COVID causes a lost decade towards achieving UN SDGs

WASHINGTON — The world is facing a potential ‘lost decade’ of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) according to new data published today at

The 2020 Social Progress Index, compiled by the Social Progress Imperative (SPI), a US-based non-profit, ranks 163 countries’ social performance over the last ten years, based on 50 separate criteria. According to SPI projections, and based on current trends:

The world will not achieve the SDGs until 2082; and COVID-19 and the accompanying economic crisis could delay progress by a further decade, pushing SDG fulfillment out to 2092 — 62 years behind schedule

The data shows higher levels of social progress are associated with lower rates of COVID-19 infection, after accounting for GDP and regional differences. This relationship is strongest for the ‘Opportunity’ element of the Index, including scores for ‘access to higher education’ and ‘equity and inclusion’.

This suggests inclusive, tolerant and better-educated societies are better able to manage the pandemic.

Notwithstanding the COVID effect, SPI’s data shows the world’s progress (improving from 60.63 points in 2011 to 64.24 in 2020) is still not enough to achieve the SDGs. Worryingly, declines over the last ten years in rights and inclusiveness track the rise of populist, authoritarian governments.

The decline is most stark in recent years:

• Personal Rights were down 6.42 points between 2011-20

• Over 80% (5.17 points) of the fall was between 2016 and 2020

• Inclusiveness is down 3.48 points between 2011-20

The world scores worst on Environmental Quality (36.87) and Inclusiveness (39.25), both of which lag far behind other Index components. Poor performance on Environmental Quality and a lack of any progress on this issue over the last decade represents a particular problem given climate change and ecological collapse.

Commenting on the global results, CEO of Social Progress Imperative Michael Green said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities and flaws throughout our society. COVID-19 has bred on poverty, racial injustice and gender inequity. These problems will worsen as a result of the pandemic, through its impact on education, on healthcare, on work and basic safety nets.

“In sum, the world faces a potential lost decade of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This is a unique moment to use these challenges as an opportunity for systemic change and to make real social progress.”

Deloitte Global Board Chair and Social Progress Imperative Board member, Sharon Thorne said: “The Social Progress Index further exposes the growing inequalities within our society and the increasing threat of climate change.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put an even greater demand on solving global challenges collectively by reinforcing the need for collaboration between businesses, governments and civil society. Now is the time to accelerate progress toward the SDGs, not retreat from them, by using the Index as a guide toward rebuilding and reshaping a better normal.”

Data from this year’s Index also shows:

• The US is the only G7 country to go backwards on social progress and one of only three countries that have declined over the past decade, along with Brazil and Hungary

• Global progress has stagnated on Personal Safety and only modestly improved in Health and Wellness, Personal Freedom and Choice. Virtually no progress has been made on Environmental Quality

• Developing countries are catching up. Since 2011 the variation in Index scores has fallen 12.3%. Rates of convergence are higher than that of GDP per capita

• The world scores best on Nutrition and Basic Medical Care (84.63), Shelter (77.09), Water and Sanitation (74.72), and Access to Basic Knowledge (75.18)

• The world has improved dramatically on Access to Information and Communications (+21.61), due to technology and communications infrastructure progress in the developing world. Other material improvements include: Access to Advanced Education (+7.45), Shelter (+6.10), and Water and Sanitation (+5.57)

• Only 13 countries over-perform relative to national income. 35 countries are underperformers. Kyrgyzstan and Ghana are among the countries that over-perform most significantly. Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea are among the biggest underperformers. — SG




Share this page Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Linkedin

Discover the 'Made in France à Bahrain' Guide

'Made in France à Bahrain' - Edition 2021
is YOUR guide to the economic presence in Bahrain. Click here to view the online guide