform for Africa to address the lack of testing labs in Africa.

Global Cooperation for COVID-19 Treatment and Vaccine Development

Back in January, Heads of State from Germany, Jordan, Singapore, Ethiopia and Ecuador called for a global alliance for COVID-19 response focused on vaccine development as well as equal access for vaccines, testing kits and medical equipment.

Last Friday, the UN launched a “landmark collaboration,” the COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to “support production of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.” Leaders from Costa Rica, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Malaysia, Norway, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Africa, the African Union, and the European Union all attended the virtual launch in support of the initiative.

The initiative is meant to ensure equal access to COVID-19 treatment and vaccines across all countries. The European Commission is hosting a Global Pledging Effort on May 4th with the goal of raising €7.5 billion.

Earlier, the UN called for a “Solidarity Trial” to test possible drug treatments for COVID-19, of which 74 countries responded.

Addressing Conflict in a COVID-19 Era

Although conflict in warring countries remains a complex challenge amid COVID-19, signs of cooperation around pandemic response are emerging. UN envoys from four Middle Eastern countries — Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen — issued a joint appeal to end conflict within the region and to follow the call for a global ceasefire, turning all efforts to fighting COVID-19.

Although there has been increased fighting in the West Bank and Gaza this past month, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mlandenov recognized the presence of “inspiring examples of cooperation across conflict lines in a common battle to contain COVID-19,” which serve as a glimmer of hope in the quest for peace. According to him, “the recognition of this interdependence could — if there is political will — translate into tangible progress towards resolving the conflict” between Israelis and Palestinians.

Multilateralism and Regional Cooperation

On April 17th, UN member states and other officials convened virtually to discuss concerns over a pending global food crisis, which would have a widespread global impact, particularly on the most vulnerable countries such as Africa and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Following the meeting, leaders from Italy, New York, Canada, Brazil and Egypt released a joint statement calling for more collaboration and coordination to ensure peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights within the global food system. Among suggestions, Italy proposed creation of a Food Coalition, which would exemplify the use of SDG 17 to progress SDG 2 — Zero Hunger.

Referencing Africa’s coordinated response to COVID-19, Guterres recognized the continent’s “commitment to define its own development, including the high value it places on regional cooperation and multilateralism.” Africa is among the most vulnerable to implications from COVID-19 and will require collaboration across African countries as well as support from the global community.

Looking Ahead

This week, UN Member States discussed the focus areas for future sessions of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). Emphasizing its importance to achieving the entire Global Agenda, SDG 17 has been identified as an “area for acceleration” for all three upcoming years: 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Additionally, leaders overseeing the intergovernmental negotiations on the Declaration for the Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the UN shared an elements paper, which outlines how response to the COVID-19 is shaping general action toward achieving the Goals by 2030.

It positions the 75th anniversary as “a moment for Heads of States and Governments to take joint action in response to the multifaceted and interconnected challenges facing the world” and “stresses the importance of international cooperation for recovery and resilience for future pandemics.”

Brady Press is an Associate Director at Changing Our World, where she specializes in building strategic corporate citizenship programs. She is a consultant to SDGCounting and StartingUpGood, and is currently researching how COVID-19 is affecting the Sustainable Development Goals.



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Keeping track of progress on trying to count and measure the success of the Sustainable Development Goals.